How do babies grow and develop in the first year?
Babies change more in the first year of life than at any other time. From 1 to 12 months of age, most babies grow and develop in these
- Physical development.
A baby's growth is dramatic during this first year. Babies grow taller, and
their heads get bigger.
- Cognitive development.
Babies make great advances in being able to learn and remember.
- Emotional and social development. Babies start to show their emotions and how they
feel about other people.
- Language development. Babies
quickly learn language by what is spoken around them.
- Sensory and motor development. Babies become strong
enough to sit. Some will stand, and others will begin to take their first
Each baby grows
and gains skills at his or her own pace. It is common for a baby to be ahead in
one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.
Babies who were
born early or have health problems may grow and develop at a slower
Why are routine medical visits needed?
Doctors recommend that babies have routine checkups (well-child visits) every 2 to 3 months from age 1 month to 12 months. These visits
are important to check for problems and to make sure that your baby is growing
and developing as expected.
During these visits, the doctor will:
Do a physical exam.
- Review your child's immunization record. Needed immunizations are given or scheduled.
- Weigh and measure your
baby to see how your baby compares to other babies of the same age.
- Likely ask you questions about how your family and the baby are doing.
This is a good time to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. Between
visits, write down any questions you want to ask the doctor next time.
When should you call the doctor?
Call your doctor
anytime you have a concern about your baby. Be
sure to call if your baby:
- Hasn't grown as expected or hasn't been
eating well for some time.
- Has lost skills he or she used to have,
such as crawling.
- Shows signs of hearing problems, such as not
responding to your voice or to loud noises.
Your own health is also important in
helping your baby grow and develop. Talk to your doctor if you think you might
be depressed or if you feel like you cannot care for your baby.
How can you help your baby during the first year?
The best things for your baby are often the most basic. Loving, holding,
changing diapers for, talking to, and feeding your baby are the first things to
During the first year, other ways that you can help your
baby grow and learn are to:
- Respond to your baby's cries.
Crying is your baby's way to tell you what he or she needs. If your baby has
colic, do what you can to comfort him or her. Remember
that colic is normal—and temporary. Your baby will grow out of it.
Help your baby learn. Talking, reading, and playing are all important ways to
help your baby's mind grow.
- Place your baby on his or her tummy,
and play together. Also give your baby plenty of time to explore safely. This can
help your baby gain the confidence to try new skills, such as crawling and
walking, and to grow into a healthy toddler.
- Keep your baby safe. Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back to reduce the risk for sudden
infant death syndrome (SIDS). Use a car seat every time your baby rides in a
- Know that your baby is curious, but set limits. A baby
age 1 month to 12 months is too young to know that there are certain ways he or she should behave. You may need to redirect your baby's attention. For example, if your
baby tries to pull the dog's tail, you can find a toy to get your baby's attention and
then move the dog to another area.
The first year of your baby's life is an exciting time,
but it can also be stressful. Some days you may feel overwhelmed. Learning what
is normal for babies at this age can help you spot problems early or feel
better about how your baby is doing.
Ask for help when you need it. Call a
family member or friend to watch your baby. If you need a break or don't feel
well, ask your doctor or local hospital for some suggestions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about growth and development:
- How do babies grow and develop between 1 month and 12 months of age?
- How can I help my baby grow and develop?
- How can I stimulate my baby's learning?
- How do babies grow physically?
- What kinds of cognitive development occur between 1 month and 12 months?
- How do babies develop emotionally and socially?
- How do babies learn language?
- How do sensory and motor skills develop between ages 1 month and 12 months?
Seeing a doctor:
- When should I call a doctor?
- When are routine exams scheduled between 1 month and 12 months?
- How do I manage my child's separation anxiety?
- How can I comfort my baby when he or she is crying?
- How can I help my baby get to sleep?
- How can I help my children—and myself—sleep well?
- What should I know about child car seats?
- When is it safe to give solid foods to my baby?
- How can I take care of my baby's nails?
- What should I know about giving over-the-counter medicines to my child?
- How can I stay active when I have a young child?
- What can I do if I have postpartum depression?
- How can I help my baby be safe and healthy?
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.
- Depression: Managing Postpartum Depression
- Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children
- Sleep: Helping Your Children—and Yourself—Sleep Well
Babies usually grow in natural,
predictable steps, moving from one milestone to the next. During the
first year you will see gains in five major areas:
- Physical development. Babies steadily gain weight and grow in length
throughout this first year, often in growth spurts.
