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Infant Milestones

What Are Infant Milestones?

  • Babies grow at an amazingly rapid rate during their first year of life. In addition to babies' physical growth in height and weight, babies also go through major achievement stages, referred to as developmental milestones.
  • Developmental milestones are easily identifiable skills that the baby can perform, such as rolling over, sitting up, and walking.
  • These milestones are usually classified into three categories:
    • motor development,
    • language development, and
    • social/emotional development.
  • Babies tend to follow the same progression through these milestones; however, no two babies go through these milestones at exactly the same time. There is a range of time when a specific developmental milestone will be accomplished (for example, babies learn to walk independently between 9-16 months of age).
  • Babies also spend different amounts of time at each stage before moving on to the next stage.
  • Contact a health-care professional with any concerns about a baby's development.

The First Month

During the first month of life, most of a baby's behavior is reflexive, meaning that his/her reactions are automatic. Later, as the nervous system matures, a baby will become capable of putting more thought into their actions. Some of the newborn reflexes are described below.

  • Mouthing reflexes: These reflexes are important for baby's survival, helping them find the source of food. The sucking and swallowing reflexes are most important. A baby will automatically begin to suck when their mouth or lips are touched. The rooting reflex is when the baby turns his head toward your hand if their cheek is touched. This helps baby find the nipple for feeding. This response is called the rooting reflex and begins to fade around 4 months of age.
  • Startle (Moro) reflex: The startle reflex occurs when a baby hears a loud noise or when he falls backward, his arms and legs extend away from his body. This reflex is most noticeable during the first month and usually fades by 2 or 3 months.
  • Grasp reflex: A baby will grasp a finger or object when it is placed in the palm of her hand. This reflex is strongest during the first 2 months and usually fades by 5-6 months.
  • Stepping reflex: Even though baby cannot support his own weight, if his feet are placed on a flat surface, he will begin to step one foot in front of the other. The stepping reflex usually disappears by 2 months.

By the end of the first month of life, most babies may display the following:

  • Raises head when on stomach
  • Keeps hands in tight fists
  • Focuses 8-12 inches away, looks at objects and faces, and prefers the human face over other patterns. Black and white objects are preferred over those of various colors.
  • Shows a behavioral response when hearing a noise (such as eye blinking, acting startled, change in movements or breathing rate)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Infant Milestones:

Infant Milestones - Tracking

What infant milestone has your child reached recently?

Infant Milestones - Concern

What concerns about infant milestones prompted you to seek medical care for your baby?

The newborn period is the first 28 days of a child's life.

Newborn Developmental Changes

Newborn infants have no sense of day and night; however, by approximately 6 weeks of age they will commonly have started to establish a rhythm in their life. This doesn't imply that they are capable of sleeping through the night without feeding, but it does mean that feeding in the middle of the night can be approached as business and limit any extraneous stimulation. Daytime feedings are an excellent time to have social interaction (such as singing). The distance an infant can see increases from very close to several feet away. (The proposal that infants cannot determine color is not true. They just aren't that interested in colorful objects until about 2- 3 months of age.) Similarly, the human face is not that visually interesting until about 6 weeks of age. Social smiling and cooing are noticed often about 6 weeks of age and should be present by the 2-month-old well child exam.


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