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Celebrity Health – Dr Sara Kayat

Dr Sara Kayat takes a look at some of the key milestones in the life of babies, and offers some tips for new parents

Image of Dr Sara Kayat: Clare Murthy

The first year of your baby's life is incredible and full of growth and development. There are many milestones along the way that mark these advancements, and observing and supporting these achievements as a parent is so fulfilling. Babies are all unique and may hit these milestones at different times, but it can be helpful to have a general framework. If you have any concerns regarding their milestones, you can discuss this with your health visitor or GP.

The milestones in these first moments may seem basic, but these instinctive reflexes play a crucial role in your baby's survival.

Tummy time can be started from birth. It is required to help them develop their neck and upper body muscles, but also gives the baby a different perspective. It is often easier to start them off by resting them on your chest and when they seem ready, migrating to the floor. Always watch your baby during tummy time. Gentle touch, massage and tickles are all ways to develop their sense of touch, and to offer a soothing way to bond. Their vision is still developing, but if you have any high-contrast (like black and white) images or objects, they may enjoy the patterns.

During the second and third months, the baby gains more strength in their neck and upper body muscles. They also become more socially responsive.

If you have a baby gym with hanging toys for your baby to reach out for and bat, this can be an easy way to get a few minutes of peace whilst still stimulating them. Develop their sense of hearing by playing music and dancing with them in your arms, or sing them a song. Shake rattles and show them how different objects make different sounds when you gently bang them.

Sit with them in front of a mirror, whilst they explore their reflection. Make faces, smile, poke out your tongue.

You can expect a significant leap in their motor skills as they reach this age, and as they explore their surroundings, they become increasingly interactive and expressive.

Pimp up tummy time by adding props like soft toys and textured cushions for them to reach out to and play with. Play peek-a-boo games to reinforce object permanence (but mainly because it makes them laugh). Read board books with simple pictures and bright colours. Baby sessions in the library are a fun way of exploring different books, with various pop-outs and textures.

Both improved physical stability and vocal abilities make these months fun to observe and encourage.

Sing interactive songs like Pat-a-Cake and Row Your Boat, and take turns clapping your hands and their hands together. Clapping requires fine-motor skills, muscle control and hand–eye coordination, so it can be a tricky milestone to achieve, but making it fun with songs can help. Give them a sensory ball to explore with their hands and mouth. Then roll it back and forth to encourage them to reach out for it and encourage crawling movements.

They really start to get more active from here on, and their mobility will be a new adventure.

Try finger painting with safe, non-toxic paints. I used blended beetroot to make a deep purple paint and added yoghurt to make it more pink.

Make an obstacle course in your living room out of cushions and boxes to encourage their mobility.

Use stacking cups or nesting boxes for tactile play and problem-solving and they inevitably bring a lot of joy when they are knocked down.

10–12 MONTHS
As the first year with your new addition comes to an end, they will discover a new sense of confidence and independence, and improved communication will bring deeper connections.

Explore nature with them, in the garden or in a park. Pick up leaves, scrunch them, watch ants crawl up trees and listen out for bird song. Puzzle play with shape sorters, building blocks and more complex stacking toys.

Understanding these milestones can help you set realistic expectations for your child's development, gauge your child's overall growth and functioning, and consider whether areas require extra attention.

Extracted from How to Have a Baby by Dr Sara Kayat. Published by Thorsons and available to buy now.

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