16:53 22 April 2009
As a new parent you are no doubt still adjusting and when you think you've mastered one thing, something else serves to baffle you.
With everyday bringing new challenges, as well as joys - conflicting advice about what to expect in your child's development is the last you need. Yet that is the reality that you are likely to get.
But what age should babies be doing what? And what are the possible implications if they are not in line with those milestones?
The first thing is not to panic. Every child will develop at their own pace and while you shouldn't ignore their abilities in fact you will be mesmerised by them as they happen excessive worrying will serve no purpose but to cause distress.
Factors such as whether your child was premature or overdue can have an impact on when certain skills are achieved Here this guide offers the average age for these milestones but is not set in concrete by any means.
Smiling 6 weeks
A baby's first smile will usually have happened by six weeks old. As well as being one of the most heart-warming moments of your baby's development, it is one of the most important as it is the earliest indication that they are developing normally.
However the ability to smile is affected by a child's growth in the womb rather than their chronological age, meaning that premature babies will smile later than those that were overdue.
If a baby has not smiled by the age of three months, you should consult a medical professional as the inability to smile can show that a child has a significant health problem.
Sleeping patterns 3 months
There are no strict rules for sleeping. As a rough guide, most babies will be sleeping through the night by the time they are three months old, although 33% of children under five regularly have disturbed nights.
Giving your child a bedtime routine in a temperature regulated quiet room will help settle them down for the night. However, factors such as teething and minor illnesses will cause disruptive sleeping patterns, but should only be temporary.
While it is normal for tiny infants to wake every three to four hours for feeding, older children suffering from disrupted sleep can be a sign of issues such as bladder problems, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, over-stimulation or night terrors. Continually interrupted sleep could also be a sign of autism, but is not a determining factor on its own and should be investigated by a medical professional before worrying.
Sitting up 6 months
Although most babies can sit up unaided by six months old it is important to consider your infant's skill development as a whole rather than focussing on one thing alone. If your baby is happy and healthy in all other aspects and acquiring their fine motor skills reaching out to grab things, chances are they will catch up.
Again premature babies will develop this skill later, as will babies who've undergone abdominal surgery.
If your baby cannot sit up on their own by the age of eight months it is wise to speak to your health visitor for advice to rule out more serious explanations such as cerebral palsy, serious motor problems or a metabolic disorders.
Walking 1215 months
A baby takes their first steps usually a little after a year old and 95% of children can toddle confidently by 18 months.
Not all children start by crawling, some bottom shuffle or cruise before finding their feet.
The rate at which an infant will start to walk, as well as other developmental milestones, can be determined by genetics so if parents or grandparents were late walkers, they could be too.
If a child is having difficulty in learning to walk, a process of elimination ruling out concerns such as hip problems, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy will be tested for before assuming delayed development.
Talking 9-18 months
Around the same time as their first steps, if not before, a child is likely to be saying their first words other than mama or dada as well as able to recognise their own name.
Some may start talking as early as eight months, while others won't say anything before 18 months and will not make much sense long after that.
By the time a child is two-years-old they are likely to have a vocabulary of up to 200 words.
However there is a huge variation in how soon a child will learn to talk, and doesn't necessarily have any bearing on their intelligence after all, Albert Einstein didn't learn to speak until he was three.
Late speakering is unlikely to indicate a hearing problem as all babies are screen for hearing defects after birth. The main thing to look for is that they understand you.
The tots test
Check out your toddler knowledge.
A child's ability to interact with others is dependant on many factors some are simply more introverted and enjoy playing on their own. As a general rule a child should be happy playing with others by the time they are three.
If they show reluctance to interact with their peers, crave rigid routines or share experiences there is a small possibility they may be autistic.
The main thing to look for is lack of joint attention. For example if you tell them to look at that shiny car follow your finger rather than focus on the car, this could indicate a problem. Seek advice from a medial professional, but try not to worry as 1% of three year old are on the autistic range.
If you are concerned about any aspect of your baby's development consult medical advice, but remember to look at their development overall before causing yourself undue anxiety.
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