- Cognitive development. This means how the brain forms its
abilities to learn and remember. Babies soon begin to
recognize familiar people. They gradually realize
that people and objects exist even when they are out of sight. They begin to connect what
is seen with what is tasted, heard, and felt.
- Emotional and social development. Babies form bonds with their parents and
other caregivers. When cared for in a loving and consistent way, most babies
begin to engage and interact with others.
- Language development.
Babies start communicating with different types
of cries, then progress to babbling. For more information, see the topic
Speech and Language Development.
- Sensory and motor skill development. As your baby's brain, nerves, and muscles continue to grow, controlled movements become more refined,
and newborn reflexes gradually fade.
Milestones by age
Each baby grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. It's common for a baby to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.
By around 2 months, most babies:
- Smile as a way to engage others.
By 4 months, most babies:
- Start using their arms with purpose. For example, babies may move their arms and squirm when excited or "swipe" at dangling objects.
By 6 months, most babies:
- Have doubled their birth weight.
- Are able to sit with little or no support.
By 9 months, most babies:
- Get upset when you or another caregiver leaves.
- May have begun to crawl.
By 12 months, most babies:
- Have tripled their birth weight.
- Are expressive and have formed a close attachment to their parents.
- Understand some words and begin to figure out the meaning of many others.
- May be able to say a few words.
- May be walking.
Premature infants typically reach milestones later
than others of the same age. But they are usually on schedule for their
expected time of birth. For example, a baby born 2 months early might
reach milestones 2 months later than a full-term baby born at the same time.
Healthy babies who were born prematurely usually reach normal developmental
levels for their age by the time they are about 24 months of age. Learning and thinking
skills usually are first to catch up. Motor skills are often the last to catch
During the first 12 months of a baby's life, it's very common for parents to have concerns about their baby's general
well-being. Know that you likely don't have anything to worry about. But it is
good to be aware of health, development, and safety issues to help prevent or
respond to problems.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS is the death, without a known cause, of a baby who is younger than 1 year
old. Typically, a parent or other caregiver puts the baby—who seems
healthy—down to sleep and returns later to find the baby has died.
SIDS is very
rare, and it cannot always be prevented. But you can help prevent SIDS by taking certain steps. For instance, always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. For more information,
see the topic
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
You may just start bragging to your friends and family how your baby is
sleeping through the night when—suddenly—that's no longer true. The fact is, sleeping patterns change.
Your baby may suddenly
start to cry when it's nap time or bedtime or may wake up during the night.
Sometimes a baby gets too excited for sleep after he or she has mastered some
new skill, such as jabbering or shaking the crib. Other times, hunger from a
growth spurt, a change in routine, or not feeling well
may interrupt a good sleep pattern.
Try to keep a nap and bedtime routine.
Your baby will adjust if you stay consistent. And remember, napping can be good
for tired parents too.
- Quick Tips: Getting Baby to Sleep
- Sleep: Helping Your Children—and Yourself—Sleep Well
You may notice your baby's feeding patterns change during this time. Parents often wonder whether their baby is getting enough
nourishment. The quality and quantity of a baby's feedings probably are
sufficient if the baby is gaining weight steadily, is content most of the time,
and is becoming increasingly alert and active. For more information about feeding your baby, see the topics Breast-Feeding and Bottle-Feeding.
Babies cry a lot, especially in the
first 2 months. Crying is your child's first way of communicating.
of time your baby spends crying usually increases from birth until your baby is
about 6 to 8 weeks old. After that, your baby will gradually cry less as he or
she finds other ways of communicating or consoling himself or herself.
child is crying, try to identify the type of cry. It helps to go through a
mental checklist of what might be wrong and make sure your child is safe and
As you respond to the young child's other signals
(such as whimpering, facial expressions, and wiggling), the child will usually
cry less. For more information, see the topic
Crying, Age 3 and Younger.
Babies love to put objects into their
mouths. To keep your baby from choking:
careful about the size of toys he or she plays with.
- Watch out for everyday
items that your baby could swallow, such as coins.
- Be careful as you begin
introducing solid foods to your baby around 6
months of age. Help
prevent choking on food by not
giving your child round, firm foods, such as hot dogs, unless you first
completely chop them into very small pieces.
