Premature Baby Developmental Milestones Till Age 5

Premature Baby - Developmental Milestones Till Age 5

Preemies are babies who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy is completed. This may mean that the milestones that are applicable for kids may be met with some delay by these babies. Read on to know all about a premature baby’s developmental milestones.



How to Adjust Your Preemie’s Age

If your baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy, he is known as a premature baby. The milestones for premature babies are different from normal babies. A premature baby’s progress cannot be tracked based on the actual date of birth of the baby. You need to adjust your preemie’s age as follows:



1. Adjust Your Preemie’s Age

If your baby is 20 weeks old but was born 5 weeks early, subtract 5 from 20. This will give you 15 weeks as the baby’s adjusted age. Look for milestones listed under 15 weeks to track your baby’s progress.

2. Keep Track of the Progress

Look out for advances in your child’s development. Make sure that your little one is moving ahead step by step.




Preemie girl

Premature Baby Milestones

Note: The data in this article tells you how babies usually develop. To track your preemie’s developmental milestones, you should use your baby’s adjusted age as explained above. Here are the developmental milestones for your baby:

At 2 Months

Here are the preemie baby developmental milestones to look out for in a 2-month-old:





1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Between 1.5 to 2 months (or 6 to 8 weeks), your baby can turn her head in the direction of the sound she hears. When placed on her tummy, she will try to lift her head. Other 6-week premature baby milestones include active movement of hands and legs.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will recognise the sound of her parent’s voices and smile. She will look in the direction of a sound. She will have a different kind of cry for each need and make gurgling sounds.




3. Social and Emotional Development

Your baby will recognise her parents and enjoys being with you and your spouse. She will smile when you play with her.

4. Activities

She can hold objects and also fix her eyes on a toy and follow the movement.





At 4 Months

Here are the premature infant milestones for a 4-month-old baby:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Your baby can bring her hands together. She will lift her head and push upwards on her arms during tummy-time. She will know that she needs to reach for a toy to grab it.




2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will combine sounds together and will squeal when she is happy. She will turn her head to follow your voice.

3. Social and Emotional Development

She will smile and be playful. She will be interested in mirrors and will be interactive with parents.





4. Activities

She will reach out and grasp toys. She will bring toys to her mouth. She will show increased hand and leg movements when she is excited.

4-month-old holding toys

At 6 Months

The following are the developmental milestones for a 6-month-old preemie:




1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Your baby will know her parents faces well and can recognise you from amongst several people. She will start attempting to or already can sit on her own and will put her weight on the feet if you hold her standing up. She will shake and bang toys and can transfer toys from one hand to another. She can roll over onto her back and can hold a toy each in both hands.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will turn around and look at you when you call her name. She will babble, making consonant sounds like ‘gagaga’.





3. Social and Emotional Development

She can express both happiness and sadness. She will observe her surroundings and will notice if you leave the room.

4. Activities

She will be interested in what toys can do, like light up or make sounds. She will be interested in peek-a-boo and look for objects that drop out of her line of sight.




At 9 Months

These are the 9-month-old premature baby milestones:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

At 34 to 36 weeks, your baby can crawl on her own. Other 34-week preemie milestones include pulling herself up to stand and picking up objects with her fingers. She remembers the peek-a-boo game and knows how to play it.


2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will be able to recognise often repeated words and phrases like hello, bye, go to sleep, bath time, and open your mouth.  She will babble by making a combination of vowel and consonant sounds, and be able to say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’.

3. Social and Emotional Development

She may show discomfort with strangers. She will love playing with you and will clap her hands when excited.

4. Activities

Your baby will resist if you try to take her toy away. She will also examine objects more thoroughly by turning them over, opening them or putting her hands inside. She will try to hold her own bottle and will pick up bits of food and bring it to her mouth.

9-month-old being fed

At 12 Months

Here are the 12-month-old preemie developmental milestones:


1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Your baby can stand on her own and take her first unsupported steps. She knows who her parents are. She will know to stop if she is told not to do something.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will combine movement with sound. For instance, she will grab a toy while using her voice simultaneously. She will give you her toy if you ask for it. She will also pause whatever she is doing if you tell her to do so.

3. Social and Emotional Development

Your baby plays with other children. She will also prefer the company of her parents.

4. Activities

She can drink from a cup on her own. She will also help you when you dress her.


At 15 Months

These are the developmental milestones for a 15-month-old preemie.

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

At 15 months, your baby will be able to walk on her own and climb onto furniture. She will address you as mama and follow you around the house. She will also remember the names of several things, such as the names of food and drink items, people or toys.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your baby will be able to use 2 continuous words other than ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. She will use words to ask for food or drink. She will also show you what she needs by pointing or pulling you in that direction.

3. Social and Emotional Development

Your baby will give you kisses, say ‘hi’, and will pay attention to stories.


4. Activities

She will try to feed herself with a spoon.

Baby kissing mom

At 18 Months

Here are the developmental milestones for an 18-month-old preemie:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Your baby can scribble on paper with a pencil, walk without help, and sometimes run.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your 18-month-old can point to parts of the body like hands, feet, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. She follows simple instructions, like ‘give me the toy’. She says at least 5 to 10 different words.

3. Social and Emotional Development

She no longer has separation anxiety, but is happy when she sees you again. She will say ‘no’ if she does not want something.

4. Activities

An 18-month-old likes to eat on her own. She engages in pretend play. For instance, she pretends to feed a doll.

At 24 to 30 Months

Here are the milestones for a 24- to 30-month-old baby:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

Your toddler can run fast without falling often. She can scribble in circular movements and draw vertical lines. She can climb up and down stairs by herself. She can turn single pages in books. She can stand unsupported on one foot. She can remember rhymes and recite them and also recognise primary colours.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your 2-year-old can talk in simple sentences and can follow 2-part instructions. She can use at least 20 different words including pronouns.

3. Social and Emotional Development

At 2, your baby will help with easy household work. She will also stop when you tell her to do so.

4. Activities

She reads picture books and turns pages on her own. She can wash her hands without help. She also opens doors using the doorknob.

At 3 Years

These are the milestones for a 3-year-old:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

At 3, your baby recognises extended family members by name and relationship. She can also pedal a tricycle and cut using safety scissors. She can jump in place and balance on one foot. She can also draw a circle.

2. Language and Communication Development

Your toddler can talk clearly and combine sentences using ‘and’ or ‘but’. She can also understand prepositions like ‘under’, ‘in’, and ‘on’.

3. Social and Emotional Development

Your toddler will be able to direct other children and also do a role play where she pretends to be mom or dad.

4. Activities

A 3-year-old can dress with help. She is also toilet-trained and can wash her own hands.

3-year-old girl

At 5 Years

Here are the milestones for a 5-year-old:

1. Cognitive and Motor Development

At 5, your child can write her first name in print, swing on her own, and shows leadership abilities.

2. Language and Communication Development

At 5, your child is able to recognise most of the alphabet and can explain the meaning of known words.

3. Social and Emotional Development

Engages in dress-up or make-believe games. Plays well with other children.

4. Activities

She can use the toilet without help.

What Questions/Concerns You Should Ask a Paediatrician About Your Baby’s Development

  • If your baby is in the NICU – What are the premature baby NICU milestones my baby needs to cross to be discharged from the NICU?
  • If your baby is late preterm – What are the late preterm baby milestones that I need to keep track of?
  • In what way can I support my baby more?
  • I am concerned that a particular milestone is taking time to cross. Is this normal?
  • What kind of nutrition does my child need in order to meet her developmental milestones at the right time?

Premature babies need extra support as they are born without being fully developed. Keep in mind that each baby is different and do not compare your baby’s developmental milestones with other babies. Talk to a paediatrician about your concerns.

Also Read: Common Health Problems of Premature Baby