A new baby can bring parents much joy, but also plenty of worries—especially around meeting developmental milestones like walking and talking. Some parents receive online baby newsletters and milestone alerts and worry that their baby hasn’t developed a particular skill “on time.” The important thing to remember is that pediatricians aren’t concerned so much with exactly when your baby starts crawling or saying “mama,” but that he or she is progressing from stage to stage, and continued growth and change.
It’s true that a lack of eye contact can be an early sign of a neurological development deficit, such as autism, but not all babies meet their parents’ gaze at the eight week mark. It’s normal for some infants to not make noticeable eye contact until they’re three months old. Also, parents don’t always notice when a baby has made eye contact because it can be subtle and quick. What you should look to see is some brief acknowledgment of your presence when you face your baby. It’s acceptable if he or she looks at you even if just for a little while.
While many babies start to crawl around six months, some may not reach this milestone until nine months or so, which is within normal range. Every baby is different—there is no “one size fits all.” In addition, instead of crawling on hands and knees, some babies move along by scooting on their rear ends, propelling themselves with their upper body in an “army crawl,” or rolling. And, some babies skip to walking without ever crawling at all.
Don’t worry too much if your baby hasn’t started talking by his or her first birthday. The timing of early language development varies from child to child, and researchers have found that most “late talkers” up to age two are able to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school. It’s a good sign when babies babble and understand what you’re saying, even if they don’t have the vocabulary to answer you back yet—such as when they look for their father when asked, “Where’s Daddy?”
Growth and Development
Keep in mind that every baby develops at his or her own pace rather than according to a milestone chart. However, you know your baby better than anyone, so if you think something is wrong, talk to your pediatrician. When there is a problem, the earlier a doctor can intervene, the better he or she can help children reach their full potentials.
Julie G. Capiola, MD, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center. A board-certified pediatrician, she received her medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University and completed a residency in pediatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital.