Understanding Baby Milestones


A baby’s first year is filled with so many exciting milestones! 

Every baby is different and will hit their milestones at different times so, nannies, don’t get worried if the little one you are watching doesn’t follow along to a tee.  If baby misses one milestone it’s probably no big deal but you can mention it to the parents.  However, if you and the parents are worried after baby misses a few milestones it might be helpful to talk to the doctor.  We found this list of “firsts” on TheBump.com.  This is a great resource list for a nanny to print out and keep in her nanny binder.

Sleeping Through the night

When it’s likely to happen: Generally, after four months of age, an infant should be able to sleep at least six to eight hours straight without feeding. And by six months of age, they should be able to go at least 8 to 10 hours without a feeding.

How to encourage it: Let baby sleep! Slowly start extending the time between nighttime feedings until you get there. And don’t rush to pick up baby the moment she cries at night. She needs to learn that if she wakes in the night, she does not need you to help her fall back asleep again.


When it’s likely to happen: Baby should start crawling between six and nine months.

How to encourage it: Give baby plenty of tummy time and free playtime on the ground.  You can get down on the ground with him and show him a bright-colored toy, then move the toy a foot away and coax him to move toward the object.

What if baby misses the mark: Don’t stress — he may be right on track anyhow. Some pediatricians don’t consider crawling a milestone, because a lot of infants won’t crawl at all.  Doctors usually tells parents the definition of crawling is simply the method baby uses to get from one place to another. He could be wriggling on his tummy, rolling, scooting — it doesn’t have to be the typical hand-and-knees crawl most parents visualize.

Rolling Over

When it’s likely to happen: Some infants start to roll as early as three months, but on average, it’s usually more like four to six months. Typically she’ll roll from front to back first, and then she’ll master rolling back to front. Very often, baby will get stuck and may get upset and cry. Remember, it’s important to avoid leaving baby alone on an elevated surface long before that age, since babies start wriggling enough to fall pretty early on.

How to encourage it: Get down on the ground and talk to baby, cheering her on. Hold blocks or toys just out of reach so she can flip over trying to reach them.


When it’s likely to happen: A baby should be smiling back at his parents around two months of age, but there are some instances when it may take a little longer, for example,  if baby was born prematurely.

How to encourage it: You’re probably already doing it. Talk to baby and throw some smiles his way.

What if baby misses the mark: “Smiling is really one of those first milestones I’m looking for as a pediatrician,” says Dr. Tanya Altmann, MD. author of Mommy Calls. “If the baby isn’t smiling back at the parent by two months of age, I want to keep a close eye on him. Sometimes it will happen by three months, but if not, that’s when I’ll get concerned about possible neurological issues.”

Sitting Unsupported

When it’s likely to happen: Altmann estimates that about 50 percent of babies can sit — but probably pretty wobbly or propped up — at six months, but by eight months of age, she says they should be able to sit comfortably and more steadily on their own.

How to encourage it: With any motor milestone, your child needs an opportunity to learn, so be sure you’re giving her plenty of free time on the floor. If you’re always wearing baby, carrying her or strapping her in a swing or chair, it may take her longer to learn to push up, roll over, sit up, pull up to stand and walk.


When it’s likely to happen: It could be as early as six months, when baby sits up on his own, but it’s more likely to be closer to between eight and nine months, says Altmann — and it may take a few months total for baby to learn it. Waving is also usually learned around 8 to 10 months.

How to encourage it: Play patty-cake and other clapping games with baby. Your own clapping gets baby so excited, he’ll start to bring his hands together in an effort to clap along with you.

What if baby misses the mark: If, by the one-year pediatrician’s visit, your baby isn’t mimicking any of your actions — whether it’s clapping, waving or responding to you when you wave and say, “I’m over here” — then definitely let baby’s doctor know.

Pulling Up to Standing

When it’s likely to happen: Though most infants will pull themselves up to a standing position between 9 and 12 months, Altmann says it’s not unusual for it to happen even earlier — like eight months. “I warn parents at the six-month visit to drop the mattress down [in case] your infant pulls to stand in the middle of the night when you’re not aware that they can. You don’t want them to fall out!” You’ll also want to be aware of any furniture that baby could try to pull on that could tumble, like a top-heavy chair.

How to encourage it: Like with sitting, make sure baby gets lots of free-range playtime.

What if baby misses the mark: If she’s not pulling to stand by her first birthday, let your pediatrician know. “It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with her, because she could be almost there,” says Altmann. “But I think it’s a good idea to check in with the doctor to make sure there’s nothing else going on.”

Cruising and Walking

When it’s likely to happen: Usually, around 9 to 12 months, after they learn to pull themselves to stand, babies start to cruise — teaching themselves to walk by holding on to furniture. “When they initially pull to stand, they’ll grab on, let go and drop down on their bottoms. But then they’ll figure out that they can hold on and walk along the couch,” says Altmann. “Within a couple weeks to a couple months, they’ll let go and take their first step.” She says to expect that around the one-year mark, but for some kids, it may not be until 15 months or even later.

How to encourage it: More floor play.

What if baby misses the mark: There’s probably nothing to be worried about, unless baby’s missing other milestones, but it’s worth a mention and maybe an evaluation by a physical therapist.

Reaching, Grasping, Holding

When it’s likely to happen: “At six months of age, babies can bring both hands to their midline. So if you were to hold a toy in front of them, they would bring both hands up and try to grab it,” says Altmann. But it’s not until about eight or nine months of age that they use a pincher grasp, using their thumb and forefinger. “This is when they can pick up small objects and bring them to their mouth — and often when parents start finger foods,” says Altmann. “You also have to be careful, because that’s when they bring other small objects up to their mouth as well.”

How to encourage it: Offer baby safe objects — colorful or noisy toys work well — to grab and jiggle.

What if baby misses the mark: If baby isn’t picking up small pieces of food and feeding himself by 12 months, let your pediatrician know.

TLC For Kids, Inc. has been St. Louis’ premier nanny and babysitting agency  for over 25 years.   TLC For Kids’ dedicated staff is ready to assist you in finding nannies, tutors, newborn care specialists, sitters and more.  Reach us at info@tlcforkids.com or 314-725-5660.


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