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Baby Development Stages

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Welcome to parenthood! As a pediatrician I know that most new parents are full of questions and concerns. But don't worry. You'll get the answers you need and gain confidence in your new role soon. In the meantime, this tool will help you find out what you can expect in your baby's development. Just click on your child's age to find out what's happening now.

For a "sneak peek" at what comes next, look for this symbol:


 3 Weeks

 2 Months

 4 Months

 6 Months

 9 Months

 1 Year

 18 Months

 2 Years

 3 Years


Well, your miracle has arrived, and you are a parent! Although it all may seem overwhelming, your baby is less frail and helpless than you might think. He is capable in many ways and is going to help you become a good parent by giving you signals about what he needs. His major needs now are feeding, sleeping, and being soothed. He's learning that the world is a place to be trusted to meet his needs. If you're breastfeeding, you will provide a supply of milk that will exactly match his nutritional requirements and protect him from the germs in his environment. Breastfeed as much as you can, and get the help you deserve in getting started. Be sure you're getting your baby's weight checked regularly.

Taking care of your baby and yourselves (especially Mom) while you all acclimate to your new roles will take all your energy in these first few weeks. You and your baby will get to know each other better in this time. Newborns don't play yet, but they do enjoy exploring the world with their eyes, ears, and bodies. Take the time to talk to your baby when he's alert. He already knows your voice from his time in the womb, so hearing both Mom's and Dad's voices are a comfort to him. He can see best 8 to 10 inches in front of him—or roughly the distance from your arms to your face. Look at him closely when you hold him, and he'll watch you as you cuddle, talk, and sing to him. Remember, it's best to put your baby on his back to sleep, to avoid overwrapping him and overheating his room, and to take all fluffy bedding out of the place he sleeps.

Sneak Peek: The first few weeks will be very demanding, so spend your time taking care of your baby and yourself and getting to know each other. Keep visitors who aren't helpers to a minimum, and don't worry about household tasks. By three weeks, you'll notice that both you and your baby are quickly getting used to each other and starting to get into a routine.

3 Weeks

You're probably too tired to notice how much you and your baby have learned, grown, and changed. But you really have! By 3 weeks, you may have developed some kind of rhythm or pattern, and you've surely started to learn how to anticipate what your baby needs. This can be a hard time for families because a 3-week-old baby's demands seem endless. At this stage, most new parents are exhausted and wondering whether they'll ever have a moment to themselves again. Rest assured, you will. Things are about to get much easier. Give in to the changes your baby demands, and things will actually get back in a better order sooner.

Babies, like adults, come with individual temperaments. Some babies have more regular eating and sleeping patterns than others do at this age. It's best to adapt to your baby's schedule at this point. She still needs to eat pretty regularly throughout the 24-hour day.

At 3 weeks, your baby probably:

    • Has a somewhat more predictable pattern of sleeping and eating than she did right after birth. You will have learned a lot about how to understand and meet her needs and how to comfort and care for her.
    • Is alert more often. She may even be awake for an hour or more. After a feeding or a bath, you will notice that she's studying your face, watching you talk, and quieting down when she hears your voice.
    • Makes a little sound or two to show how excited she is when you talk to her. These little coos are the beginning of language. Be sure to stop and answer her with a bit of conversation.
    • Is a little extra fussy at the end of the day. This may not seem like progress, but it is. As your baby's nervous system matures, the world becomes more interesting, and your baby may need to unwind from all the excitement.
    • Has more control of her head. She won't seem quite as fragile as before, but she still needs lots of support when you hold her. She'll probably like a front pack so she can stay next to you much of the day.
    • Has more strength in her upper body. She'll now be able to get her head up when you put her on her tummy, and she needs that tummy time when she's awake to build shoulder strength. She still needs to be sleeping on her back.
    • Watches her hand move in front of her face. Though she won't have much control of her hands, she will have pretty good control of her eyes and can study the objects around her.
    • Sleeps for three to four hours at a stretch. If she sleeps much longer than that, you should wake her up for a feeding.

Sneak Peek: The real fun of parenting is about to begin as your baby smiles at you for the first time, starts to coo back and forth, and lets you know you're loved and appreciated.

2 Months

At two months, your baby still keeps you guessing, but his sleeping and eating habits are becoming a bit more predictable. Fussing and crying tend to increase later in the day, which can be stressful. If you feel overwhelmed, ask your partner or someone you trust to help out. Carrying your baby in a front pack, even when he's not fussing, can reduce the amount of crying overall.

