The Critical, Year 1 Developmental Milestones for Babies


Oct 29, 2014


Becoming proud parents is often one of the key highlights of a couple’s life. While parents set their own milestones in this voyage of ups and downs, their children are on their way to learning and grasping something little each day. Their ability to perform certain actions or activities is an approximate guide to their physical and mental development. Just like you use the mile markers on the highway as a reference point while you drive to your destination, these key developmental milestones for babies indicate what a healthily developing child is expected to do at that age.

No two children are same; each of them is different and will learn and perform certain skills at different times. Parents should understand that some children may pick up a skill late but are ahead in other baby development stages. Your child’s first year is a very important one during which mental and physical growth is rapid. The baby milestones in the maiden year of your child’s life can be mapped through:

  • Motor Development – that is, the various physical movements of different body parts;
  • Perception and Social Response – that is, children’s sensory system and their ability to grasp social behavior;
  • Speech – that is, crying initially, then speaking.

Baby milestone chart for the first year


Motor development milestones for babies

Perception / social milestones for babies

Speech milestones for babies

Newborn Head:When laid on the back the baby mostly keeps the head to one side and when put on the stomach it raises the head for a moment and makes an effort to turn it to one side.

Hands:The hands are mostly fisted into a firm grasp. This action of continuous fisting despite of being empty or holding a finger firmly is called the grasp reflex.

Feet/Legs:With a gentle little push to the sole of the feet the baby may appear to crawl.When held straight in a standing position on a firm surface the baby will move the legs as if it were walking. This movement is called the walking reflex. The grasp and walking reflex fade away slowly within two months.

Newborns wrinkle their foreheads and blink when exposed to strong light or sound. They may also move their arms outwards and cry. A crying baby can be pacified when cuddled. Besides providing nutrition, breastfeeding also provides comfort and security.Crying due to hunger or discomfort will mark the development of speech.
One monthHead:While on the back, the baby kicks out of joy and when put on the tummy it lifts the head and positions it sideways to avoid the nose. When held up against the shoulder the baby lifts up the head away from the shoulder for a moment.

Hands: The baby’s hands are fisted and it can now bring the hand within the range of the eyes.

Eyesight: Babies can fix their gazes on bright objects within the range of 20 cms from their face. They move their eyes from side to side if the object is moved within the range of the eyesight.

Hearing: A baby can hear a sound 8 cms away from the ears. It will respond to the sound by a wrinkled forehead, crying or by stopping any ongoing activity. On completing one month the child’s hearing capacity is fully matured and it may even be able to differentiate between sounds.

Interaction: At this age the baby often manages to have eye contact with the mother while breastfeeding.

The baby may make sounds like “ah” and “coo.”
Two monthsHead:When on its stomach the baby can lift the head for about 10 seconds at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. When held up against the shoulder it can now keep the head up a little longer than before.

Hands:The fist is now open more often than before.

Hearing: The baby responds to sounds more attentively. He pauses when he hears a sound without blinking and any sign of fear.

Interaction: Baby reciprocates to your smile with a smile at about 6 weeks of age. This social smile should not be confused with the spontaneous smile of the initial few weeks of life.

The baby may make sounds like “ab,” “goo” and “coo.”
Three monthsHead:When lifted from lying on the back, the head follows the same course for some time. When on stomach the baby can raise the head for about a minute at an angle of 90 degrees.

Hands:The fist is now open all the time and the child can hold an object like rattle firmly and may even start playing with it.

Eyesight: The eyes can follow an object from one corner of the eye to other while on the back.

Interaction:The smile is now more definite and baby will smile when talked to or played with. The baby at this age will recognize the mother and the other members of the family and oblige everyone around with a smile.

