Your baby’s development is measured not just by their physical growth, but also their meeting of physical and social milestones.
There are broad windows for some milestones in what is considered “normal”. The most important thing is your child is making steady progress at their own pace.
If in doubt about your baby’s development, and particularly if they regress in a skill they previously grasped, please speak to your GP or health visitor. Osteopaths are not paediatricians, however, some physical milestones may be delayed by minor musculoskeletal problems, and that is certainly within our scope to help with.
Your Midwife or Health Visitor may have already given you information on developmental milestones, but if not, you can read a good summary of each of the various stages here.
A brand new baby’s spine is almost C shaped: neither the neck or lower back curves are present at all. Before long, the shape of the neck begins to look more mature as the muscles develop enough to hold the head up. Gaining head control is a gradual process, but a lot of change will come in the first three months of life. Tummy time encourages neck extension, then rotation as time goes on.
You may notice that your baby’s head control is not equal on both sides. This can be a sign of torticollis, where some neck muscles are tight enough to restrict movement. Torticollis is not a permanent condition, although some babies already have it at birth. Others might develop it after sleeping, sitting, or playing with their head always turned the same way.
Mobility Milestones: Rolling Over
It is recommended that you put your baby to sleep on their back until they are able to roll on their own. With plenty of opportunity to learn on the floor, we generally expect babies to start rolling between 4 and 6 months old. Some might learn to roll from front to back first, but others start with back to front. It is possible for your baby to simply have little interest in rolling over, but encouragement is still useful.
Paediatric osteopaths can show you exercises you can perform with your baby to help them build up to rolling over.
Current standard weaning guidance requires your baby to be six months old, interested in food, and able to sit unassisted before starting solids. Sitting with less support is a skill that starts to emerge at around six months old. You can begin to introduce sitting with support as soon as baby’s head control develops.
One common problem with learning to sit is finding that one side is stronger than the other. If baby has equal support on both sides but topples one way and struggles to push back up, it may indicate that there’s a need to strengthen that arm and the other side of the trunk. Catching it early, you may be able to get right back on track with a little bit of physical support and providing some instability with cushions. If you’re struggling, your osteopath may be able to help advise.
Did you know that not all babies crawl before they walk? Bum-shuffling is considered normal too. Either of these occur between about 7 and 10 months old. They build on the previous milestones to achieve mobility, so keep challenging your baby physically. It is worth noting that some babies start crawling backwards before they work out how to go forwards- this is normal too.
You might notice that baby is crawling by pushing off through one leg, then just dragging the other. You can try and challenge the “lazy” leg through play, but if you need help, we’re here.
Tummy time should be encouraged from the very beginning, within the first few days of life. This doesn’t mean place your baby flat on the floor on their tummy, let them scream, and leave them to it. You can ease into it by initially placing them face down on you. Your new born needs time to develop head control, so start with a minute or two, and then gradually increase the challenge as they become stronger and more engaged.
Try to provide opportunities for playing on the floor which engage the baby’s all four sides: left side, right side, back, and tummy. Babies need to work out the muscles along all four sides of the body in order to develop the strength and stability needed for later motor skills such as rolling, sitting, and crawling. It can be hard to remember to help babies lay on their sides during floor time, especially if they are young. However, side lying is important because it relieves pressure from the back of baby’s head, is an important part of preventing flat spots, helps babies practice their reaching and hand-eye coordination skills, and gets them ready to learn to roll.
Older Baby Milestones: Pulling Up, Standing, and Walking
With a lot of physical support and encouragement, you might be able to pull your baby up to stand at around 8 months old. From here to about 10 months, baby might start pulling themselves up using furniture or other objects. It might take a few more months before they can stand completely independently, but it will be a case of trial and error, so make sure they can learn to fall safely too.
Somewhere before 20 months old, we expect baby to take their first steps. At this point, you might be starting to think about footwear. We generally don’t advise babies to wear shoes of any kind before they begin walking outside. Baby’s first shoes should be soft and bendy enough that you can fold them completely in half. The exception to this rule is for babies who need extra support in foot positioning or ankle control.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s meeting of milestones, you can book in with Sharon or Liz here.