Your baby goes through an incredible amount of growth and change in her first year, reaching many major developmental milestones by her first birthday. And with each milestone comes plenty of questions! Here, the experts answer common worries from each stage of your baby’s first 12 months…
Q. My 6-week-old baby hasn’t started smiling yet. Does this mean she won’t be a happy baby?
A. “Don’t worry, the development of smiling has nothing to do with temperament. But it’s a significant leap because it’s the start of social interaction – your baby learns that when she smiles, you’ll smile back. I wouldn’t be concerned for now, but if your child isn’t smiling by 9 weeks, ask your GP to check her vision,” says Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“Bobby didn’t smile until he was 8 weeks, which worried me, as Annie smiled at 1 month. But he’s such a happy baby – more easy-going than his lovely but highly strung sister!”
Freya, 33, mum to Annie, 4, and Bobby, 3 months
Q. My 3-month-old keeps rolling on to his tummy and getting stuck. It’s frustrating him and me! Why can’t he go all the way?
A. “He gets stuck because his arm’s in the way. He’ll eventually learn. Meanwhile, be patient – there’s nothing you can do to speed it up; he’ll get there when he’s ready,” explains Martin Ward Platt, consultant paediatrician at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“Mazie started rolling at 3 months, but she’d cry when on her tummy and get angry when I rolled her back. So I made a game of rolling her backwards and forwards by holding her fingers. It took her about four weeks to figure out how to flip back. Life was easier after that.”
Ali, 27, mum to Mazie, 6 months
Q. My 4-month-old is obsessed with sticking her toes in her mouth. Why?
A. “Your baby is developing a sense of self-image. She’ll have discovered her hands around 2 months, then sometime later she spots these interesting pink sausagey things floating around. She grabs them with her hands and realises, ‘These belong to me!’ No wonder she wants to put them in her mouth all the time,” says Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“Abby is a toe-sucking addict. She gets easily frustrated, so it’s great she’s found something to keep her occupied and it gives me some peace. I’m making the most of this foot fetish!”
Rachel, 33, mum to Abby, 5 months
Q. My 6-month-old is advanced for his age – already crawling and standing. Does this mean he’ll be bright?
A.“ Not necessarily. Intelligence at this age is difficult to predict: the development of motor skills (rolling over, standing and walking) are only loosely attached to cognitive ability (the ability to think and reason),” says Martin Ward Platt, consultant paediatrician at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“Elliot was crawling at 5 months, standing at 7 months and walking at 9 months. Since then, he’s slowed down and his peers are catching up with him. My mum thinks he’s a supergenius; I’m glad to say I don’t. I just want him to grow up happy.”
Sarah, 33, mum to Lucy, 5, and Elliot, 11 months
Q. My 7-month-old son screams if I leave the room. What’s going on?
A. “His screaming is due to separation anxiety. Your baby now realises that you’re his main care-giver and is frightened when you leave him, because he thinks you might not return,” says Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“I found it helpful to warn Hugh when I went out of his sight and to call out every so often to reassure him. Things started to improve when he began to crawl – once he was more mobile, he panicked less when he couldn’t see me.”
Natatsha, 35, mum to Melanie, 3, and Hugh, 10 months
Q. My 8-month-old can pull herself up and sit back down in the day, but she can’t get down at night. Why?
A. “She’s not getting back down because she wants to see you. Be firm but sympathetic – don’t take her out of her cot as, before you know it, you’ll be taking her into bed with you. Just settle her down and let her drift back off to sleep,” explains Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“Helen would stand in her cot and cry every night. I’d ease her back down without talking too much, as I didn’t want her to think it was playtime, but I’d firmly say, ‘No standing. It’s time for sleep.’ After a week, she got the message.”
Flo, 30, mum to Helen, 9 months
Q. My 9-month-old son stood for the first time three weeks ago but he hasn’t since. Is something wrong?
A. “It’s normal for your baby to do something one week, then not return to it for a while. He may be developing a new skill – babies tend to concentrate on mastering one at a time – or stress may have made him regress temporarily. Has he been ill? Has he started nursery? Either way, this is nothing to worry about, ” reassures Martin Ward Platt, consultant paediatrician at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“Lilly rolled over on to her tummy at 5 months, then she decided she loved sitting and refused to roll again for a while. We encouraged more rolling by putting her toys just out of reach. I’ve also noticed that since she started waving, she’s not so keen on sitting any more. I guess she just wants to master one thing at a time.”
Ella, 33, mum to Oliver, 6, twins Lilly and Harry, 8 months, and six months pregnant
Q. My 10-month-old is obsessed with pinching. Does this mean I’ve got a bully on my hands?
A. “Don’t worry, pinching at this stage simply means he’s practicing his pincer grip! This is when a baby learns to grasp objects with his thumb and forefinger,” explains Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“When Alexander pinches my cheek, I say ‘no’ firmly and put him down on the floor. He’s obsessed with the labels on clothes, so giving him an old T-shirt fulfils his pinching needs.”
Sandra, 31, mum to Alexander, 10 months
Q. My 11-month-old keeps snatching her feeding spoon from me. Why?
A. “She wants her spoon because she’s becoming independent. Snatching is her way of saying, ‘I want to do this myself.’” explains Martin Ward Platt, consultant paediatrician at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“Both of my boys want to feed themselves. So now I give them finger foods whenever I can. If I let them feed themselves for a while, they’re happy to take the rest of their meal from a spoon.”
Tanya, 32, mum to twins Ciaran and Oliver, 13 months
Q. My 1-year-old has never crawled but now walks. Is this normal?
A. “It’s absolutely normal. Babies get around in many ways – crawling is only one. Some babies roll about, others are bottom shufflers,” reassures Dirk Meerstadt, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician from Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust.
“Kitty was a bottom shuffler, so she amazed everyone when she walked two weeks before her first birthday. We thought crawling would happen first. But she’s very nosy – I think she shuffled sitting up so she didn’t miss anything.”
Morag, mum to Shannon, 5, and Kitty, 13 months