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First Year Developmental Milestones

What to Expect the First Year: A Guide to Developmental Milestones

The range of development during baby's first year of life is a vast one, and all children progress at different rates. However, most pediatricians (including the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control) agree on general benchmarks to help new parents manage expectations. While your Instagram feed might feature the monumental moments (crawling! first words! walking!), there's a whole lot more that goes on in the first 12 months of life "behind the scenes." We've outlined the basics according to the AAP and CDC below, as broken down into the categories of physical development, social and emotional skills, and cognitive or sensory milestones.

As with any medical or developmental issue involving your child, consult your pediatrician directly with any concerns. Aside from parents, they know your baby best, and can guide you in the right direction. In the meantime, here's what to look for as your new arrival makes it through their action-packed first year of life.

0-3 Months


  • Raises head and chest while on stomach
  • Arm and leg movements smooth out
  • Stretches and kicks while on back
  • Opens and shuts hands, and bring hands to mouth
  • Grasps and shakes toys


  • Begins to develop social smile
  • Can briefly calm themself (may self-soothe by putting hands in mouth)
  • Becomes more communicative and expressive with both face and body
  • Enjoys playing with people
  • Imitates some movements and expressions
  • Coos and gurgles
  • Begins to act bored (cries or becomes fussy) if activity doesn't change


  • Follows moving objects with his/her eyes and turns head toward sounds
  • Recognizes familiar objects and people from a distance, and tries to look at parents
  • Improved hand-eye coordination
  • Prefers sweet smells, and soft sensations

4-7 Months


  • Holds head without support
  • Rolls in both directions
  • Sits with and without support of hands
  • Supports whole weight on legs, might bounce
  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
  • Reaches with one hand, and can transfer objects between hands
  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows


  • Increased enjoyment of social play — may cry when playtime stops
  • Interest in mirror images
  • Increased responsiveness to expressions of emotions, may mimic movements and facial expressions
  • Begins to babble and copy sounds — babbling may include stringing together of vowels "ah," "eh," "oh," and early "m" and "b" sounds
  • Responds to own name
  • Different cries for hunger, pain, tiredness
  • Appears joyful often, smiles spontaneously

Cognitive Thinking

  • Can find a partially hidden object
  • Explores with hands and mouth
  • Struggles to get objects that are out of reach
  • Uses hands together (can see a toy and reach for it)
  • Carefully focuses on moving objects

8-12 Months


  • Can get into a sitting position without help
  • Crawls on belly
  • Assumes hand-and-knees positions
  • Can transition from sitting to crawling position
  • Pulls up to standing position
  • Walks holding onto furniture
  • Picks up small objects using thumb and index finger


  • Exhibits signs of shyness or anxiousness with strangers
  • Cries when parents leave, and may cling to familiar adults
  • Enjoys imitating people in play
  • Shows preference toward specific people and toys
  • Tests parental responses
  • Finger-feeds himself

Cognitive Thinking

  • Explores objects in different ways
  • Finds hidden objects easily, plays peek-a-boo
  • Looks at correct picture when image is named, uses finger to point to things
  • Imitates gestures and sounds, uses simple gestures like head-shaking or waving
  • Begins to use objects correctly
  • Understands "no" and responds to simple verbal requests
  • Begins to drink out of a cup, brush hair
  • Plays peek-a-boo

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