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Understanding Milestones

By Jennifer B. Lemoine, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC

Understanding Milestones

How your baby develops from birth through preschool is remarkable. So many physical, cognitive and emotional changes will occur that experts have put them on a timeline to help parents and providers alike ensure baby is growing and developing appropriately.These milestones provide a general snapshot. No one knows your baby better than you—if you think your baby isn’t developing quite right, speak up! Your pediatrician can help you make decisions about testing or additional care so that baby develops the best way possible.

How Baby’s Brain Develops

Cognitive development is the cornerstone of intelligence, including memory, attention, problem-solving, and language skills. Alert your care provider if baby doesn’t meet these milestones:

Cognitive Red FlagsRed Flags
2 months oldDoesn’t fixate on an object
4 months oldDoesn’t visually track an object
6 months oldDoesn’t turn toward sound/voice
9 months oldDoesn’t exhibit babbling of consonant sounds (da-da, ba-ba)
24 months oldDoesn’t use single words
36 months oldDoesn’t speak in 3-words sentences


How Baby Learns to Move

Gross motor development means all movements—from the big ones like crawling and walking to fine motor skills involved with picking up small foods. Both gross and fine movement helps your baby balance, coordinate his body, and move with speed and strength to interact with his world. Where is your baby with the following motor milestones?

Motor Red FlagsRed Flags
4 months oldNo steady head control while sitting
9 months oldUnable to sit without support
18 months oldUnable to walk independently


Baby Interacts with Her World

Your baby’s first social experience is bonding with you, and her first measurable social milestone is her smile. Three distinct emotions are present from birth: anger, joy, and fear.
By 2 years old she will begin to play with other children her own age. The rule of thumb is that your child can play effectively in groups of children equal to her age. For example, a 3-year-old child should play well with 2 other children.

Social-Emotional Red FlagsRed Flags
6 months oldDoesn’t smile
9 months oldNo vocalization(s)
12 months oldDoesn’t respond when his/her name is called
15 months oldDoesn’t point or make gestures
18 months oldDoesn’t exhibit simple pretend play
Any ageLoss of previously acquired babbling, speech, or social skills



In just a few short years, your child will grow from a completely dependent being into an independent individual with complex language and problem-solving skills who is able to interact positively and productively with others.

Did you know? At only 1 week old a baby can identify her mother by her smell.

Remember to read our guide on how to conquer potty training

Jennifer B. Lemoine, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC is a neonatal nurse practitioner for Pediatrix Medical Group of Lafayette, LA.

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