During your baby’s first year they will grow at an astonishing rate. It is the fastest they will ever grow in their entire life. On average, by your baby’s first birthday, they will have tripled their birth weight and gone through ten major development milestones known as “leaps.” That’s a lot of learning and growing! These spurts in growth can cause some temporary personality changes in your little one, too. Some of the most common signs your baby is going through a developmental leap are crying and fussiness, sleep regressions, and separation anxiety. Change can be scary for babies, so during these important growing phases, remember to reassure your baby that they are safe. With so many important changes happening in the first year, we are going to break it down into two articles. Today, we will discuss developmental leaps 1-5 and talk about how and when your baby grows!
Leap #1: New Sensations
During your baby’s first few weeks of life, they experience the outside world much like they experienced the inside world. Sounds are muffled, their sight is blurred, and their senses are focused on survival (aka, trying to find food). But around week 5, your baby will begin to develop a deeper awareness of the world in which they have been living. You may notice your baby is suddenly wide-eyed about everything. Indulge their curiosity.
Leap #2: Recognizing Patterns
Pattern recognition begins around week 8 and involves more than just their sight. While visual patterns can be endlessly entertaining for your little one, they are also taking note of physical patterns, too. Patterns in sound (like singing), patterns in touch (like water during bath time), or patterns in movement (like how they can move their hands) are all important to your baby’s development. During this time you may notice your baby swiping or kicking more often. Another sign they have reached this second leap is they may begin to vocalize – a lot.
Leap #3: Smooth Transitions
As you recall from developmental leap #2, your baby is discovering patterns in their movement. You may also notice a pattern in how they move: jerky, seemingly erratic, and comically cartoonish. But around week 12, your baby will gain better control over their arms and legs. Your baby’s reaching, kicking, grasping, etc. will become smoother and more intentional. But leap 3 transitions are more than just physical. During this time, your baby is experiencing more nuanced perceptions of the world around them. They can notice subtle changes in tone of voice, shifts in light, or a subtle breeze.
Leap #4: World of Events
As adults, we often take for granted what our brains do for us automatically. When we see someone jump, for example, we know they will come down because our brains understand cause and effect. And by around week 19, your baby will, too. Leap #4 is possibly one of the most intense developmental leaps your baby will make. Understanding cause and effect can (and most likely will) drastically change your baby’s behavior. You may notice they are becoming more vocal or fussy, and possibly a little more stubborn. Unfortunately, this is also around the time your baby will experience their first sleep regression. This happens for several reasons. One, they are excited to be learning new skills and are often too cognitively stimulated to want to sleep. And two, they understand now that when and if they cry, mom or dad will come to get them. It is also around this time we highly suggest implementing a sleep training strategy (we have doulas for that!). It is imperative for your baby to develop healthy sleep associations and self-soothing skills. Because this phase of your baby’s development builds the foundation for their sleep habits for the rest of their life.
Leap #5: World of Relationships
Around week 26, your baby will begin to understand their relationship to the world around them. This leap, too, can cause some behavioral changes in your baby. By this point, they are aware when things are uncomfortably close or frustratingly far. With this new understanding of distance, learning to move has become a top priority. You may notice your baby rolling, scooting, or even crawling. You may also notice they now scream their head off when you leave the room. This is because they don’t understand where you went. And they also understand they can’t go find you. This can be frightening for many babies and can be a frustrating time for many parents. But as with all leaps, this phase, too, shall pass.