When you are a new mom, it is so easy to get so wrapped up on what everyone says your baby should be doing. “By 3 months, your baby should be trying to hold up their head.” “Babies love tummy time!” “Baby should be starting to babble and talk to you by 4 months.”
There is all this information out there. As a new parent, you use these charts and these milestones to let you know your baby is normal and on the right track. I think along the way, we forget that our babies are little people and they will progress at a speed that feels right to them.
Think about how you learn. Chances are, your baby will learn similarly to them. Are you the kind of person that will get something if someone maneuvers you into the position? If someone repeats something over and over? If you see someone else do it?
Not everything just comes. We all learn in different ways, and not all brains are wired to take on new tasks and skills the same way, yet we expect our babies to all fall under these cookie cutter milestone charts. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from a worried mom, comparing her baby to the charts and to other babies their age.
I always ask the same questions. “Does your baby get to interact with other babies?” Do you have pets that they watch and may try to mimic?” How much time a day do you spend with your baby trying to teach them something new? How do you try and teach them?”
There are so many things that come into play. My daughter didn’t really start to thrive until I put her in a situation with other babies. I noticed how she would watch them, how fascinated she was and how when we got home, she would suddenly be trying all these new things, saying new words, suddenly grasping what I had been trying to teach her.
I should have noticed this a while ago.
She mimics a lot of our dog, Toby’s behaviour. She licks the play mat, she growls and grunts, she goes after a ball and will follow it with her eyes and excitement if you move it in front of her.
Because they are relatively the same size and are always on the floor together, so to her, they are similar. That and the fact that the interaction with him is so different from the interaction with mom and dad, just like interacting with a new baby is different. Putting your baby in situations where they can see someone else doing the things you want them to do, is definitely beneficial.
However, bear in mind, some babies just bypass certain milestones altogether. There have been a number of mommies that I have spoken to that have told me their babies didn’t crawl until after they were already walking. This seems most common in babies that walk earlier. Which makes sense because if your baby is spending all this time learning to walk, they jump over crawling and erase that safety net that brings with it some of the hesitations they have towards walking.
My daughter hates the idea of being on her knees, yet she tries to pull herself up to her feet every opportunity she gets. She loved to grab onto things, support her weight and just stand there. When she is not standing on her own, she likes to have either my husband or me standing with her, supporting her while she takes those wobbly steps forward.
Every time I speak to my In-Laws, they ask me if she is crawling yet. It seems to be a common question being asked because of my daughter’s age. I am coming to realize that just because the milestones are common, doesn’t mean your baby will ever meet them. And not meeting those milestones, doesn’t necessarily mean anything in regards to your baby’s overall development.
My nephew never crawled. He went straight from sitting to walking. The being said, I can pull up videos of him having perfectly clear conversations with me when he was two. I have videos of him reciting from memory about twenty different species of sharks (as this was his obsession when he was younger). Although in those months when he was making no attempt to crawl, some doctors would have pushed more tummy time or given tips on how to get him moving.
Milestones are the guidelines we use to measure our baby’s development. They tell us whether or not our baby is ‘on track’. That being said, I know a handful of babies that met all these milestones but are still behind are certain things, whose words are still muffled and they are struggling with potty training. I know babies that didn’t meet milestones and leapt over all the other difficult things with ease. And I also know babies who met every milestone exactly when the guidelines said they should have and they are exactly where they are supposed to be.
So what does that mean?
It means that babies are people, and they will grow and learn at their own pace when they are ready. Not meeting milestones doesn’t mean your baby isn’t developing. Meeting every milestone doesn’t mean you have the next Albert Einstein, and being all over the milestone map doesn’t mean your baby won’t be the next Einstein.
My advice is just to sit back, do your best to stimulate your baby’s mind without pushing them to meet the milestones. If they meet them, that’s wonderful, if they don’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t just enjoy these moments with your baby.
Babies grow so fast, and before you know it, you will be looking at a teenager and you won’t have a single thought about whether they crawled when they were supposed to, whether they babbled enough, or what milestones they met when.
Throw away the map, forget where you are supposed to be, and just enjoy the ride of being a parent!