The baby is usually happy after the feed and may make sounds like “ah,” “goo” and “ma.”
Four monthsThe baby tends to put anything in the mouth.While on the back, the baby will observe its hands. It is hence necessary to not wrap the baby all the time and not put on mittens especially when the baby is awake.Smiles and even laughs delightfully. Has a better sense of sound and will turn the head in the direction of the sound when it is made at a distance of 20 to 24 cms from the ears.The baby communicates by laughing that one can clearly “hear.”
Five monthsThe baby at this age comes to a sitting position if you offer both your thumbs to the baby as it lies on the back.When on the stomach, babies will roll onto their back on their own.Babies now observe objects for a long period. They can now differentiate between strangers and family and may even start crying if an unknown person approaches.Babies can sense a tone of voice and  figure out if the mother is annoyed with them.Same as earlier with no significant development in speech at this stage.
Six monthsBabies can now roll from the back to the stomach by themselves.They will try to reach for an object in front of them, and can now transfer a toy from one hand to the other.When made to stand on the legs, they may be able to take their full weight.Sensitive hearing with attention given to even faint sounds made close to the ears.Will smile at their reflection in the mirror.Become conscious and even wary of strangers and expect the mother to be around.Will try to join few syllables together or may use them separately. Say words like “da-da,” “ma,” “goo” or “da.”
Seven monthsBabies can stay in the sitting position for some time.While on the back will hold their toes and play with the feet and may even put the toes in the mouth.Will make attempts to move forward to approach a toy.Will now take everything in the mouth and can even feed themselves a biscuit.Now play and enjoy games like “peek a boo.”Eyes follow and keep looking in the direction of any noise.Same as at 6 months.
Eight monthsCan now maintain balance and sit for a longer time. Babies can also change their position in an attempt to reach a toy or any object in any direction.Can get crankier in general and more afraid of strangers.May now try to vocalize in soft whispers rather than in loud sounds.
Nine monthsThe child may start crawling around and rise from the lying position to sit by itself. When provided support and motivated to walk will take few steps forward. Can pull themselves up from a sitting position to stand up holding onto a piece of furniture.Babies will show interest in different sounds. Will enjoy dropping objects and love it when the object is given back to them.Will properly communicate through two syllables like “dada,” “mama” or “baba.”
Ten monthsThe baby will walk more confidently with the support of your hands. The baby at this age crawls all around the house and even sits from a standing position taking your support or the support of furniture.Babies can hold small objects between their thumb and index finger.The baby copies simple hand gestures like waving or claps. Will love to look at pictures in a book and will understand the meaning of a “No.”Will repeat two syllable words after you and look in a direction of a familiar person or object when asked questions like “Where is dad?” or “Where is the fan?”
Eleven monthsThe baby will be able to stand alone without support for some time.The baby can now also flip thick pages of a story book. It can also copy you and learn how to scribble when handed a crayon.The baby will repeat words or certain actions like laughter if pleased and motivated by your appreciation. Will love playing simple games and show a sincere effort to eat on their own, which should be encouraged to inculcate independence.The child may also imitate a few words but is less likely to use them with meaning.
One yearThe child may be able to stand and take a few steps without any support, though most will only do this a bit later.Will have smooth hand and eye coordination. Babies can finger-feed themselves. Also, they have better hand and leg coordination while you dress them. Babies understand and respond to a “No” with a head-shake. They feel shy with strangers and cry when left alone.Will speak one or two words with meaning while looking at you.




Written By Dr. RK Anand

Dr. R. K. Anand, MD (Pediatrics), FRCP (Edinburgh), DCH (London) was the Former Medical Director, and currently is the senior-most pediatrician and Head of the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology at the Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. An internationally recognised pediatrician, Dr. Anand was honoured with the Fellowship of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics and that of the Royal College Of Physicians, Edinburgh, for his contributions in the field of pediatric education, research and child care. As former Professor of Pediatrics at the T. N. Medical College and B. Y. L. Nair Charitable Hospital, Dr. Anand has guided several research projects and trained many young pediatricians who have distinguished themselves in India and abroad. Dr. Anand has worked with doyens of pediatrics like Prof. L. S. N. Prasad and Prof. G. Sharan from India, Prof. R. S. Illingworth and Prof. O. P. Gray from the UK, and Dr. C. Robert E. Wells and Dr. Waldo E. Nelson from the USA. He has been advisor and resource person for child care programmes of international organisations like UNICEF, Consumers International, International Baby Food Action Network, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, and Health Action International.

Ending the exploitation of the child consumer has been Dr. Anand’s crusade. He was a member of the Working Group set up by the Government Of India for formulation of a Code for the Marketing of Baby Foods, Chairman of the Committee for Protection of the Child Consumer of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, and founder-president of the Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health.

Winner of the Best Speaker Award of the Speaker’s Academy, Mumbai, Dr. Anand has conducted several radio and TV programmes on child care and holistic living in English, Hindi and Punjabi. He has been contributing regularly to national and international scientific journals, and to books on child health. He is well known as an authority on breastfeeding and in the field of Social Pediatrics.


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