Guide to Infant Development from Birth to Six Months
The Rationale Behind Developmental Milestones
When it comes to infants, one size does not fit all. The same holds true for infant developmental milestones. Some children appear to be in quite a hurry to grow up, while others are bona fide late bloomers. This holds true for first words, first steps, and an array of other firsts.
That being said, the attention that is paid to developmental milestones – especially in the first six months of life – is indicative of heightened parental fears involving autism, learning disabilities, and illness.
While it is counterproductive for parents to be overly focused on charting all milestones and consulting with a physician if one does not seem to appear on schedule, it could be harmful to the child if a parent is unaware of developmental milestones that are being missed. Keeping a close eye on infant development may help caregivers and health care provider to recognize early signs of trouble that may be dealt with – and perhaps averted – before they become full-fledged concerns.
Infant Development by Month
Developmental milestones for a one to two month old infant are few but nonetheless noticeable. S/He should be able to move arms and hands, move the head while in the prone position, hear sounds, and also startle.
Once the infant reaches the end of the third or fourth month of life, you should see leg stretching and kicking. As you carefully hold the infant -- in an upright position with the feet touching a solid surface -- you should note a pushing down reflex that almost looks like walking attempts.
Another one of the milestones that should be fairly obvious is the child’s ability to track you or an object with the eyes. Infants will recognize caregivers and parents at this time and express delight at being handed to mom.
Abilities to look for at the end of the fifth or sixth month of life include precursors to the ability of rolling over. The infant should raise up the head and upper torso while lying in the face down position. Enlisting the support of the arms, you may notice the child slightly rocking to either side. S/He should grab for things, shake them, and more often than not you will notice the infant trying to mouth them.
Early babbling, smiling, and some displays of frustration are common at this age. Bright Hub’s own Jenny Flores – in her article entitled Infant Language Development – points out that between the ages of four and six months, the baby will become familiar with the connotation of the word “no,” and not always agree with its implications.
My Baby Is Lagging Behind … Now What?
Remember that not all babies develop in sync. Developmental milestones at this stage are more guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. That being said, there are some signs of concern, especially when the child is right on track in a number of milestones, but appears to not even be on the chart in others.
Rather than worrying needlessly, it is a wise idea to discuss these concerns with your child’s pediatrician. Write down your areas of concern, but also mention the developmental milestones the child has met. This gives the physician a better idea of what you are worried about, as s/he might have some advice for games and exercises you may incorporate in your at-home interactions with the baby.
Keep in mind that a formal evaluation of the infant may be indicated as a precaution. Tools for professional assessment may include the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, which take into consideration a child’s motor skills, cognitive progress, and language abilities.