Developmental milestones: birth to 1 year

A first smile. A first step. A first word. Parents are eager to share these special milestones with family and friends. But they aren't the only milestones your baby will achieve in his first year. Each month, your baby will master important skills that serve as the building blocks for continued growth and development. 

Your child’s health care provider will discuss anticipated milestones with you during your child’s checkups. Knowing when children typically achieve various milestones can help parents recognize developmental delays early on and seek appropriate care.

Milestones are divided into five categories: 

  • Gross motor skills. These skills involve the body’s large muscles (trunk, arms, legs, and neck). Examples of gross motor skills include controlling the head, sitting, standing, walking, running, jumping, and riding a bike. 
  • Fine motor skills. These skills require precise movements of the hands and fingers: picking up a pea, writing with a pencil or pen, painting a picture, or playing a flute. 
  • Language skills. Early language skills include communicating through facial expressions, body movements, crying, cooing, and laughing. Babies build on these early skills to develop the ability to communicate with words. 
  • Social and play skills. These skills are essential to interacting and playing with others and to solving problems collaboratively. They include giving, sharing, taking turns, and engaging others in play. 
  • Cognitive skills. These include solving problems, adapting to new situations, and knowing right from wrong.

Below are the major milestones you’re likely to see during your baby’s first year. 

0–2 months

Gross motor skills

  • Sucks, swallows, and breathes while feeding 
  • Shows strong reflexes: rooting (turns head and seeks breast)
  • Lifts head momentarily about 45 degrees when lying on stomach
  • Relaxes arms and legs from the tight fetal position

Fine motor skills 

  • Holds hands in tight fists and then begins to uncurl fingers 
  • Palmar grasp (closes hand around a finger) 
  • Attempts to hold a rattle

Language skills 

  • Recognizes familiar voices (parents, siblings, caregiver) 
  • Cries generically (doesn’t yet have different cries for different needs; at any stage, offer the breast at the first sign of hunger and don’t wait for your baby to cry; know the signs that your baby is getting enough to eat)

Social and play skills 

  • Responds to calming actions such as rocking, singing, babywearing, or baby massage 
  • Has short periods of wakefulness 
  • Follows parents with eyes (sees most clearly around 8 inches, or the distance between a mom’s and baby’s face during breastfeeding)

Cognitive skills 

  • Assumes that expressions of distress will be followed by comfort 
  • Begins to develop trust 
  • Fusses if needs are not met quickly enough 
  • Reacts to sounds 
  • Realizes that cues generate predictable responses

2–4 months

Gross motor skills 

  • Lifts head higher than bottom 
  • Rolls from back to side, tummy to side 
  • Bears weight on legs when held upright 
  • Rests on forearms when lying on stomach 
  • Lifts head and chest when lying on stomach 
  • Stretches legs and kicks when lying on stomach

Fine motor skills 

  • Plays with hands in front of face 
  • Holds onto the hair and clothes of anyone nearby 
  • Holds rattle 
  • Bats at dangling objects with hands

Language skills 

  • Makes a variety of sounds—single vowel sounds and screeches 
  • Coos, squeals, and gurgles 
  • Says “ooh-ooh” and “aah-aah”
  • Cries according to need (for example, has a distinct cry for needing a diaper change versus feeling lonely; don’t wait for your baby to cry to feed him)
  • Communicates through body movements—waving arms and legs and opening up hands 

Social and play skills 

  • Smiles and shows emotions—happiness and sadness 
  • Laughs Blows bubbles
  • Self-calms by sucking on hands
  • Loves human faces, maintains eye contact, and mimics facial gestures

Cognitive skills 

  • Recognizes cause and effect 
  • Realizes actions cause others to react—a smile generates a smile in return 
  • Turns head toward sound made at ear level 
  • Shows boredom by crying or fussing if there are no changes in activity 
  • Realizes that objects have names

4–6 months 

Gross motor skills 

  • Sits when assisted or propped with pillows (supervision required) 
  • Holds head up 90 degrees when lying on stomach 
  • Pushes up on hands when lying on stomach 
  • Controls head well when held 
  • Sits leaning forward on hands—tripod stance 
  • Rolls both front-to-back and back-to-front 
  • Assumes pre-crawl position with head and part of tummy raised

Fine motor skills 

  • Reaches accurately with one hand 
  • Predetermines hand position needed to grasp specific objects 
  • Points to objects 
  • Holds small objects in palm of hand 
  • Transfers objects from hand to mouth

Language skills 

  • Gets attention by babbling 
  • Uses different sounds for different needs 
  • Mimics sounds, inflections, gestures
  • Social and play skills Raises hands for “pick me up!” 
  • Anticipates food on sight 
  • Shows interest in colors 
  • Makes “raspberry” sounds 
  • Smiles and vocalizes to mirror 
  • Mimics facial movements

Cognitive skills 

  • Learns which sounds and actions are most likely to get a desired response 
  • Follows moving objects with eyes

6–8 months 

Gross motor skills 

  • Sits unsupported 
  • Begins pre-crawling: lifting knees off floor, scooching, wiggling 
  • Stretches to reach objects beyond arm’s length

Fine motor skills 

  • Uses hands to “rake” small objects 
  • Transfers objects from hand to hand

Language skills 

  • Puts vowels and consonants together 
  • Uses tongue to change sound
  • Says “dada” (though nonspecifically) 

Social and play skills 

  • Responds to name 
  • Plays peek-a-boo

Cognitive skills 

  • Looks to floor when toys are dropped 
  • Locates partially hidden objects 
  • Explores visually and by putting objects in mouth

8–10 months 

Gross motor skills 

  • Sits unsupported 
  • Crawls on hands and knees 
  • Pulls up to stand, while leaning on furniture for support

Fine motor skills 

  • Picks up tiny objects with thumb and forefinger—pincer grasp 
  • Bangs objects on table 
  • Feeds self (though messily) 
  • Drinks from a cup (to practice, give a few sips of water in a plastic, non-sippy cup)

Language skills 

  • Continues building new sound combinations 
  • Uses tongue to change sound

Social and play skills 

  • Shows separation anxiety 
  • Learns speech sounds by focusing on others’ mouths

Cognitive skills 

  • Recognizes spatial relationships—in and out, nesting objects 
  • Puts mental images and labels together (“dog”) 
  • Explores visually and by putting objects in mouth

10–12 months 

Gross motor skills 

  • “Cross-crawls”—moves arm and opposite leg simultaneously 
  • Moves easily from crawling position to sitting 
  • Sits for long periods 
  • Crawls up stairs (but not down) 
  • Walks while holding onto furniture 
  • Takes first solo steps

Fine motor skills 

  • Points with index finger 
  • Stacks blocks 
  • Turns pages of a book

Language skills 

  • Says “mama” and “dada” (now accurately identifying each parent) 
  • Understands “no” 
  • Tries to imitate animal sounds

Social and play skills 

  • Waves bye-bye 
  • Shows stranger anxiety

Cognitive skills 

  • Has sense of object permanence, that things out of sight still exist 
  • Can find hidden toys under a blanket 
  • Develops depth perception
  • Responds to simple requests

As you progress through your child’s first year, keep in mind that every child develops at her own pace and that there’s generally little need for worry or concern. At each well-child visit, your child’s health care provider will assess her growth over time to ensure that she’s developing well physically, mentally, and behaviorally.

Last updated December 11, 2017

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