Thursday, December 29, 2005

What Will The First Year Bring?

First-year milestones are many, even when parents think that it will take a long time for baby to grow up. While it may seem as if it will be forever before your baby learned to roll over, walk, and talk, he or she will be doing those things and more before you know it. You may find, like many parents, that you are sad at the same time you are excited about the experiences and the wonder with which your baby experiences the world. Here are only a sampling of the magic moments you can expect to have with your baby.

When your baby lets loose her first smile at about two months of age, you will find yourself ridiculously excited. Yes, there will still be those spoil-sport grandmas who will tell you it is just gas, but you will know the truth. Your baby is happy! He can smile at his Mommy and Daddy, who he is kind of beginning to recognize only because they are around so much. Your baby will be able to smile when he or she has developed two important skills: muscle control in the face and social interpretation. Within a few weeks, your baby will realize that smiling is a great way to get attention from others, so he or she will begin doing it more often.

Walking is one of the last feats your baby will conquer. In fact, some babies may not conquer it at all as some children do not walk until 18 months of age. Most babies begin around a year, however, and they start trying by about nine months. Walking, more than any other developmental trait, requires significant coordination. When you are crawling, your center of gravity is three or four inches from the ground. When you are walking, however, your center of gravity is in your torso, which is a good 15 inches from the ground even for short little guys. Walking also requires a balance and ability to maneuver based on your situation, such as a cat running in front of you or a misstep, that other forms of development do not require. You will be jumping for joy when your baby starts walking, but get ready. You will be chasing her around soon!

Standing up comes before walking and even crawling for most babies – if your baby even crawls. Some babies pull up later, so they skip the crawling. If your baby is like my son, however, he will be able to pull himself to standing several months before his little legs have the strength to hold his whole body. My son pulled to standing early, at five months and was standing alone by six months, which I firmly believe is because he spent so much time trying to determine how to chase down the cats. Still, most babies pull to standing between six and eleven months. This milestone, more than walking even, says, "hey, I'm not going to be a baby much longer."

Once your baby hits three or four months, you can prop her up by using pillows behind her back. By six or seven months, however, she should have worked on assisted sitting long enough to have developed the neck and stomach muscles to sit alone. The stomach muscles are very important. If you look at your baby's abdomen by nine months, you will be jealous! The baby six-pack is necessary for him to sit alone. After a few weeks, he will learn how to move around a bit more and control himself while sitting up.

These baby milestones are just a few of the ones you will experience with your baby. You will find that your little one learns so quickly you may be envious. Remember that everyday is a new one for babies, and they are constantly learning. Try working with them to help them get an idea of what standing or sitting up is like. Just do not push them. Babies know what is best for them and what their bodies can do. Pushing them to stand, for example, can hurt their legs. Instead, be patient because the baby days will not last. Just because walking seems obvious to you does not mean that baby will catch on that quickly!

By Julia Mercer

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