Baby Development

Five important milestones in your baby's development

Of course, every mother (especially every NEW mother) will think that every little new thing baby does is a milestone in and of itself, but there are five major ones to especially look for:

1. Tracking: Beginning at just a week old, try putting a (hopefully!) favorite toy in front of baby. Once baby makes eye contact with it, try moving the toy slowly one way, then the other. At two weeks old, baby should track the toy, and at four weeks, baby should actually begin turning his or her head from one side to the other looking for the toy should he or she hear it.


2. Smiling: This is one of the favorite milestones, to be sure! Don't be fooled by the smiles baby makes when he or she is just a few weeks old (baby doesn't know what it means yet), but do praise him or her with a smile of your own, as this will make baby think he or she's doing something right. It sounds like training a puppy, but that's how we all learned it. Actual smiling because baby is happy or excited doesn't usually happen until the sixth or seventh week, although there is some research that suggests that the smiles given during baby's sleep (especially REM sleep) are because he or she is happy, too.

3. Uttering first word: A vast majority of babies will say "mama" or "dada" as their first word - ironically, although it's usually the mother who spends the most time with baby, roughly 80 percent of babies' first word is "dada." This usually happens at around five months of age, if you don't include the occasional fluke of a word when baby begins to babble and coo at around three months. The first word beyond "mama" and "dada" will usually take hold at around six months, and it will probably be a word that uses little or no tongue movement - like "puppy" or "yummy."

4. Standing: All babies will try to stand a little too early - they want to try, but they just don't have the leg strength yet. There is no "usual" time for baby to stand completely on his or her own. Some babies' legs just develop quicker, and these babies have proven to usually become an athlete of some kind. If your baby isn't at least trying to stand on his or her own before ten months, however, there could be a problem.

5. Walking: Don't think that just because baby can stand means that he or she can walk, too! Walking is definitely a learning process and can take up to a month after baby stands - and even then, baby will most likely be holding on to something for balance. Not surprisingly, a lot of research shows that babies want to walk simply because they see others around them walking.

There are many other things baby will learn that other mothers might consider to be important - baby's first solid food, for example. The five listed here, however, are true for all babies and are vital for the trickier development.

By Whitney Norrell