Developmental Milestones

The Only 2-Month Milestones That Matter

Stop stressing out and focus on the milestones that really matter.

Originally Published: 
Infant looking away with eyes closed.

Parents vigilantly keeping watch for 2-month milestones can rest a bit easier knowing that developmental milestones are not fixed points that all children reach the same moment. They’re more like waypoints, marking the course of typical development. Some babies may reach certain milestones early while reaching other milestones late. Some babies may skip certain milestones altogether. Taking the time to understand the real significance of milestones will help ease the tension around them.

Here are the 2-month milestones to look out for, and what it means if your child is late to reach them.

The 2-Month Baby Milestones That Matter

Around the second month, an infant’s movements will start to be better coordinated by the nervous system. That’s why most 2-month developmental milestones focus on how a baby moves in response to environmental stimuli.

Because parents are such a huge part of that environmental stimuli, many of these milestones are measured in how 2-month-olds react to their parents. But that puts some pressure on how those parent-child interactions should feel, which can make the 2-month milestones feel particularly fraught.

Luckily, there are really only a couple of crucial 2-month baby milestones at this stage of development. If your baby isn’t hitting these marks, that’s a red flag. It doesn’t mean, however, that there’s definitely a problem. If you encounter any of these developmental red flags, just bring it to the attention of your pediatrician.

Fortunately, there is quality guidance available for understanding your baby’s growth and development and how it relates to developmental milestones. In February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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, a Digital Online Checklist, and a PDF checklist that parents can download and print.

2-Month Milestone #1: Baby Should Lift Head During Tummy Time

Tummy time wasn’t always a thing, but now that we know children should always be placed on their backs to sleep, babies have less opportunity to practice their “prone skills.” Those skills, like pushing up with their arms and turning their head and neck, can only be done when your baby is backside up, which helps them develop important neck and arm muscles. Thus, the need for tummy time.

Now that your baby is 2 months old, they should be able to lift their head during tummy time and look around. Will they always enjoy themselves during this time? Nope, but they should have some neck strength as they fuss. This ability is emblematic of a healthy nervous system that’s communicating with a baby’s muscles.

Red Flags: When 2-month-olds are not able to lift their heads or hold them steady, it could be a sign that there is an issue. But it’s important not to consider that in isolation. Babies get tired, just like everyone else. Sometimes it simply takes longer for muscles to strengthen and develop, particularly if a baby was born preterm. However, if your 2-month-old also seems lethargic, with loose “floppy” limbs or overly stiff and shaky limbs, notify your pediatrician.

What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Babies at this age aren’t supposed to be rolling over or playing with toys in a specific and focused manner. Also, babies might naturally be fussy during tummy time. It’s not the most fun a baby can have. So don’t panic if your baby “hates” tummy time. At some point, they will acclimate to it.

2-Month Milestone #2: Baby Starts Developing a Personality

You won’t find “develops personality” on most infant milestone lists. It’s too subjective for those compiling the scientific data. Most milestone lists break this down into more objective minutiae: smiling, cooing, responding to a parent’s voice, fussing when they want needs met. But for a parent who has been paying attention to their kid, it all boils down to the feeling that their child is developing a personality — they seem like they’re becoming more of a person.

With that personality comes a focus on the parent. You will likely see a lot of cute responses when you interact with your baby. On the other hand, when things get too monotonous, your kid may fuss out of boredom.

Red Flags: Some babies have a very watchful and mellow temperament. Babies may sometimes be incredibly fussy due to issues like colic. Other times babies are curious and excited. So recognizing the red flags at this stage is more about keeping track of a baby’s physical response to their environment in the context of what a parent knows to be normal for their child. A baby who doesn’t follow a novel object or a parent’s face with their eyes may need to be seen by a pediatrician, for instance. The same goes for a baby that does not respond to a parent’s voice or loud noises. These could be signs of neurological conditions.

Non-Milestone Moments in Baby’s Second Month

Much is said around this time about a baby being able to smile. But parents should be relaxed and patient on this front. Some babies are not as easy to make smile. It’s not necessarily indicative of a child having autism, for instance. Babies who are premature might smile later. Babies who are suffering from colic may not smile that often. And babies with parents who aren’t very smiley may not respond to them with smiles.

That’s why it’s important to stay calm if a baby hasn’t flashed a gummy grin by 2 months. It will show up eventually. And because babies are sensitive to their parent’s emotions, a stressed-out parent may not have a super-smiley kid.

That said, parents who feel there has been a change in their child’s demeanor, or see that their child is not particularly responsive in general, will want to speak to their pediatrician. Trust your gut.

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