The first year

Babies have feelings from birth. They may feel content or uncomfortable but are not able to think about why they feel that way. They may pick up on and match your feelings such as when you are happy, calm or upset.

Birth to three months

From birth babies usually:

  • watch your face when you talk to them
  • turn to the side to suck when their cheek is touched
  • blink at sudden noises such as hand claps or a door slamming
  • open their eyes to normal speech sounds just as they doze off
  • suck well from breast or bottle.

By eight weeks they usually:

  • smile at you
  • move both eyes together most of the time
  • lift their head when lying on their tummy
  • kick both legs strongly
  • seem to listen to you and watch your face
  • make sounds other than crying, and ‘talk back’ to you
  • have sleep patterns that vary a lot.

By two to three months they usually follow your face or a moving light with their eyes.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby does any of the following:

  • is not smiling by eight weeks
  • does not calm down, at least for a little while, when picked up
  • is unusually floppy or stiff
  • has different muscle tone or strength in an arm and leg on one side compared with the other side
  • has unusually ‘good’ head control due to stiff muscles
  • always holds their fingers in a tight fist
  • is not startled by sudden noises
  • has feeding problems beyond normal range
  • cries for long periods or can’t be settled
  • is unusually good and not demanding
  • by three months, does not watch your face when you speak to them
  • by three months, is not making sounds other than crying.

Babies three to six months

Relationships and feelings

By this age babies usually:

  • make eye contact as you smile at each other
  • enjoy being played with, laugh and kick by four months
  • chuckle softly and laugh aloud by three to five months.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby does not:

  • seem interested in things around them
  • show delight in being with people
  • seem to know you or other familiar people.

Doing, seeing and hearing

Babies of this age usually:

  • enjoy looking at people and bright objects
  • enjoy watching people do things
  • react to familiar things with smiles, cooing and excited movements
  • turn their head to moderate sounds such as a normal speaking voice by three months
  • look at their own hands and play with their fingers by three months.

By three to five months they usually:

  • hold on to an object placed in their hand and briefly look at it
  • lift their head and chest when lying on their tummy
  • quieten or smile at the sound of your voice, or if they see you
  • turn their head or eyes towards you when you speak from beside or behind them.

By five to seven months, babies can usually roll from their back to their tummy.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby:

  • does not open hands or straighten fingers
  • does not kick their legs
  • has arms and legs that are bent most of the time
  • does not use both hands and both legs equally well
  • does not make eye contact with people or follow activities with their eyes
  • does not turn to look for you when you speak
  • is not startled by loud noises
  • is unhappy or unsettled most of the time.

Learning to talk

Babies usually:

  • make lots of little voice sounds such as squeals or grunts
  • take turns when ‘talking’ with parents
  • by five months, turn their head towards a person talking.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby does not make many voice sounds.

Babies six to nine months

Relationships and feelings

Babies of this age usually:

  • know familiar people and are unsure of strangers
  • become upset when separated from their main carer
  • delight in playing peek-a-boo games.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby:

  • does not show pleasure when seeing people they know well
  • does not make eye contact
  • cannot be comforted by a parent or close carer.

Doing

Babies can usually:

  • swap small items from one hand to the other
  • pick up items with their thumb and one finger
  • bang objects together
  • roll from their back to their tummy
  • sit for several minutes without using their hands for support
  • get into a crawling position on their hands and knees
  • start to look at and feel objects before taking them to their mouth
  • start to hold food such as a biscuit and feed themselves
  • look in the right direction for things that have fallen down
  • start to drink from a cup held by an adult
  • by eight months, move around more and roll and creep on their tummy.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby does not:

  • move around in any way
  • show an interest in or reach for objects
  • recognise you or other main carers
  • show interest in their surroundings or new objects.

Hearing and learning to talk

Babies usually:

  • turn towards quiet sounds
  • babble with sounds like ‘dada’ and ‘baba’ and then try to put babbling sounds together
  • recognise several words - eg: looks for Daddy if ‘Daddy’ is said
  • copy sounds made by other people.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby has not started babbling.

Babies nine to twelve months

Relationships and feelings

Babies of this age usually:

  • know familiar people and withdraw from strangers - by nine months
  • give cuddles
  • become anxious if their main carer is out of sight
  • stretch up their arms to be picked up
  • give clues to let you know they are hungry, or need a cuddle
  • love to be talked to and played with
  • copy gestures such as coughing or waving
  • cannot understand ‘no’ or ‘danger’.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby:

  • does not show pleasure when seeing people they know well
  • does not make eye contact
  • cannot be comforted by you or a close carer.

Doing

Babies of this age can usually:

  • point with their index finger
  • drop and throw things on purpose
  • pass objects easily from one hand to the other
  • sit unsupported
  • move around by crawling or ‘bottom shuffling’
  • pull themselves up to stand
  • walk while holding on to furniture
  • find a toy hidden under a cloth
  • pick up a crumb with tips of finger and thumb
  • stand by themselves and take a few steps forward, by eleven to thirteen months.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby:

  • holds their body stiff and cannot be put in a sitting position
  • is not moving around in any way
  • is not interested in new objects and does not reach for them
  • is not sitting by nine months.

Hearing and learning to talk

Babies usually:

  • look for quiet sounds made out of sight
  • shake their head for ‘no’ and nod their head for ‘yes’
  • show pleasure in babbling loudly
  • like to look at picture books and can say some sounds for certain pictures
  • by 10 to 12 months, turn to the direction a sound comes from
  • by 12 months, know and respond to their own name
  • by 12 months, say a few single words.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your baby is not babbling or making other sounds when someone talks to them.

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Last updated: 18 September 2017