Thursday, June 23, 2005

Developmental Charts: Useful, but Not All-Exclusive

First time parents often turn to books and articles for development charts. On one hand, it is a comfort to see their baby reaching various milestones exactly when he or she is "supposed to" be reaching a certain stage but this is also something to raise concerns. The reason for that is simple: no two babies are alike and they will be developing and reaching milestones at different times.

I did the same thing when my daughter was a baby and always had in mind what the charts suggested would be happening next. Sometimes she was right on schedule, but other times she was early or late for what the "guidelines" listed. As one example, she took her first steps just one day before her first birthday and I remember being pleased that such a big achievement was reached "on schedule."

Development charts can be beneficial if they are sweeping enough to give a range of options, however. With that in mind, these guidelines are to be used as a generalized list and nothing more.

There are not many major milestones in the first month of a baby's life. He or she will be able to watch after objects that are held in front of them. He will also look at someone when they are talking to him and often get very quiet when he hears someone talking.

During the second month, the baby will search for noises that are heard and some sounds besides crying will begin. He may appear to be trying to hold a conversation with his own little baby noises when someone is talking to him. He will probably start smiling during this second month.

During the third month, the baby will be able to hold items that are given to him, but he won't reach for them. He may start pulling at his clothing or blankets that are near him. He can find where noises are coming from and makes many new sounds. The baby will now show signs of recognizing voices and faces of people he knows.

In the fourth month the baby will be able to sit up and control his head, but there will need to be some support for sitting. He will roll to his side if he has been on his back. He enjoys playing with his hands and reaching for things. This is the month in which the hand and eye coordination will begin. Baby likes movement at this stage.

The fifth month may hold some anxiety for parents because the first signs of the baby starting to teeth can begin during this time period. Many objects including hands and feet will go into the baby's mouth. He is able to hold his head upright now.

By the time your baby is in the sixth month, his half year milestone, he will be chewing and biting things. A lot of rolling around is happening and he will be able to clasp small objects. He will be able to hold his own bottle at this point. His sounds are often beginning to sound like words and consist of one syllable. He definitely recognizes mom, dad, and siblings at this point.