It’s natural as mums to get excited about our babies’ development milestones, but it’s easy to get anxious too.
Here’s when to worry – and when not to.
At a glance
- Babies develop at their own sweet pace and much of it is pre-programmed
- Some babies are naturally early talkers but late walkers, others are a bit later doing everything
- Early movers tend to leap ahead with their other milestones too because being able to move opens up their world
What? Your baby isn’t turning over at seven months? Not walking by 10 months? Not able to say five words by 12 months? It’s so easy to get sucked in to the world of competitive mothering where every other baby seems to be Einstein in the making and you’ll be lucky if yours will be walking by secondary school.
All mums worry about our babies’ development - we want to see them grow and flourish and become the person they are destined to be. But that does make us a teeny bit vulnerable to the bragging of Competitive Mum.
The first thing to note (with dash of relief) is that the speed with which a baby reaches their developmental milestones bears absolutely no relation to their later intelligence or physical prowess.
The second thing is that it’s all about averages: if you read that the ‘average’ child can roll over in month five, then it means 50% can – but 50% haven’t managed it yet (but probably will pretty soon).
We're all different
Babies develop at their own sweet pace and much of it is pre-programmed. Leading child development psychologist Dr Dorothy Einon says research shows that identical twins walk pretty much on the same day. Even if you practise intensively with one twin, they only do it three weeks earlier.
Some babies are naturally early talkers but late walkers, others are a bit later doing everything. Early movers tend to leap ahead with their other milestones too because being able to move opens up their world. But the others won’t be far behind, and no one will be able to tell the difference by the time they’re two.
So, does that mean we can sit back, relax and never worry about whether our precious baby is reaching the right milestones?
Not exactly, say the experts. It’s a yes to being more relaxed. But we do need to keep an eye on the overall picture so we’ll be able to spot if there’s a problem – and get it sorted as soon as possible. It’s really important to pick up vision or hearing problems.
Talk to your health visitor or GP if:
- Your baby doesn’t respond to noises or track objects with their eyes
- They aren’t showing any curiosity in what’s going on around them
- They aren’t holding their head up by 3-4 months
- They aren’t sitting up on their own at 10 months
- They don’t use both legs or arms and by 12 months don’t like supporting their own weight
- They seem way behind other babies of the same age in milestones
This doesn’t necessarily mean your baby has a problem, but it’s something to flag up and get checked out. It’s worth knowing that premature babies tend to reach their milestones at the age they would be if they’d been born at 40 weeks.
Here are some tips for feeling less anxious:
- Accept your child will do things in their own time; if you have more than one child you’ll already know how different they can be, even though you’ve been the same mum to them both
- Don’t pore over every detail of your baby’s development as it will only magnify your anxieties. Instead celebrate what your child can do, not what they can’t yet do
- If some mums are making you feel bad, avoid them
- Try not to be goal orientated with your baby as it puts them under pressure to perform. Let your baby know you accept and love them whatever they can do
- Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to see an expert if you feel that something is wrong.
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