Infant development checklist for new parents

New parents may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for an infant, but having guidelines for normal child development can provide reassurance and knowledge of what to expect.

New parents face experiences that are both exciting and challenging. While some new parents have practice caring for children, others have never even held an infant. Without any experience, new parents may worry that their child isn't developing normally or may fail to notice that their child is having development problems. The responsibility can seem overwhelming, but new parents can alleviate some of this stress by educating themselves about normal child development. By observing a child's behavior and comparing it to a checklist for normal child development, new parents can get a good idea about what to expect from their child. It is important to remember that all children develop differently and your child may develop at a slower or faster pace than the norm. This is perfectly normal and not a great cause for concern, but if your child experiences notable deficits in development, consult a physician to schedule of more in-depth evaluation of your child.

During the first six weeks of life, your baby will show greater and greater awareness of their surroundings as visual and motor abilities improve. You should notice many small advancements in development, such as tracking your movements as vision gradually progresses, changes in facial expression and body movements in response to new or familiar sounds, and crying and cooing to communicate needs to caregivers. If your baby shows significant failure to produce these behaviors, you should contact a professional to ensure your child is developing normally.

From one to three months of age, your baby should be able to look in the direction of a sound source and attempt to grasp object in his or her hands. Motor skills are also improving at this time, and you may notice that your baby is able to hold his or her head up independently, although careful support from a caregiver is still needed. Your baby will continue to communicate by crying or cooing, but these vocalizations will become more distinct. By six weeks of age, your baby will begin showing more facial expression and should be able to smile at you.

From three to six months of age, your baby will become increasingly social and will smile more and will begin to laugh. Through simple games such as peek-a-boo, your infant begins to realize that their actions result in a reaction from those around them. Vision becomes increasingly better and your child will be better able to differentiate between objects that are near and far. At this age, your baby should be able to hold up her head on her own, and your baby may also begin to roll over when lying down. Your baby will also enjoy sitting up with support from and adult. Infants of this age are able to grasp object and often put things in their mouths. Be careful to keep small objects out of reach in order to prevent choking.

Between six and nine months, babies may begin to hold their own bottle and can usually be weaned to a cup. Your baby's motor skill will continue to improve, and she will begin to sit up unsupported. Your child will begin to use his or her arms to scoot around on the floor and will begin to enjoy standing up with support. Your baby will begin producing babbling noises and may try to imitate vowel sounds. If your child fails to produce any type of vocalization, consult a professional for a hearing test. Children with hearing impairments need early intervention to insure that they develop normally.

From nine to twelve month, your child may begin dropping objects after picking them up. This often causes frustration for parents at meal times as their child drops food and utensils, but try to remember that this is a sign of your child's healthy development. Fine motor skills will rapidly increase, and your child will develop better control of finger manipulation, enabling her to pick up small objects such as Cheerios. Your baby may crawl a great deal and may even begin to walk. Communication skills improve at this age, and your child may point to desired objects, respond to the word "no", and may say their first word at this age.

Development will continue rapidly after one year of age, and parents should be observant to ensure that their child is developing the appropriate cognitive, social, emotional, and motor skills for their age. It is important to remember that all children mature differently and your child may develop slower or faster than other children. If you suspect that your child is considerably delayed in development, contact your health care practitioner to schedule an evaluation of your child's needs.

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