Now's the time to start watching your baby's eyes to see what their real color will be. Your baby may also be noticeably chubbier by 2 months, and he may even have a double chin and thigh folds. This is the hallmark of a healthy, well-fed baby. It's time for his 2-month checkup, so get ready to show him off at the doctor's.

You may also notice that your baby:


    • Coos, especially when you talk to him. He likes to get into a conversation.
    • Smiles more broadly and more often every day.
    • Quiets down more with Mom and Dad than with strangers.
    • Studies you and everyone else with intense interest, especially before and after feedings.
    • Controls his head a little better, as long as you hold him still.
    • Likes being held up at your shoulder or sitting with his underarms supported.
    • Holds his head and pushes his arms up when he's on his tummy. Be sure he gets plenty of time on his tummy when he's awake to keep his head round and his shoulders strong.
    • Accidentally rolls over from tummy to back.
    • Has straightened out his posture and holds his hands open much of the time.
    • Catches and holds his hands, by accident and by feeling for them.

Sneak Peek: As your child gets over his bouts of cradle cap and other common newborn conditions, he'll look more and more like a model baby. And he'll act the part, too, with smiles, lots of "conversation," and delighted wiggles when he sees you. He'll soon be able to get up on his arms and track you around the room, and he'll start to get his hands under control, so toys are about to become part of his life.

4 Months

Your 4-month-old baby is full of happy, gurgling baby noises and smiles at everything around her. She's having a blast, and learning from it too. So go ahead and play! She's learning about her hands and what they can hold, but her favorite play is still with you.

By 4 months, your baby probably:

    • Holds up her head on her forearms or even her hands. Holds her head steady while being held in a seated position, all the better to have a talk with you.
    • Can spot you across the room and follow you with her eyes as you move around.
    • Knows how to get your attention by crying, dropping something, or even emitting a phony "cough."
    • Bats at objects and sometimes manages to reach and grab things. If she grabs something, she'll shake it or stick it in her mouth. If ahe lets go, it's an accident that surprises her.
    • Finds her own hands very interesting. She'll swipe at them, touch them, and just look at them.
    • Drools a great deal, making her toys and you very wet. But her teeth probably aren't coming in yet.
    • Recognizes your voice and will calm down for at least a little while if you call to her from another room. She's learning to anticipate and wait.
    • Can fall asleep on her own if you start a sleeping ritual and give her a small toy or blanket to comfort her.

She's ready for her next checkup and shots, so dress her up and show her off. At this age people can hardly resist your delicious baby.

Sneak Peek: As your baby approaches 6 months, her physical, emotional, and cognitive development are proceeding rapidly. Your ability to move with her as ahe changes will help ensure her continued good health and happiness. She'll reach out, wiggle around, make more sounds, and even start to show preferences for toys and people. Everything goes in her mouth.

6 Months

Babies this age continue to grow rapidly. By 6 months a baby is sitting up or getting ready to sit up and his back is straightening out. This is a new perspective for him, and he enjoys it! In his role as a first-rate "world explorer," your baby's most trusted bit of equipment is his mouth. Being able to pass a toy from hand to hand is another new skill that's helping him learn about the world around him.

At 6 months, your baby probably:

    • Laughs out loud, smiles, and squeals.
    • Will "tease" you by dropping and throwing things and making noise to get your reaction. He's also experimenting with ideas of space and disappearance.
    • Is sitting up by himself or seems about to.
    • May pull to stand up on furniture or in his crib.
    • Can pass things from one hand to the other.
    • Puts almost everything in his mouth.
    • Says "ba" and "da" and babbles back and forth.
    • Has a first tooth, or several teeth.
    • Turns toward sound.
    • Can comfort himself with a thumb, a blankie, or a rolling activity.
    • Rolls over both ways.
    • Begins to be wary of strangers as he's getting cleverer at figuring out who's familiar and who's new in his world.

Sneak Peek: Before you know it, your baby will find a way to move forward. And once he does, mobility will be his new obsession. You'll have to begin thinking about safety in these terms. And as your baby begins eating his first solid foods, you'll need to be aware of choking hazards as well.

