Infant developmental milestones: 0-6 months
In the first six months of life, your little one will transform from a sleepy, defenseless newborn into a smiling, babbling baby. Here are the developmental milestones you can expect each month.
When you have a new baby, every coo, cuddle and smile (or was it gas?!) is more precious than gold. Every day, your little one seems to be changing or learning a new skill. But how can you tell if your baby is reaching developmental milestones on time? Our guide to motor, social, language and cognitive milestones will help you keep track.
Keep in mind that this is a general guide and each baby develops at a different rate. Just because they haven’t reached a milestone according to this timeline doesn’t mean something is wrong. If you have any concerns, speak to your pediatrician.
The first month
By one month of age, your baby may:
- Make jerky movements with their arms and legs
- Have strong reflex movements, including the grasp reflex
- Keep their fists clenched
- Be unable to support their head, which will flop if unsupported
- Move their head from side to side when lying on their back or stomach
- Focus their eyes at a distance of 8 to 12 inches
- Stare at black-and-white or high-contrast patterns
- Go quiet at the sound of a voice or turn toward familiar voices
- Get startled by loud noises
- Enjoy looking at human faces
Warning signs: Contact your doctor if your baby feeds poorly, rarely moves their arms or legs, seems too stiff or too floppy, doesn’t respond to loud sounds or blink to bright lights, doesn’t focus or follow a moving objet with their eyes, or their lower jaw trembles constantly.
The second month
By the time your wee one turns two months old, they may be able to:
- Make smoother movements with their arms and legs
- Start unfolding their hands
- Lift their head about 45 degrees when lying on their tummy
- Follow objects with their eyes
- Begin to recognize people at a distance
- Pay close attention to faces, especially those of their parents
- Look for sounds
- Make noises other than crying, such as cooing or gurgling
- Start to make distinctive cries for different needs, such as wet or hungry
- Vocalize when they hear a familiar voice
- Start smiling at people
Warning signs: Act early by calling your pediatrician if your baby doesn’t react to loud sounds, follow objects with their eyes, lift their head up when lying on their tummy, notice their hands, or smile at the sound of your voice.
The third month
Check out what your baby might be able to do by three months!
- Stretch out their arms and legs
- Open and close their hands
- Raise their head and shoulders 45 to 90 degrees when lying on their tummy
- Support their upper body with their forearms
- Bear some weight on their legs and push down with their feet when held in a standing position
- Bring their hands to their mouth
- Swipe at objects
- Grasp and shake toys (but no reaching yet)
- Follow objects 180 degrees with their eyes
- Lift their head to look for sounds
- Begin to babble, coo, squeal and make simple vowel sounds such as “ooh” and “ah”
- Begin to imitate sounds, facial expressions and movements
- Smile at the sound of a parent’s voice
Warning signs: Talk to your doc if your little one can’t grasp and hold objects, smile at people, or support their head at all.
Activities to stimulate your baby’s development from 0 to 3 months
Here are some ways you can interact with and stimulate your baby from birth to three months:
- Look into their eyes: This will help bonding. When they look away, they’ve had enough and need a rest.
- Smile: It will make your baby feel safe and secure.
- Talk: Tell your baby what you’re doing as you go about your day to help develop language skills.
- Sing: Babies love hearing mom sing even if it’s out of tune!
- Play: Dangle a toy above their head and let them follow it with their eyes, read a book or play peekaboo. Playing helps their brain development.
- Do tummy time: It’s important to do tummy time every day to help strengthen your baby’s head and neck. At this age, 1 to 5 minutes is enough. You can read more in our article about Why Tummy Time is so important.
- Massage: After their bath, gently massage their body with a natural baby lotion. This will relax your baby and help you bond.
The fourth month
By four months, your growing baby may be able to:
- Hold their head unsupported (though it may still be wobbly)
- Lift their head and chest about 90 degrees when lying on their tummy
- Roll from their tummy to their side or maybe even their back
- Bear more weight on their legs when held upright
- Sit with support
- Hold their hands together
- Grasp objects with both hands
- Try to reach for objects (but most likely miss them)
- Babble with more expression
- Make consonant sounds such as “b” and “m”
- Smile spontaneously
- Express when they’re happy or sad
Warning signs: It’s worth talking to your pediatrician if your baby can’t move one or both eyes in all directions, coo or make any sounds, hold their head without support, bring objects to their mouth, or push down with their legs when held upright.
The fifth month
Shouldn’t your baby be crawling by now? Not yet! Here’s what your baby might be able to do by five months of age:
- Roll from their tummy to their back
- Play with their feet and toes
- Put their feet and other objects in their mouth
- Reach for and grasp objects successfully
- Transfer an object from one hand to the other
- Sit with support for longer periods
- Wiggle or rock on the floor
- Watch objects that are dropped
- Put consonant and vowel sounds together, such as “ba-ba” and “ya-ya”
- Smile at their image in the mirror
- Cry if you take a toy away
- Differentiate family members from strangers
Warning signs: Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if your baby has a stiff body or awkward movements, floppy hands or a weak grip, or if they don’t turn toward you when you speak or they don’t make any sounds.
The sixth month
Where did six months go?! By the time your little one celebrates their half-birthday, they may be able to:
- Hold their head steady
- Lift their chest and part of their tummy off the floor by bearing weight on their hands
- Roll over in both directions
- Sit with their back straight when propped up or begin to sit unsupported
- Bear most of their weight when held upright and they may even bounce
- Rock back and forth when lying on their tummy and they might start to push themselves backward
- Grasp and study small objects
- Be curious about objects around them and try to grab things that are out of reach
- Respond to their name
- Respond to sounds and express their emotions by making sounds
- String vowels together such as “oh” “ah” “eh” or try to copy your speech
- Enjoy playing, especially with their parents
Warning signs: See your pediatrician if your little one doesn’t show affection for you or other caregivers, reach for objects, roll over in either direction, make vowel sounds, squeal or laugh, or if they seem very stiff or very floppy.
Activities to stimulate your baby’s development from 3 to 6 months
From three to six months, your baby will change quickly. Here’s what you can do to help them develop and grow – and have fun at the same time!
- Talk: Whereas your conversations used to be only one-way, your baby will now start to answer you by making sounds when you talk. Actively listen to their responses and make facial expressions to teach them about communication.
- Play: Singing nursery rhymes, playing with toys and reading books to your baby will stimulate their brain and strengthen your bond.
- Do tummy time: Your baby still needs to spend some time on their tummy every day to help strengthen those neck and upper-body muscles. They’ll probably be able to do it for longer periods now, so let them play on their tummy until they started to look tired or fed up.
- Go for walks: Take your baby for walks in their stroller or baby carrier and point out the trees, birds and clouds to help them learn about the world around them.
- Establish a routine: Following a similar routine each day – for example, feed, change diaper, play, sleep – can help your baby feel secure.