Between birth and her first birthday bash, your little sprout will do some serious growing—and not just in size. A baby’s first year is a blur of cognitive and mobile changes that occur at warp speed compared to the rest of her life.
With every new tooth and talent come questions: Shouldn’t she be able to walk by now? Why doesn’t she want finger foods? I swear she’s saying “mama”—isn’t it too early for that? Brush up on the typical timetable for major first-year milestones, and then break out the baby book. No matter where your wee one falls on the charts, you’re going to want to remember every moment.
Birth to 3 months
Right now your newborn is learning what it’s like to live outside mama’s womb. During the first three months, expect flailing limbs, close-fisted hands and a few cross-eyed glances. Your baby can only see about 8 to 12 inches from her face, so get close when interacting with her. However, watch out for those gesticulating arms—if she can’t keep from hitting herself, you’re fair game, too. And limbs aren’t alone in their lack of restraint; newborns have only slight head control.
During tummy time, your baby might be able to summon the strength to hold up her head for a second, but don’t expect much more. By the end of this stage, she’ll be able to briefly follow moving objects with her eyes, bring her hands to her mouth and grasp things. (So, watch that ponytail, mom!)
Whatever your baby might need, you’ll hear about it, loud and clear. At this stage, crying is the main way infants communicate. Over time, you will learn to distin- guish between your tot’s cries and know whether she’s wet, not feeling well or just missing your undivided attention.
Although she can’t talk, she’s still giving you plenty of clues. Lip smacking is a sure sign your newborn is hungry, and yawning can be a signal of sleepiness or needing a break. According to Kevin Nugent, MD, author of Your Baby is Speaking to You, yawning is her tiny body’s way of taking control and saying “timeout.” Around two months, your baby will make her first non-wailing peep. Cooing noises show interest, so keep up that baby talk because she knows (and loves to hear) your voice.
Resting and digesting
Remember the age-old adage that mommy should sleep when the baby sleeps? The good news is your little bundle will snooze for about 14 to 16 hours a day. The bad news: She’ll be on an erratic sleep pattern, mostly snoozing in two- and three- hour chunks during the day and maybe a four- or five-hour stretch at night.
Like sleeping, when it comes to your little one’s eating habits think small but frequent. Infants usually need to be fed mini-meals every two or three hours. The number of diaper changes can vary, but doctors agree soft stool is best.
Months 4 to 6
A few months into your baby’s life, and you have a pint-sized explorer on your hands. She might not be on the move just yet, but she’s using her hands—and her mouth—to learn more about the world around her. Those tiny, tight fists have opened up and can now grab small toys.
Your teetering tot will soon be able to shake that rattle—and roll! Most babes turn from front to back first because it requires less coordination. (Look for the back-to-front roll closer to 6 months.) Your baby should also be working her way up. She can push up and support her upper body and head while lying on her stomach, and with a bit of back support, she might be able to sit. Soon that support will be her own hand on the ground until she can balance herself without leaning.
Now that your little one has better control of her wobbly noggin, she’ll be able to turn toward familiar voices and sounds. Most of her conversation contribu- tions will still be coos, but make a silly face or two and you might get a hearty laugh out of her.
Right now, she’s learning how to get your attention by fussing; toward the end of this phase, however, you’ll hear nonsense consonant sounds, like bababa, as she mimics your voice. Once she’s got the hang of babbling, she’ll use that (and, yes, crying) to communicate with you, so listen for repeated sounds and intonations of joy or unhappiness.
Resting and digesting
Around this phase, your babe will still sleep 14 to 16 hours with about three naps each day, but you’ll be able to catch a few more of those elusive Zs at night. (We’re talking up to six hours!) By month six, your baby should double her birth weight. Her numbers on the scale will keep climbing as you introduce solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends gradually introducing solids at around 6 months of age, but your pediatrician might advise differently depending on your little one’s nutritional needs. Start with semi-solid foods, like mushy cereal or mashed avocado, and keep a keen eye out for any signs of food allergies.
