Developmental Milestones

The Only 1-Month Developmental Milestones That Matter

Most parents overdo the whole milestone thing in the first month. Stop stressing out and focus on the three developmental moments that really matter.

Originally Published: 
Newborn sleeping.

Babies develop at their own pace, and the timing of developmental milestones will be different for every infant. Still, it’s difficult for parents of newborns not to look to 1-month milestones for reassurance — only to end up worried. It’s understandable. If you were to take most parenting books at their word — books like The Wonder Weeks and What to Expect the First Year — raising a kid would be a hard science. Look for the milestone, check that box, and move on, sequentially and on schedule. The problem? Milestones just don’t work that way.

Developmental milestones are not fixed points that all kids hit at the same time. They’re more like waypoints, marking the course of typical development. Some babies may reach certain milestones “early,” while reaching others “late.” Some babies may skip certain milestones altogether.

That said, there are baby milestones that act as important developmental markers. Knowing which milestones to pay attention to can relieve some of the parental stress during a baby’s first year. In February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics overhauled the pediatric milestone checklist. This process included adding developmental milestones for 15-month-olds and 30-month-olds, and revamping other milestone charts to reflect things most children (75% or more) can do by a certain age. To help parents track milestones on their own, the CDC has released a free Milestone Tracker mobile app, for iOS and Android devices, and a Digital Online Checklist, and a PDF checklist that parents can download and print.

There aren’t too many 1-month milestones, as babies are just getting used to life outside the womb, but there are a few worth watching. In fact, the CDC doesn’t begin their developmental milestone tracking until month 2. However, these 1-month baby milestones provide a few measures so that you can bring up concerns with your pediatrician if something seems off — but above all, this is a time to focus on caring for your baby and adjusting to parenthood.

The 1-Month Baby Milestones That Matter

Milestones in the first month of a baby’s life are all about getting control of their limbs, which at birth seem to have a mind of their own. They also begin to develop their senses, allowing them to become more aware of the sights, sounds, and smells of the world that surrounds them. Their nervous system is getting organized, so weird things may happen. That’s a sign that the brain is learning and everything is moving at a pretty good clip — just like it should. The only things that should cause any real concern is a lack of reaction to outside stimuli.

1-Month Baby Milestone #1: Moves Their Hands to Their Face and Mouth and Makes Fists

Your baby’s brain is figuring out how to coordinate arms and legs, but they can’t do the brain’s bidding just yet. Because of that, movements may seem jerky and random and will include bringing the hands up to the face and mouth.

Red Flags: If your baby appears to be moving slowly, or if their limbs seem to be too floppy or too rigid, you may want to bring it to the attention of your pediatrician. Jerky and trembling movements are normal, but a constantly trembling chin or jaw when they aren’t crying or excited could be a sign of neurological issues.

What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Don’t stress if your baby has a floppy neck, twitchy movements or scratches themselves. It’s all normal as they develop control over their body.

1-Month Baby Milestone #2: Reacts to Loud Noises and Turns Their Head to Sounds

By the end of the first month, baby’s hearing should be fully developed. They’ll be listening and might turn their head to you at the sound of your voice. Dads who talked to their babies in the womb might be surprised that their kid recognizes their dulcet tones.

Red Flags: If your baby does not seem to react or startle to loud or sudden noises, it may be a sign that there is a problem with their hearing. A baby that doesn’t react to loud noises could be affected by hearing loss or other neurological disorders.

What You Shouldn’t Stress About: There’s no need to worry about a baby not making eye contact when you talk to them. That’s a bit advanced. There’s also no need to worry about a baby who doesn’t turn their head toward the sound as long as they react to it.

1-Month Baby Milestone #3: Rooting Reflex

Your baby will likely have what’s known as the rooting reflex, which means they will turn their head toward a touch on the cheek or lip and make sucking movements. This helps them feed when presented with a nipple. The rooting reflex helps your baby feed either from the breast or the bottle.

Red Flags: More important than the reflex itself is how your baby is feeding. If their sucking is weak or their feeding is too slow, you should contact your pediatrician.

What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Don’t worry about a baby that sucks on their own fist or seems to be rooting toward dad’s chest. All good stuff there. And while feeding, don’t worry if sucking seems to happen in bursts with pauses in between, that’s normal. So is spit up, so take that in stride too.

Non-Milestone Moments in Baby’s First Month

Considering how little they are, 1-month milestones are limited. You’re likely to run into the Moro reflex, which you’ll recognize when the baby splays out their arms and legs as if they have a sensation of falling. It can disrupt their sleep and it’s completely normal (if strange). Swaddling can help. Other than that, enjoy the slow month. Things will be getting much more interesting pretty soon.

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