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Growth and Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months


Topic Overview

How do babies grow and develop in the first year?

Babies change more in the first year of life than at any other time. From 1 to 12 months of age, most babies grow and develop in these main areas:

  • Physical development. A baby's growth is dramatic during this first year. Babies grow taller, and their heads get bigger.
  • Cognitive development. Babies make great advances in being able to learn and remember.
  • Emotional and social development. Babies start to show their emotions and how they feel about other people.
  • Language development. Babies quickly learn language by what is spoken around them.
  • Sensory and motor development. Babies become strong enough to sit. Some will stand, and others will begin to take their first steps.

Each baby grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. It is common for a baby to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.

Babies who were born early or have health problems may grow and develop at a slower pace.

Why are routine medical visits needed?

Doctors recommend that babies have routine checkups (well-child visits) every 2 to 3 months from age 1 month to 12 months. These visits are important to check for problems and to make sure that your baby is growing and developing as expected.

During these visits, the doctor will:

  • Do a physical exam.
  • Give your baby the needed immunizations.
  • Weigh and measure your baby to see how your baby compares to other babies of the same age.
  • Likely ask you questions about how your family and the baby are doing.

This is a good time to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. Between visits, write down any questions you want to ask the doctor next time.

When should you call the doctor?

Call your doctor anytime you have a concern about your baby. Be sure to call if your baby:

  • Hasn't grown as expected or hasn't been eating well for some time.
  • Has lost skills he or she used to have, such as crawling.
  • Shows signs of hearing problems, such as not responding to your voice or to loud noises.

Your own health is also important in helping your baby grow and develop. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be depressed or if you feel like you cannot care for your baby.

How can you help your baby during the first year?

The best things for your baby are often the most basic. Loving, holding, changing diapers for, talking to, and feeding your baby are the first things to focus on.

During the first year, other ways that you can help your baby grow and learn are to:

  • Respond to your baby's cries. Crying is your baby's way to tell you what he or she needs. If your baby has colic, do what you can to comfort him or her. Remember that colic is normal—and temporary. Your baby will grow out of it.
  • Help your baby learn. Talking, reading, and playing are all important ways to help your baby's mind grow.
  • Place your baby on his or her tummy, and play together. Also give your baby plenty of time to explore safely. This can help your baby gain the confidence to try new skills, such as crawling and walking, and to grow into a healthy toddler.
  • Keep your baby safe. Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Use a car seat every time your baby rides in a car.
  • Know that your baby is curious, but set limits. A baby between 1 and 12 months is too young to understand what is "good" and "bad" behavior. You may need to redirect your baby's attention. For example, if your baby tries to pull the dog's tail, you can find a toy to get your baby's attention, and then move the dog to another area.

The first year of your baby's life is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Some days you may feel overwhelmed. Learning what is normal for babies at this age can help you spot problems early or feel better about how your baby is doing.

Ask for help when you need it. Call a family member or friend to watch your baby. If you need a break or don't feel well, ask your doctor or local hospital for some suggestions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about growth and development:

Developmental milestones:

Seeing a doctor:

Ongoing concerns:

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