Diaper rash occurs most often in babies who are 9 to 12 months
old. Even though a diaper rash is uncomfortable, normally it isn't serious. Usually the rash clears up when you:
- Change diapers more often.
careful about cleaning your baby's bottom.
- Apply nonprescription
ointments to the rash.
For more information, see the topic
Your baby is teething when his or her first teeth break through the gums. Teething usually begins around 6 months of age. But it can start at any time between 3 months and 12 months of age. Your baby may show signs of discomfort from sore and sensitive gums, be cranky, drool, and have other mild symptoms for a few days before a tooth breaks through the gum.
For more information, see the topic Teething.
may take a few months before an older child shows signs of jealousy of a new
baby. When your child realizes that the baby is there to stay, strong emotions
and behavior problems may soon follow.
You can take steps to prepare for sibling rivalry. For example, you can:
- Help your older child adjust by
setting time aside for just the two of you.
- Talk about how important it
is for your older child to help care for the baby.
- Give your older child a role in
daily care, such as handing you a fresh diaper when you change your baby.
Beginning around 6 months of age,
your baby begins to feel uneasy when you go away. Starting around 9 to 12 months of age, he or she may cry and react strongly when you leave. This is called separation anxiety, or separation protest. You can help your baby manage
these emotions by making sure your child is well-rested and well-fed before you
leave. It may also help to distract your baby, such as with a favorite toy.
A baby goes through so many changes that it can be hard for you to keep up with
all the things experts say you "should be" doing to promote healthy growth and
Remember that the best things for your baby are usually the
simplest. Loving, holding, changing diapers for, talking to, and feeding your baby are the
things to focus on. The rest will fall into place.
But you can
always learn more about how to help your baby grow and develop in healthy
Physical health and development
- Try to breast-feed for at least the first year of life.
Breast milk is the ideal food for babies.
- Learn your baby's rhythms. You will gradually get a sense of your baby's
unique sleeping and eating patterns and be able to help establish a routine by
about 3 months of age. But be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
- Help keep your baby's head from getting too flat. It's important to always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. But always sleeping on the back may make your baby's head a little flat. You can help keep it from getting too flat by changing his or her head position regularly.
- Allow your baby "tummy time" while he or she is awake and
you are closely watching. Tummy time also helps your baby develop
- Cuddle your baby while
holding his or her head up as much as you can. Don't place your baby in car
seat carriers or bouncers for long periods each day.
- Change your baby's head
position during sleep at least every week. (Remember to always keep your baby
on his or her back during naps and at bedtime.) A good way to make sure your
baby's head rests in different positions is to switch which end of the bed you
place him or her in each week. Babies
usually turn their heads away from the wall, toward the inside of a room.
- Start to care for your child's teeth as soon as you see the first baby tooth (primary tooth ).
- Basic Dental Care
- Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth
- Keep your baby safe from injury,
drowning, burns, poisoning, and other dangers.
- Choose child care wisely. Before you take your baby to a child care center, check the health policies of the center. Get the names of people and agencies you can talk to about the care center's safety record. For more information, see the topic Choosing Child Care.
For more information about health and safety, see the topic
Health and Safety, Birth to Age 2.
Emotional health and development
- Encourage bonding. Consistently
interact with and provide loving attention to your baby.
and reinforce behaviors. For example, when interacting with your baby,
encourage smiling and eye contact.
- Respond to
crying. Your baby cries to communicate needs, such as
feeling hungry or uncomfortable. You are not spoiling your baby by promptly
responding to these cues. Use comforting techniques,
like cuddling and singing.
- Crying, Age 3 and Younger
Development of new skills
- Stimulate learning. You help promote
cognitive development through emotional bonding,
interaction and play, and unconditional love.
- Nurture speech and language development. Talking to, interacting with, and
reading to your baby are all natural ways to promote language development. For
more information, see the topic
Speech and Language Development.
- Don't spank your baby or use other types of
corporal (physical) punishment. A baby age 1 month to 12
months is too young to know that there are certain ways he or she should behave. Try distracting a child who is doing something wrong or something that might be
dangerous. For example, if your baby tries to pull the dog's tail, you can find a toy
to get his or her attention, and then move the dog to another area.
