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Every parent is eager to see her child reach her developmental milestones at the right time. But do not let infanthood be all about a race to the finish line! To make the journey enjoyable for both of you, here are some tips on understanding and encouraging development in your baby.
If you are like most parents, you must have printed a month by month milestone chart, and stuck it on the wall as soon as your baby came home. There are parents who also print out week by week charts, especially for a baby’s early months!
While being aware of your baby’s developmental milestones, its crucial to assess her health too. You need not panic if your child doesn’t reach every milestone as prescribed in the chart. Here are a few things to understand about your baby’s development:
Understanding Baby’s Development
- Your baby is born with a unique bodily constitution and has her own pace of development. There is absolutely no point in comparing your child with other kids born on the same day, or to his older siblings, or even his twin! Every child reaches his milestones when he is ready.
- During the first year, major developmental milestones generally follow this order: Smiling->Raising Head->Grasping->Reaching->Sitting->Crawling->Standing with Support->Walking with Support->Walking independently. Do not despair if your child decides to turn things around, for there cannot be one rule for all babies and their development. There are babies who prefer crawling to sitting first! And so on.
- A baby’s development consists of both physical and cognitive development. Some babies reach their physical milestones earlier than their cognitive ones. This is perfectly normal and it does not necessarily mean that you have a footballer on your hands! The reverse may be equally true for it’s simply too early to say anything and in some cases, it may not have anything to do with your child’s future interests.
- Rather than keeping a strict watch on ‘when’ your baby achieves her milestones, ensure that your baby is progressing normally. He might reach all his milestones much later than his peers, or he might reach one step earlier, and the next one later. It’s all okay.
- If you have a preemie, you may notice that things are a little more complicated. Rather than calculating his birth age, it makes more sense to measure his milestones against the age he would have been had he been born when he was actually due. They usually catch up before turning 2.
Although your baby will reach his milestones whenever he is ready, you can support him and lead him on.
Here are a few ways in which you can encourage your baby’s development.
Encouraging Baby’s Development
- Minimize the use of electronics like TV and iPad. The blue light emitted by these devices can harm your baby’s eyes and affect their natural mental development.
- Ensure that your baby gets lots of fresh air. Taking her out to spend some time in natural surroundings like the garden or a park with greenery and fresh air.
- Avoid overstimulation as most babies are disturbed by it. Keep the volume of the TV or music player low for high volumes are known to stress babies. If there are many people in your home, ensure that the baby gets his share of quiet time.
- Child proofing is essential as babies can develop freely only if their surroundings are safe, and they don’t need to hear you yell ‘NO!’ every other minute. Young babies love exploring, and childproofing is important to keep dangerous things out of reach.
- Get your child age-appropriate toys. A teething ring is ideal when his teeth erupts, a colourful ball or a rattle to grasp and shake are all great examples of how the right toys can stimulate babies at the correct time of development.
- Proper development requires a good foundation in the form of proper nutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a baby till he is 6 months old and extended breastfeeding till at least a year. Also, when you start the baby on solids, be sure to include all food groups.
- Mobile babies need lots of space to practice their new found skills. You can move furniture to the walls and get rid of floor lamps and vases to clear out space so that your little explorer does not bump into things, and get discouraged.
- If the weather permits, allow your baby to move without shoes. This is the best way for a baby’s muscles to develop and steady their gait. Completely avoid walkers and such contraptions for they are likely to do more harm than good.
- Follow your doctor’s orders and go for regular check-ups and vaccinations at the prescribed times. This is also a good chance for you to voice any concerns, and for your doctor to advice you in the coming months.
- Last but not least, do not forget to give hugs and cuddles! Nothing can replace the feeling of being loved and this is what babies need the most, just as much as they need food and warmth. Don’t worry for you can’t spoil your baby by holding her too much!
At the end of the day, stay calm and positive. Babies are very sensitive to their mothers’ moods and emotions, so take care of yourself. If you can’t seem to cope up, do not hesitate in getting help if it is the best thing for both of you. This journey is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t turn it into a race for reaching timely milestones!