10 baby skills to look out for

Discover the key developments to watch out for in your little one.


No matter how laidback we try to be, we’re all secretly obsessed with our babies’ development. After all, it’s only natural to want to know if your tot is hitting his targets and developing as well as his friends (Competitive? Us?), and it’s easy to worry if your baby seems to be falling behind in some areas. To put your mind at rest, here’s our guide to the milestones that really matter, and when your little one should reach them.

1. Tracking a moving object

Babies have pretty poor eyesight at birth, but even newborns will gaze at your face while you feed them. Your little one’s ability to focus continues to develop over the coming months.

If your baby has problems focusing and tracking a moving object at 6 weeks, this could indicate sight difficulties or a general developmental delay. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

2. Head control

Some babies will be able to hold their head up for a couple of seconds, even as newborns. Others take a little longer, but by 3 months, most can lift their heads while lying on their front. Babies with muscle problems or developmental disorders are unable to lift their heads.

Head control is a skill that needs practice. It’s important to let him have supervised tummy time while he’s awake to strengthen his neck and arm muscles.

3. Cooing

Between 3 and 5 months, your baby should start cooing, using mainly vowel sounds, and show an interest
in communicating with you. By 6 months, most will have mastered some consonant sounds, such as “bah” and “gah”, and relish the chance to test their lungs. But if your little one isn’t cooing by about 5 months, it could be a sign of hearing difficulties.

4. Holding an object

Put a toy into your newborn’s chubby little fist and he’ll cling to it for dear life but, at this stage, holding on to an object is an involuntary reflex.

Between 5 and 8 months, he will learn to pick up an object, hold it, put it in his mouth and transfer it from hand to hand. This is a voluntary action, rather than a reflex, so it’s a sign his brain is starting to coordinate his movements.

At about 9 months, he’ll learn how to drop what he’s holding, and so starts the oh-so-entertaining game of throwing toys out of the highchair, then screeching until you give them back.

5. Sitting unaided

Sitting unsupported is one of the first signs your baby is making the big leap from helpless newborn to independent little person - a bittersweet milestone.

If he’s not sitting on his own by 8 months, it may indicate a problem with his muscle strength and tone. Like head control, sitting is something that needs practice. Your baby simply won’t get the hang of it if he spends all day lying flat on his back. Try surrounding him with cushions so he gets used to a stable sitting position and develops his balance. But avoid baby walkers, which force him into an unnatural standing position.

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