- Don't worry about "spoiling" your baby. You can't
spoil a baby at this age. Hold your child, and give him or
her as much love and attention as you can. Your love and patience are critical
for helping your child grow into a happy and confident toddler.
Taking care of your baby is an exciting time, but it can also be
stressful. Some days you may simply feel
overwhelmed. Ask for help when you
- Call a family member or friend to watch your baby and give you a break.
- Investigate community resources that are available to
help you with child care or other needed services.
- Call a doctor or local
hospital for some suggestions.
- Some communities have respite care facilities
for children. A respite care facility is a place that provides temporary child
care during times when you need a break.
Also, parents may find that they have a harder time
communicating with each other. Feeling tired can make you more sensitive and
lose patience more easily than normal. Learn coping skills to help you deal with anger and frustration.
For more information, see the topic
Talk to your doctor anytime
you have concerns about your baby's:
- Physical development (for example, if your baby's growth seems to slow significantly or
if he or she is not consistently eating well).
- Cognitive development (for example, if your
baby is not becoming more alert or active over time).
- Emotional and social development (for example, if you are concerned about how you and your baby interact or if you feel unable
to nurture or emotionally connect with your child).
- Language development (for example, if your baby doesn't babble as expected or respond to your
- Sensory and motor skill development (for example, if your baby does
not consistently meet
motor skill milestones, such as purposeful
rolling over or crawling).
Also see your doctor if your child has lost a skill that he
or she had previously mastered.
Your physical and mental health are also important in
helping your baby reach his or her potential. Talk to your doctor if think you
depressed or if you feel detached or unable to care
for your baby in any way.
Doctors recommend that babies have routine well-child visits every 2 to 3 months from age 1 month to 12 months. During these visits, your doctor checks your baby's growth and development to see if your baby is reaching the milestones for each specific age. During these visits, you also can discuss any concerns you have.
When your baby is age 9 months, the doctor may do a developmental screening test.
At every checkup, the doctor:
- Looks at your baby's physical growth by
measuring weight, length, and head circumference. These measurements are
placed on a
growth chart and are compared to previous and later
markings to make sure your baby is growing as expected.
- Asks you about your baby's motor and sensory development, vision,
and hearing. Your baby receives a thorough exam and gets
- Immunizations: Questions Parents Ask
- Assesses your baby's emotional and social development by
observing his or her interactions with you. You will be asked questions about
how you and the rest of the family are doing, how your baby is eating and
sleeping, and whether you have noticed any changes in behavior.
The doctor will be especially interested in certain developments at specific ages. For example:
- At 2 months:
- Is your baby smiling yet?
- Do you have a routine feeding schedule?
- Are you bonding with your baby?
- Is the rest of the family adjusting to the baby?
- At 4 months:
- Is your baby reaching and grasping?
- Does your baby try to bring objects to his or her mouth?
- Are crying spells getting shorter?
- Is your baby settling in with the family, and is your family enjoying the baby?
- At 6 months:
- Is your baby able to sit?
- How are your baby's sensory and motor development and hand-eye coordination?
- At 9 months:
- How is your baby eating?
- Is your baby able to pick up objects?
- Does your baby respond to his or her name?
- At 12 months:
- Does your baby walk holding on to furniture?
- Does your baby enjoy playing peekaboo or patty-cake?
Routine checkups are a good time for
parents to ask about what to expect in the weeks to come. You may find it
helpful to keep a list of questions (What is a PDF document?) to ask the doctor.
- Environmental Illness
- Growth and Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months
- Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age eight months through twelve months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 249–284. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age four months through seven months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 217–247. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age one month through three months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 193–216. New York: Bantam.
Augustyn M, et al. (2009). Infancy and toddler years. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 24–38. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Blasco PA (2011). Motor delays. In M Augustyn et al., eds., The Zuckerman Parker Handbook of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics for Primary Care, 3rd ed., pp. 271–276. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Brazelton TB (2006). Touchpoints, Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Ertem IO (2011). Child development. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 34–42. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Feigelman S (2011). The first year. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 26–31. Philadelphia.
Goldson E, Reynolds A (2012). Child development and behavior. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 73–112. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mayes LC, et al. (2007). The infant and toddler. In A Martin, FR Volkmar, eds., Lewis's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, 4th ed., pp. 252–261. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Newman BM, Newman PR (2012). Infancy (first 24 months). In Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach, 11th ed., pp. 136–192. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.