9 Months

Your 9-month-old is a baby on the move: exploring, investigating, and experimenting. She loves hiding things and playing peek-a-boo because now she's able to remember things that aren't in front of her. As you might imagine, this curiosity and thinking ability can get your baby into a lot of trouble. These days you need to be on duty constantly—both to keep her safe and to reassure her of your love. This is the age when many parents realize how strong their baby's personality really is and how much she wants to be a part of everything.

At 9 months, your baby probably:

    • Sits pretty well without support and can twist and turn from a stable sitting position.
    • Can play with toys while sitting.
    • Can move forward in some way, whether creeping, crawling, or scooting. Some babies never crawl but still manage to move around somehow.
    • Pulls herself up to stand, and sometimes gets stuck. (Soon she'll learn to plop down again.)
    • Has a pincer grasp—the index finger and thumb work together to pick up small objects—and uses it. (You can be sure she will find every little thing that has fallen into the carpet or rolled under a table.)
    • Uses her index finger to poke at things, such as switches, buttons, and electrical outlets.
    • Wants you in view at all times. She'll go back and forth to check in as she plays. She'll probably get very anxious when you're out of sight. Your baby may greet strangers and even people she knows with wary looks, if not blood-curdling screams. Keep in mind that she's not being rude. She's just very aware of the difference between her family and close caregivers and those who are less familiar.
    • Babbles in a good imitation of talking. You'll even start to hear "mama" and "dada" once in a while. Your beaming response to these words will let her know that they're special.
    • Knows her own name, turns when you call her, recognizes some words, and is very interested in people talking around her.
    • Has her first teeth, usually the bottom and top incisors.
    • Wakes up and is difficult again at night. That's because these days she misses people and all the fun she's had during the day.
    • Is no longer happy just to be held and cuddled. Now she'll want to get down and involved with everything around her.
    • Is ready to take control of her feeding. Finger foods and a cup are very interesting at this stage, especially because she has mastered the pincer grasp.
    • Makes noise and trouble in new ways by throwing, banging, shaking, and taking apart her toys. Having Mom or Dad there to retrieve these items only adds to the fun!

Sneak Peek: Play will become much more exciting in the months ahead as your baby learns new skills every day. She'll be in constant motion and may even utter a "real" word. Your baby will entertain you all day long. She'll also develop more opinions of her own and a growing inclination to voice them.

1 Year

One year old! Your baby won't be a baby much longer. He's almost a toddler. But even as he becomes mobile and gains independence, he needs you more than ever.

These days he's jealous of you and everything that takes your attention away from him. He may object loudly when other people talk to you, or even when you're doing the laundry. This shows how attached he is to you.

Your 1-year-old probably:

    • Can get to a standing position by holding on to something and pulling up. But he probably doesn't walk yet. The average baby walks a month or so into the second year. Cruising around with the support of furniture gradually becomes walking, then walking becomes steadier. Soon it will become your baby's preferred mode of movement, and he may even be able to carry something with him and walk on different surfaces and inclines.
    • Gets more bumps and bruises. That's because he's trying hard to get around, but is still not very coordinated.
    • Tries to name objects while pointing at them, though it won't necessarily be a word you recognize. He'll try out his own private words as well as use familiar words, like his own name or those of objects around the house.
    • Listens intently and looks as if he's following conversations. From time to time he may even burst in with a nonsensical contribution of his own. He loves to have you talk to him and respond to his "speeches."
    • Can link the word "no" with a forbidden activity, but still may not be able to move away and think of something else to do when you let him know he's found a forbidden activity. Say "no" clearly and move him to something else interesting.
    • Can stack things on top of each other, making playtime even more fun.
    • Loses some interest in eating, since he's not growing as fast and is preoccupied with other tasks, such as learning to walk.
    • Is very interested in putting things inside other things and pouring water.

Sneak Peek: As your 1-year-old grows, he will fight for more independence and will probably start throwing tantrums. This new development poses challenges for you, since you want to support his efforts at independence while making sure he learns about limits.

18 Months

In the first half of your baby's second year, she still needs you very much. But she is also trying to be independent. She'll be testing the limits. Even as your toddler asserts her independence, she'll want to be babied. She's confused and is probably going to send you mixed messages. She'll get frustrated and throw tantrums, but be patient and keep in mind how hard it is for her to work out all these things.

Let your child do things for herself as much as possible. Let her feed herself, and name and point at things. Naming every feature on another person's face is exciting to her every time. Help her label the objects around her.