If what’s going in changes, you can bet what’s coming out will look a little different, too. Baby’s bowel movements will get harder (but still fairly soft— dry stools can be a sign of dehydration or constipation) and smellier.
Months 7 to 9
Once your baby figures out she can reach a toy—or you—by rolling over, she’ll find other ways of getting around. If you haven’t made time to babyproof yet, you’d better hurry! Your wee wiggler will probably get her move on by scooting on her bottom or perfecting the “army crawl,” in which she’ll pretty much drag herself across the floor with her arms. From there, your baby will maneuver from a sitting position and hold herself up with her hands and knees. As soon as she learns to push off, you’ll have a crawler on your hands. (But keep in mind, some babies skip crawling altogether and go straight for the gold: walking.)
Near the end of this stage, your little adventurer will start using furniture to pull herself up. She’ll also master the pincer grasp, which uses the thumb and forefinger—like a pinch—to hold small objects. Her new grips will help her explore objects (and their durability) by banging things together and dropping them on the floor.
Soon you’ll start to recognize some of those incoherent babbles. You might get a “mama” or “dada” by the end of this stage, but your baby is just beginning to understand that these sounds have meanings behind them. By nine months, she should be able to respond to simple commands, like stopping when you say, “No,” or looking when you call her by name.
She’s also learning how to communicate with gestures, mostly by watching you ever so closely, so try waving bye—you will likely get a fluttering hand right back. This age is a particularly fun time to pull out your peekaboo face because she’s old enough to play along with you.
Resting and digesting
That pincer grasp comes in handy as your tot learns to feed herself. Keep trying new, soft foods. Think cooked carrots, mashed potatoes and teething biscuits. (That’s right, you’ll be seeing plenty of drool—and feeling a bit damp when teething kicks in around month six.)
Your baby will continue gaining weight but at a slower pace, averaging a pound a month, and her bowel and bladder will become more regulated. If you’re looking forward to returning to a fairly normal sleep schedule (and who isn’t?), get excited. Your baby’s sweet dreams will stretch to roughly 10 hours a night, but she’ll still need those daytime naps.
Months 10 to 12
In the final months of baby’s first year, she’ll prep for the jump into toddlerhood. During this phase, she’ll be sitting without any support and cruising (walking while holding onto furniture) around the room. Close to her first birthday, you might see those momentous first steps, but there’s a wide window for this milestone. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t walk for a couple more months.
Your wee one is still learning how things work by putting objects in containers and taking them back out, imitating scribbling and practicing pretend play— think chatting away on an imaginary phone like a pro.
Your baby is becoming quite the talker, even if you can’t make out everything she’s saying. By 12 months, she might have added a few more words to her repertoire, and she’ll be quick to repeat sounds that you (or even animals) make.
Around this time, she’ll rely on pointing as another way of communicating with you, whether she’s pointing at something new or something she wants. Use those opportunities to teach her new words because her brain is starting to connect objects with labels.
Resting and digesting
In just one year, your baby has done a whole lot of growing. She should triple her birth weight and be about one and a half times as long (well, tall) as her birth measurement. Talk with your pediatrician about any diet changes, but formula- fed babies are usually ready to switch to cow’s milk at 12 months. Moms who are breastfeeding can continue or make the swap to cow’s milk, too. If you trade the bottle—or breast—for a sippy cup, give your little one plenty of time to practice.
Now that she has between one and eight teeth in her adorable grin, she can handle more solid foods. It’s also time to gently introduce her to a toothbrush. At this age, tots still sleep for about 10 hours each night but need fewer naps to get through the day—less than three hours’ worth.
In 12 short months, that precious bundle you welcomed into the world has (or will soon!) become a walking, talking toddler. You’ve been right there with her for every milestone, so you know better than anyone that when that first birthday rolls around, you both have a lot to celebrate.