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Developmental milestones

2-minute read

Children learn more during their first 5 years than at any other time of their life. While all babies grow and develop at different rates, tracking how they reach ‘milestones’ along the way is one method to assess their progress. 

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are the essential abilities such as moving, seeing, hearing, communicating and interacting with other people that babies learn as they begin to engage with the world.

They typically meet different milestones at different ages.

When you take your baby to a child and maternal health nurse, or to your doctor, they will check your baby is reaching some of the following types of milestone:

  • physical: these milestones include large body movements, such as sitting and walking, and small body movements like controlling their hands, eating and sleeping, reflexes, vision and other physical abilities
  • social: how they react to other people around them, including through play and communication 
  • emotional: how well they are bonding with other people, whether they are happy or not 
  • cognitive: their learning, how their senses are working, and how they are engaging with the world
  • language: these include hearing, making sounds and understanding sounds 

When should my child meet developmental milestones?

Babies grow and develop very quickly, especially in their first 12 months.

All babies reach their milestones at different times. But if your baby is missing their milestones altogether, it could be a sign that their development is delayed. 

That’s why having your baby’s milestones regularly checked by your doctor or by a child and family health nurse is a good idea.

Problems with development

Even if your baby is slow to reach a certain milestone, it will probably only be a temporary delay. Some signs your baby may not be developing normally include: 

  • they don’t seem to hear or see properly
  • they aren’t moving both arms or both legs
  • they can’t hold their head up by 3 to 4 months or sit well by 10 months
  • they always cry for more than 3 hours a day after about 4 months
  • they don’t look at you or respond to sounds
  • they aren’t babbling or using sounds by 9 months
  • they don’t want to stand up by 12 months
  • they don’t seem to understand anything you say by 18 months
  • they don’t seem interested in the world around them

If you are worried about your baby’s progress and development, it’s worth discussing it with your doctor or maternal health nurse. They will be able to answer your questions.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2019

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