The first twelve months of a baby’s life are marked by many “firsts”, including their first smile and first steps. During this time babies typically experience significant mental and physical development. Every few months babies acquire new skills for eating, walking and eventually talking. A baby goes from a complete dependence on others to being very active and quite independent, exploring his/her surroundings without much assistance at all. Right before your eyes, your baby will transform in a few short months.
Some of the physical changes that babies undergo include being able to control their head, then rolling over, until soon they begin sitting up unassisted. Beginning in the first two months, babies can lift their heads and hold it up for short periods of time. By three months, they can usually hold their heads steady and soon begin playing with their hands and feet. By six months, babies usually are rolling over, and some are able to sit unassisted, lung forward or may start crawling. Mothers eagerly anticipate their babies crawling, cruising and finally walking. Much of this physical development takes place during the latter half of the first twelve months and into second year of life .
These physical developmental milestones are often accompanied by substantial social and emotional development as well including in the eight month babies being saying words such as “mama” and “dada” and by ten months, babies can wave goodbye. Eleven month olds enjoy playing patty-cake and peek-a-boo while 1 year olds begin imitating others’ and indicating their wants by using gestures.
Throughout each of the developmental stages, there are activities that parents can do to encourage growth & development. Early on, babies need to have “tummy time” in which they lift their head and shoulders when lying on their tummy (as a mini-pushup) to strengthen their upper body to assist with pulling up and holding their head up. To help your child begin speaking and understanding languages, speak to them. From day one, talk to them, sing to them and encourage them to react, babble, then eventually speak to you in return.
Exploration and interaction are the two most important activities for babies. Allow babies time and space to explore their world assisted as well as unassisted. On occasion, sit back and watch to see what they’ll do while you’re a safe distance away. Interact with your baby by first and foremost showing love. Show affection by taking care of their basic needs and also by hugging, touching, smiling and playing with them. Stimulate all of your babies senses by choosing toys of different shapes, textures, colors, sounds and weights. Play music, sing and read to your baby. Another specific activity that some mothers suggest for communicating with their baby is to practice sign language. Using motions and hand signals, you can stimulate your baby’s physical and mental development and foster an intimate communication between you and your baby.
In the instance when either a physical or mental developmental stage is delayed or missing, there may be cause for concern. If you suspect a problem, don’t ignore it. Seek help. Ask your doctor to evaluate your baby. Learn the warning signs. For instance, if your child isn’t walking or attempting to take steps by eighteen months, this could be a sign of a motor delay. To know for sure, your doctor can perform various assessments, including a physical exam and ask questions about a variety of things such as your babies eating habits and overall nutrition; whether your baby has obtained other major milestones, such as being able to speak and engage others, etc. Your doctor may need to order blood, urine or other tests. Although this can be a very unnerving time, it is best to know about any health condition that is ailing your baby so you can seek out the most appropriate treatment or physical therapy intervention that will greatly assist your baby in achieving future milestones.