It's important to keep your child's environment safe and secure so she can explore freely. She learns a lot from her play, so the more playing and exploring she does, the better for her developing mind. And she still needs constant supervision.

At 18 months, your toddler will be:

    • Eager to have her own possessions and to "keep" things, storing them, hiding them, and carrying them.
    • Walking, climbing, and pushing things  as much as her abilities will allow.
    • Arranging and rearranging objects. She's learning how to put toys together in combination.
    • Starting imitative play—feeding a doll or driving a toy truck, noises included.
    • Saying "no" to almost everything. It's her way to let you know she wants to be in charge.
    • Feeling very shy, even fearful, of strangers and about separation.
    • Hitting or biting to show her feelings. She doesn't have words or other ways to show what she's going through. Tantrums show you how frustrating life can be at this age.
    • Saying more and more words. Language development is varied at this age, but no matter her style, your child is gaining language skills fast as she moves toward 2.
    • Carrying things while she walks. She may even be able to pivot and will soon start to run.

Sneak Peek: As your toddler enters the second half of her second year, you'll notice her vocabulary and her imagination growing. She's about to make some big shifts in her thinking and communication skills.

2 Years

Two-year-olds keep very busy, and their play is quite sophisticated. Fantasy and imagination are a big part of their playtime.

Your 2-year-old probably plays for longer periods of time than before. He acts out short stories and can use more than one toy at a time. Even though some of the stories he makes up are quite fantastical, he likes order in his world.

Your child is losing his baby pot belly these days. He can run and walk more smoothly and quickly than before. He loves to imitate people around him, picking up the good and the bad behavior, including the curse words!

By age 2, your child can probably:

    • Follow two-step commands, like "Go to your room and get your jacket."
    • Put words together in two- or three-word sentences, like "Mommy go car" or "Wanna cookie."
    • Walk up and down stairs without much help (but still needs to be watched).
    • Use words to express his feelings. That helps eliminate some, but not all, of the tantrums.
    • Tell stories about both real and imaginary events.
    • Put objects in order, in rows, inside of things, and in their places.
    • Move to music and enjoy banging, tapping, or pounding to the rhythm. Dancing and singing are now part of his musical repertoire.
    • Get himself into and out of a chair or seat.
    • Run, and may prefer running to walking. Stopping is harder.
    • Participate in dressing by pulling things over his head and putting his shoes on (if not always on the correct feet).
    • Identify pictures in a book.

Your 2-year-old probably also:

    • Tries very hard to eat like an adult and uses utensils, although not proficiently.
    • Knows how to "push your buttons."
    • Shows affection in all sorts of wonderful ways.
    • Is more manageable and predictable than he was six months ago.
    • Says "no" as the first response to any request, or may even ignore your requests entirely. However, if you offer him a choice, his resistance may weaken.
    • Still needs to be watched closely, despite his budding independence.

Sneak Peek: In the next six months, watch for increased language ability and even more imaginative play. Potty training is usually an issue now.

3 Years

Three-year-olds are charming little people! They travel in and out of their own magical worlds, and they bring a sense of wonder and fun to everyone around them. At the same time, they present special challenges in keeping them healthy and safe.

By age 3, your child probably can:

    • Dress herself pretty well, as long as you limit her choice of outfits. Don't be surprised if she wants to change clothes often—it's fun for her!
    • Understand hundreds of words and be able to put together short sentences. Strangers can understand her more than half the time.
    • Name most of the objects in her daily life, as well as several body parts and a couple of colors.
    • Give her name, age, sex, and the month of her birthday.
    • Understand opposites, like big and little, happy and sad.
    • Scribble and maybe even draw a rough sketch of a person that looks like a tadpole.
    • Jump, hop, and kick a ball with both feet.
    • Negotiate with other kids and adults. This is progress, but it may make your day more challenging because so many things are now up for discussion.

Your 3-year-old probably also:

    • Enjoys a wide variety of role-playing as she tries to figure out who she really is. Both boys and girls love dress-up play and learn a lot from it.
    • Has many dreams and nightmares as her mind works through the stresses of the day.
    • Is very aware of gender and interested in genitals.

Sneak Peek: As your 3-year-old grows in the next year, she'll become more independent than ever. Playing with friends and other activities will be important parts of her day. For you, this means becoming involved in her preschool and play programs and showing her the road to health and safety.



Member comments

My daughter is so insisted on doing things her way. She started walking her birthday week and shows ..

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