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Baby Milestones in the First Year: A Guide to Development and Breastfed Babies' Journey

The first year of a baby's life is a remarkable journey filled with numerous developmental milestones. These milestones encompass physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that mark the growth and progress of your little one. While every baby is unique and develops at their own pace, general patterns and behaviours are associated with each milestone. We will explore the key milestones babies typically reach during their first year and how babies may differ in their behaviours and experiences during these milestones.

A baby's first steps
Enjoying your baby's milestones builds great memories.

Month 1-2: The Newborn Stage

The first month of a baby's life is often referred to as the "fourth trimester" because newborns are still adjusting to life outside the womb. During this time, babies primarily focus on establishing basic functions like feeding and sleeping.

Many parents wonder how often to feed their baby during this stage of incredible growth. The answer is a very straightforward one: whenever they’re hungry. Learn more about what that means here.

Feeding and Sleeping Routines: Breastfed babies typically establish their feeding routine in the first month. They should be feeding every 2-3 hours and indicating that they are getting adequate nourishment. Babies may display signs of contentment and comfort after breastfeeding, such as falling asleep and having a calm disposition. You might start to notice sleeping patterns emerge, but you can’t expect your baby to have a sleep schedule at this age.

Throughout infancy, tummy time is extremely important to a baby’s development, so be sure to put your little one on their tummy whenever you get a chance! By the time they’re two months old, they should be lifting their head and turning it to the side. On their back, they might wave their arms and legs around and start to follow an object or person with their eyes.

You might start hearing those sweet “coos” at this age. This is their first communication with you! Soak it up, and expect those adorable little smiles soon.

Month 3-4: Building Connections

As babies enter their third and fourth months, they become more alert and start to engage with their surroundings and caregivers.

Smiling and Interaction: Around the third month, many babies begin to smile responsively, especially in response to their parent's faces or voices. This is a crucial social milestone, demonstrating their growing awareness of the world around them. Breastfed babies might continue to use breastfeeding as a source of comfort and security during these interactions.

Holding a toy and adorable giggles are the hallmark milestones at this age. And while your baby won’t sleep as much as they did in the newborn stage, they’ll still be logging between 12 and 17 hours of sleep each day, and you’ll start to notice wake windows getting longer.

Month 5-6: Physical Development

Around the fifth and sixth months, babies start to gain more control over their bodies, leading to exciting changes in their behaviour.

Rolling Over: Babies typically begin to roll over and sit up with assistance during this period. You'll watch them happily pass a toy from one hand to the other, and they will LOVE to see themselves in a mirror.

Communication really starts to explode around this age, and you’ll start to hear them making intentional sounds like ‘da’ or ‘ga.’

Between 4 and 6 months is the perfect time to introduce solid foods into your baby's feeding routine. By now, breastfeeding is well established, so you might struggle with how to introduce solids into the mix. Check out our blog post to learn more about introducing solids (which is a HUGE milestone for your little one!).

Your baby might have a solid sleep schedule these days. Your baby is likely getting 2-3 naps up to two hours each. They might have stretches of up to six hours of sleep each night! Some babies might sleep through the night, but it’s not uncommon for your baby to still wake up to breastfeed during the night.

Month 7-8: Exploring the World

At this stage, babies become more mobile and curious, which significantly influences their interactions with the environment.

Sitting Up: Many babies start to sit up with support or on their own during these months. This newfound mobility can lead to a sense of independence, but babies may still use breastfeeding or their bottle as a source of comfort and reassurance.

Your baby might be trying to chew, which means they’re ready for larger pieces of table foods! They’re probably also mastering their pincer grasp, which is picking up a piece of food using their index finger and thumb.

You’ll notice your little one loves to explore books (especially trying to chew at the corners or rip the pages). They will look for people when prompted. For example, if you say, "Where's Mum?" They might look around to find her.

These milestones set the stage for some major physical and cognitive milestones you can expect in the next several months.

Month 9-10: Cognitive Development

Crawling: Around the nine to ten-month mark, babies often begin to crawl. This newfound mobility allows them to explore their surroundings more actively. For breastfed babies, crawling might temporarily take a back seat during breastfeeding sessions, but they may become more independent in managing these transitions.

About 75% of babies sleep through the night, starting around nine months of age. Don’t be alarmed if your little one is still waking during the night. Some babies wake up during the night for comfort or milk until well after their first birthday. Your baby will likely have transitioned from three to two naps daily, making your schedule much more predictable.

Month 11-12: Preparing for Toddlerhood

As your baby approaches their first birthday, they are on the brink of toddlerhood. Their milestones during this period reflect their readiness to take on new challenges.

First Steps: Some babies may take their first steps around their first birthday. This is a significant physical milestone, so you can expect your baby to be extra fussy or have trouble sleeping during this big one!

If your baby isn’t walking yet, they probably pull themselves up, stand unassisted for a few seconds, or even cruise along furniture. All of these are great steps towards their first steps!

Your baby will start to make more meaningful and intentional sounds at this age, saying "mama," "dada," and others! They will point to objects and respond to their name as they reach one year old.

On their first birthday, your (almost) toddler will probably still be taking two naps during the day. But they'll be ready to transition to one nap in the next few months. Look for signs that your toddler is ready to make this change.

Breastfed Babies and Milestones

Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in a baby's life, not only for nutrition but also for emotional comfort and bonding. Breastfed babies may exhibit unique behaviours during milestones due to the comfort and security they associate with breastfeeding:

Consistent Feeding Patterns: Breastfed babies may maintain a relatively consistent feeding pattern during milestones, seeking nourishment and comfort from breastfeeding. This can be particularly noticeable when they are tired or stressed.

Breastfeeding as a Source of Comfort: Breastfeeding often provides comfort and security for babies during moments of uncertainty or discomfort, even as they reach milestones. This can be seen in their preference for breastfeeding when they are tired or overwhelmed.

Independence and Breastfeeding: As babies gain more independence during milestones like crawling or walking, they may temporarily reduce their breastfeeding frequency. However, they often return to breastfeeding for comfort and reassurance.

Sleep and Milestones: Breastfed babies may experience changes in their sleep patterns during milestones. They might wake more frequently or have difficulty falling asleep due to the excitement and cognitive development associated with reaching new milestones.

Supporting Babies During Milestones

Supporting babies during their developmental milestones is crucial for their well-being and emotional security. Here are some tips for parents:

Be Patient: Understand that feeding might become more frequent during milestones, and your baby may seek extra comfort. Be patient and responsive to their needs.

Provide a Safe Environment: As your baby becomes more mobile, create a safe space for exploration.

Maintain a Routine: Consistency can be comforting for babies. Stick to a regular feeding and sleeping routine to help your baby feel secure during milestones.

Seek Support: Don't hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant or healthcare provider if you have concerns about milestones. They can offer guidance and reassurance.

Celebrate Achievements: Celebrate your baby's milestones with enthusiasm and encouragement. Your positive reinforcement can boost their confidence as they explore the world around them.

The first year of a baby's life is a remarkable journey filled with incredible growth and development. While babies may display unique behaviours during milestones, it's essential to remember that every baby is different. Providing love, support, and a nurturing environment is crucial to helping your baby thrive during this exciting period. As you witness your little one's milestones, cherish the moments of breastfeeding as they continue to be a source of comfort and bonding throughout the first year and beyond.

Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational purposes and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider for specific concerns about your baby's development and breastfeeding journey.

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