When will my baby smile? It’s a very common question; it’s exciting to see our little ones meeting their milestones. So it’s good to have an idea of what those milestones are and when—roughly—we can expect to start seeing them. There are so many different ones, though; what some look like and when they might happen can vary between children, even within the same family. In addition, not all milestones are physical, either. As well as athe ones that involve movement (such as different motor skills), there are also social and speech-related developments. We won’t look at all of them today—there are far too many for just one blog post!—but we can see what sorts of things you can expect over the first year or so of development and when some of the more commonly looked-for ones are likely to arrive. Of course, all ages given are just a rough guide; your baby may develop some of these earlier or later. If you are worried that maybe your child isn’t meeting these milestones, or you’d like know more about them in depth, check with your healthcare professional. GPs and Well Child Tamariki Ora nurses are a great first call – your Well Child Tamariki Ora service may be provided by Plunket, or depending on the area, by another local organisation such as Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust, Turanga Health, or Awarua Whānau Services. If your child isn’t currently signed up, you can find a provider through the Ministry of Health website. For those outside New Zealand, check with your family doctor about any concerns you may have.
It doesn’t always feel like it at the time, given the sleep deprivation and incredibly steep learning curve many parents experience, but these first three months go fast. Looking at your baby once they hit this age and then comparing them to when they first arrived can show some pretty stark differences. The first few weeks of life seem to involve little more than feeding, sleeping, and nappy changes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help their development. Tummy time is encouraged quite early on—your midwife can guide you on when and how to start—as this very simple exercise helps your little one strengthen their back and neck muscles. It doesn’t need to be long, either – start with just a minute or two at a time and build up from there. As well as this, you can take the time to look into their eyes while you’re feeding them, bringing yourself close enough for them to be able to see you. Speak and sing to them, so they can learn your voice. These activities are simple but so helpful.
So what are some things you can expect around this time? Around six weeks is when one of those earliest, most sought-after milestones is reached – the social smile. Babies will often smile right from birth, but this is usually a reflex smile rather than a social one. However, from only a few weeks old, your little one will begin to smile socially, beaming up at you with a true grin. You can encourage this more by smiling and laughing with them. And don’t forget; six weeks is only an average – your child may start smiling a little earlier or a little later. In these early months, they may also begin to watch you more intently, and that tummy time they’re doing? That will let them start to be able to hold their heads up by themselves (though not necessarily for long stretches at a time!).
The next three months are another period of rapid development. Bubs is probably awake for longer and longer while showing signs of a greater awareness of the world around them. So what sorts of things will happen? This stretch is when they’ll be learning to hold their own heads up for longer. They might start laughing and making other vocalisations. They may begin ‘talking’—not with recognisable words, instead attempting to imitate your sounds—and even trying to take turns while doing it. Rolling over, turning towards sounds, and reaching for—and grasping—the toys and objects they’re interested in tend to occur during this time. This is also when babies are happier to have tummy time – being stronger, they can more easily lift their heads to look around and reach for all those interesting toys in front of them. Also at about six months (though, as always, sometimes before and sometimes after), those first teeth will start to pop through! Teething time can be a little rough, but luckily Haakaa has a great range of teethers to help them through it.
This six-month anniversary is also when many parents start introducing solids to their baby, provided bubs is showing signs of being ready. If you’re ever unsure, check with your healthcare professional. Well Child Tamariki Ora nurses are ideally placed to help you with feeding questions, but any medical professional should be able to answer your questions. For a general overview, check out our Starting Solids blog!
This is a long stretch of six months in which it all starts to come together! Most babies will be on solids and can grasp things now, so the Haakaa Fresh Food Feeder is the perfect thing to have to hand – let your little ones safely explore all sorts of new flavours and textures. You can even pop in frozen treats to help soothe those teething aches and pains.
That’s not all, though – this second half of baby’s first year has yet another flurry of developmental milestones. They may start to understand the word ‘no’, respond to their name, and their own babble may start to include some ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ sounds. While they might not be speaking complete sentences yet, they’re absorbing more than you know, so keep encouraging them by talking to them often. Point things out so they can learn names. During this time games like peekaboo become more entertaining than ever!
Physically, a lot is going on. This is when bubs will start to be able to sit upright by themselves. They might begin shuffling, then crawling, then pulling themselves upright, so it pays to keep a close eye on them as they explore their surroundings. Sometime around 12 months, your little one can start thinking about taking those first steps! This often begins with walking while holding your hands.
A lot more goes on during this time, of course – and as already mentioned, each child’s journey is unique. Your baby will develop at their own rate, but if you are concerned about any of their milestones, have a chat with your doctor or nurse. They can give you specific advice about your child, taking into account your family’s circumstances. The Ministry of Health is also an excellent resource with a load of helpful advice about getting through this first year. In New Zealand, you should receive a Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book when your child is born, which also contains parenting advice on a range of topics.Your country may have something similar – check with your health professional.
This blog does not constitute medical advice and should not be taken as such. If you have any concerns about your child’s health or development, please consult a medical professional.