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Infant Development (Birth to 12 Months)

During the first year of life, it can feel like a baby is changing every single day. This begs the question — is my child developing appropriately for their age? 

While every child is unique in their growth and development, there are general milestones that can be helpful to identify. As a parent or caregiver, understanding how all areas of infant development fit together can help you get ahead! 

Here are the 7 key areas of infant development:

  • Adaptive skills. Adaptive skills are a child’s daily, routine functions such as eating and sleeping. When a child shows interest in eating, performs successful sucks, and swallows and sleeps for the appropriate length of time for their age, they are showing adaptive skills.
  • Communication skills. Communication is connecting by sharing thoughts and feelings. Although a child younger than 12 months may not be speaking quite yet, when they turn their head toward voices and sounds, repeat simple sounds or babbles and use facial expressions, they are using their communication skills. 
  • Fine and gross motor skills. Fine and gross motor skills include the physical movement of a child. For a child younger than 12 months, fine motor skills look like opening and closing hands, holding toys and bringing a fist to the mouth. Gross motor skills look like rolling from back to front, sitting upright and taking first steps. 
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  • Cognitive skills. Cognitive skills exemplify a child’s brain working on reasoning and awareness of themselves and the world around them. This looks like noticing and exploring their own hands, repeating movements to cause actions to happen again and looking at a picture in a book.
  • Social-emotional skills. Social-emotional skills are learned through interaction and relationships. In children younger than 12 months, this can look like smiling and making sounds with others, paying attention when their name is called and showing affection or reaching for familiar adults.
  • Vision skills. When a child shows their vision skills, they move their eyes to watch objects and faces, reach for objects and may even show preferences toward certain colors as they turn 12 months old.
  • Hearing skills. When a child shows their hearing skills, they turn their head toward sounds and voices, they react calmly to everyday sounds, they may understand familiar words, and they may listen when spoken to as they turn 12 months old. 

Holistic View of Infant Development

To look at something holistically means to not only see the individual parts but how they work together. Skills that babies acquire must be viewed holistically. All areas of development are connected and influenced by one another. By understanding these basic milestones of development and how they work together, caregivers can more easily identify when development is going well and when there may be a problem.

For example, feeding is a complex process and all areas of development are involved. Even when just one area is not working well, it can create challenges for babies and their caregivers. Therefore, it is critical to look at babies broadly to understand their full range of capacities and needs.

Example of a Holistic View of Feeding (0 to 12 Months)

Developmental AreaDevelopmental Milestones (Skills)
AdaptiveBaby receives good sleep mixed with periods of being awake and alert.
Motor
Communication
Cognitive
Baby brings her hands to her mouth to indicate she is hungry.
Social-Emotional
Communication
Vision
Baby expresses excitement when he sees a bottle.
Social-Emotional
Communication
Hearing
Baby becomes calms before the feeding when spoken to by her caregiver.
Adaptive
Motor
Baby comfortably and safely sucks from the bottle.
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