As a parent, there is nothing better than watching your baby learn, develop and grow. From their first crawl and steps, to their first smile and laugh, tracking and celebrating your baby’s milestones is an exciting part of being a new parent. Expert GP and mum of two Dr Stephanie Ooi, outlines the key baby milestones to expect in the first 18 months with your new baby.
Keeping track of your baby’s milestones
In the UK, shortly before or after birth, you'll be given a personal child health record (PCHR). The PCHR usually has a red cover and is frequently referred to as the "red book".1
This book is often used to record any important information about your little one, including their weight, height and details of any vaccinations. There is also a developmental milestones section in the book, which you can use to make notes about their growth and development.1 I would recommend parents use this or a similar notebook to track their baby’s milestones, and that they bring this with them to any GP or health visitor appointments.
As you track, please remember that all babies are different and will develop at different paces. Try not to worry if your baby hasn’t hit a milestone yet and don’t compare your newborn’s development journey to anyone else’s. If you are concerned at all, speak to your GP or health visitor.
0-3 months milestones
The first three months of your baby’s life can feel like a whirlwind as you both adjust to your new routine. Your little one will grow significantly during this time, and will sleep, cry and eat a lot as well. Some other things you can expect to experience, include:
Your baby’s first feed – This will usually occur a few hours after birth and can be a daunting milestone for parents. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go quite as planned the first time, it is completely normal for it to take a few days to get the hang of it. Remember to ask your midwife or health visitor for feeding support or guidance during your post-birth check-ups. The most important thing is that you are supported in your choice of how you want to feed your baby. If you want to breastfeed but are having difficulty, seek advice from your health visitor, a local lactation support group or even a lactation consultant. If your baby has some formula top ups or is completely formula fed this is ok too! Parents can feel a lot of judgement from others for breast or formula feeding but remember you are doing what’s best for you and baby.
Your baby’s first smile in response to you! Making your little one smile is an amazing experience so take the time to enjoy it. Baby’s will smile at different times, but you could expect your baby’s first smile between week 6 and 8. You may also see your newborn begin to understand your voice and recognise your face too.2
Your newborn may make their first sounds and giggles. Nothing is better than making your little one laugh, it’s a fantastic feeling! Try to talk and interact with your baby as much as possible too, I promise that they are taking you and everything around you in.
Your baby’s first bath - This is a lovely milestone that will usually occur in the first week. However, I would recommend parents avoid doing this in the first 24 hours to ensure the vernix caseosa has enough time to be absorbed into the baby’s skin. For more information check out our bathing a newborn baby article.
Babies don’t need to be bathed every day as their skin is so delicate and bathing them 2-3 times a week is more than enough during the newborn stage. To freshen your little one up in between baths, parents can use a mild and non-medicated biodegradable baby wipe for sensitive skin with minimal ingredients, such as WaterWipes, to gently cleanse the skin. WaterWipes have been validated by the Skin Health Alliance as being ‘purer than cotton wool and water’ so they are the perfect option for cleansing your little one as they develop. They contain just two ingredients, 99.9% purified water and a drop of fruit extract so they won’t aggravate or dry out delicate newborn skin.
4-6 months milestones
As your baby begins to approach six months of age, you’ll notice their personality appear and their movement skills start to improve. You may also experience:
Your little one supporting their weight on their legs (when held)
Your baby grabbing and picking up objects or small toys
Your baby being able to roll over and sit up – You can help encourage this by giving your little one regular ‘tummy time’ to help them learn about movement and develop the skills to roll over, sit and crawl.3 Please remember to always supervise your baby when they are on their tummy and not to worry if your baby is not yet rolling over or sitting up. Some babies may take a bit longer to get to these milestones. If you are seeing gradual progression and improvement this is reassuring. If you are concerned about any delays in reaching their milestones, then please discuss with your health visitor.
By six months of age, you might find that your baby has established more of a sleep routine and is able to nap during the day and manage longer stretches at night. On the other hand, this might not be the case and that’s ok! When it comes to how your baby is sleeping, if you’re happy with how things are then that’s the most important thing.
Use our resource - newborn sleep tips - if you have any questions about their sleep, or if you need any further help or guidance, speak to your health visitor or sleep consultant.
Most babies also start teething at around six months, however again each baby is different. For some babies, teeth can emerge without any pain or discomfort but for others their gums may be red and sore.4
For more tips and advice about how to deal with this check out our teething article.
Around this time, you may also be starting to wean your baby, as they will now be able to cope with solid food made into purees. Don’t worry too much about the type or amount of food they eat. The most important thing during this time is getting them used to having solid foods in their mouths and swallowing them.5 Learning to accept and eat solid foods is a whole new developmental milestone for your little one. Some babies will accept these new foods and textures much quicker than others, but don’t feel discouraged if it takes your baby a while, this is completely normal!
Weaning can be tricky to navigate so do read our baby weaning tips article informed by parents and experts.
7-12 months milestones
By seven months, your baby may now be constantly exploring objects by shaking, banging and dropping them, as well as putting them into their mouths! Let them explore their senses and try to provide them with objects that stimulate a variety of them, such as rattles and musical toys.3 Just remember to regularly wash their hands and toys to protect from germs.
By twelve months, they may be on the move by crawling, pulling themselves up and some may even be beginning to walk. During these months, I would advise giving your little one lots of opportunities to move about and enjoy watching them begin to explore their environment with a degree of independence. It’s such an exciting time, but just remember to keep any dangerous objects out of reach.
For more information on this exciting next step check out our article filled with tips to encourage your baby to walk.
Between months seven and twelve you can also expect to experience the below baby milestones:
Your little one will start to crawl, although some might choose to move around by bottom shuffling
Your baby sitting unsupported
Your baby standing up
Your little one beginning to understand words. They may even start to talk and say their first words
13-14 months milestones
Around 13 – 14 months, most babies will take their first steps and say a few basic words. Remember to enjoy and celebrate these ‘firsts’ – they are such monumental baby milestones! However, please don’t feel disheartened if they haven’t happened yet, when babies take their first steps can be so variable. I have seen some babies start as young as 10 months and others later at 16 months! It can take your little one a bit more time, but throughout the next few months they will get there! Once they have begun walking and talking, they will soon be able to bend over too, and between 15-18 months, you can expect the following from your baby:
Stacking two or three blocks
Being able to follow simple instructions
Using a cup
Being able to scribble
Turning the pages of a book
Being able to pull off their shoes and socks
Talking more clearly
Enjoy going along this special milestone journey with your baby. Note them all down as they happen and try to celebrate them as much as you can. Remember to not compare your baby’s development to anyone else’s and speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions.
Your baby's firsts will be exciting but you may have a few questions so head on over to our Parenting Community for more info on the below:
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