Parenting is all about the unknown. You can never predict what's around the corner. Thankfully, when it comes to your baby's development, things tend to be a little clearer. Here we breakdown everything you can expect over baby's first year.
When you’re lovingly gazing down at your tiny newborn, it’s difficult to imagine how much they’ll change in the weeks ahead, but your baby will grow faster during this period than at any other time in their life. Knowing what to expect over the coming months can help you savour each stage of their development, and prepare for the next milestone.
All babies meet developmental milestones at their own pace, so don’t worry if your baby lags behind their peers – they’ll get there when they’re ready. However, if you have any concerns about your baby’s development, speak to your health visitor or GP.
Baby's First Year: 1 Month
At birth your baby won't be able to lift their head independently, but by the time they are a month old, they’ll probably have mastered this skill. Daily tummy time (laying your baby on their tummy on the floor for a few minutes every day) helps strengthen the muscles needed to support the head, and develop the gross motor skills they’ll eventually use for crawling and walking.
If they’re not a fan of tummy time – many babies aren’t – try placing them tummy-down on your chest and singing. This will encourage your baby to lift their head towards your face.
You’ll probably witness your baby’s first gorgeous gummy grin when they’re between four and six weeks old. They can’t see much further than about 18 inches away at this stage, so try placing your face close to theirs and singing silly songs or gently blowing raspberries on their tummy to encourage them to reward you with a smile.
"There’s no feeling in the world like the first time your baby smiles but lots of people will tell you it’s just wind – it’s not. Believe she’s really beaming, and keep your phone handy so you can capture the evidence!"Rabab, 39, Warrenpoint
Baby's First Year: 3 Months
At three months your baby can see almost everything within their field of vision, although they can’t yet differentiate between colours. While it’s exciting to watch them interacting with the world more, this might mean they become easily distracted during feeds. Don’t worry if your baby pauses between gulps to check out what’s going on around them – listening is an important part of language development so they’re actually acquiring the skills for verbal communication.
"I started baby sign language classes with my son from three months. It was a fun way to play and interact throughout the day as he became more interested in the world, and also helped his language skills come on in leaps and bounds."Janet, 38, Ballycastle
Your baby’s sense of touch is coming into its own, so they’ll love playing with toys that have some texture. Whether it’s a baby book with crinkly pages that rustle when touched or just the feel of your hair in their hands (brace yourself, a baby’s grip is stronger than you’d think), expect them to start reaching for anything that might have an interesting feel. Don’t be surprised if they put everything in their mouth, too – they have more nerve endings in their mouth than anywhere else in their body!
"I put my two daughters in a highchair for short periods of time from around four months, so that they were used to it by the time we start weaning at around six months. Choose one suitable for use before six months and try placing textured toys on the tray to encourage their sensory development."Sally Bunkham, 36, Brighton, founder of mumsback.com
Baby's First Year: 5 Months
Your baby’s hand/eye coordination is improving and by this stage, they’ve probably worked out how to grasp an item and pass it to their other hand. They’ll make a grab for anything that captures their interest, including your cuppa and chocolate biscuit, so keep those well out of her reach.
Your baby might start rolling from their tummy onto their back around now, but it’ll take a little longer for them to work out how to roll the other way. Try lying your baby on their tummy on the floor and popping a toy to the side of them, just beyond their reach, to encourage rolling skills.
This is the time things get messy. From six months you can introduce your baby to solid foods, but they should be capable of sitting with support before you start weaning. It could be a while before you leave the house without wearing the remnants of your baby’s last meal! Encouraging your baby to have fun with food at this stage is much more important than how much they actually consume, so don’t worry if more ends up in their hair than in their tummy.
"Don’t panic if your baby isn’t sitting by six months – plenty of babies don’t. Create a comfy floor-play area with lots of cushions for you both (sitting on the floor can be difficult for postnatal mums) and spend lots of time encouraging them to sit for short periods to strengthen those tummy muscles."Anna, 34, Macclesfield
Baby's First Year: 7 Months
At around this stage, some babies crack one of their first party tricks; rolling over. You’ll probably be surprised by just how much ground your baby can cover by rolling from their back to their tummy and onto their back again. They’re not simply trying to keep your on your toes, though – rolling over is all part of strengthening the muscles they’ll need later on for crawling, standing and walking.
Your baby will also enjoy you holding them upright on your lap so they can ‘stand’ with your support. Your arms are likely to get tired long before their legs do!
"I recommend baby-proofing your home as soon as your baby starts rolling over so you're well prepared. Borrow a friend’s crawling baby and observe what they’re drawn to – babies seek out things we’d never think to baby-proof!"Leslie, 34, Peterborough
Don’t panic at this thought, but by eight months your baby might well have started crawling. Be prepared for the fact they’ll work out quite quickly how to move at lightning speed. There’s no need to worry if your baby shows no interest in crawling, though, because not all babies do it – some bum-shuffle to get where they want to go faster, and others completely bypass crawling and go straight to walking.
Baby's First Year: 9 Months
As your baby’s fine motor control develops they’ll master the pincer grasp, meaning they can pick things up between their thumb and forefinger. This is great fun at mealtimes as they can feed themselves independently.
Your baby will also love dropping things from their highchair tray on purpose. When you’re picking their cup up for the hundredth time, just remember they’re getting to grips with cause and effect, not just testing your patience!
"To help my son develop his pincer grasp, I started cutting his food into smaller pieces. He especially loved picking up peas, and I also learned a great banana hack. Instead of using a knife to cut it, which can leave the pieces feeling slimy and hard for little fingers to grasp, just peel it and push your finger down onto the top of the banana until it splits perfectly into three handy pieces!"Louise, 38, Nottinghamshire
At 10 months, your baby will have developed likes and dislikes and won’t hesitate to express them – loudly, if necessary. They might be pulling themselves upright to a standing position and cruising around the room using the furniture for support. This generally leads to lots of falling over but try not to worry – their pride will suffer more bruises than their body.
Baby's First Year: 11 Months
Your baby has probably been babbling away for months, but around about now you might hear the first really discernible words.
"Babies learn to talk by copying the sounds they hear, so encourage all their efforts to repeat what you say. Chatting to your baby and repeating their babble encourages them to become little chatterboxes, and reading books together is also a fun way of encouraging communication skills – they love the sound of all the words washing over them."Claire, 30, Surrey
A lot of babies won't start walking until they're closer to 18 months old, so don’t fret if your little one hasn't taken to their feet by their first birthday. Crawling stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, so keep encouraging this if you’ve got a reluctant walker.
"Only one of my four walked by 12 months – the rest didn’t walk until 16 months. It’ll happen when they’re ready so try not to rush it. After all, you’ll likely spend the next decade asking them to sit down!"Rabab, 39, Warrenpoint
Now you've got an overview, let's get into specifics with the rest of our M&P Guides