The Most Asked Baby Question

play position for crawling development

As a pediatric physical therapist I get asked all of the time what should my baby be doing at [fill in the blank] month. It is on everyone’s mind and it can be confusing to sift through the information on the internet for this answer. Understanding motor milestones can give parents peace of mind on what their baby should be doing and what is coming next. This knowledge gives families the ability to set their little one’s up for success by knowing what to expect. 

We want to remove the guessing and uncertainty regarding a child’s motor development and allow for parents to play with their children with purpose. Most importantly, if you know what to expect you will have the advantage to recognize when something may be off and can seek assistance early! 

Sadly, like life, gross motor development is gray and not black and white. Each child develops differently and milestones should be seen as a guide but infant development is not a competition! So please try your best not to compare your infant’s skills to your sibling’s kids, the latest social media post, or your other child. Instead, use our tips below to promote development where your child is! Please know you are not alone on this amazing journey, we are here to help. 

Our hope is that after you read this article you will better understand an infant’s gross motor development in the first 6 months of life, how to help your kiddo engage in purposeful play to acquire their skills, and when to seek out assistance and why early intervention matters. The sooner you are able to jump-start your kiddos development, the better! 

What to Expect in The First 6 Months

To sum it up you should expect your kiddo to lift their head up when lying on their belly, press up on their arms on their belly, hold, then grasp objects, roll over, put their feet in their mouth, and start sitting! That is a lot in 6 months! So let’s break it down further. 

1st Month: 

  • Lifts head from surface and turns to other side when lying on belly

  • Arms and legs move randomly while lying on back 

  • Briefly tracks an object from the side to midline

  • Hands remain clenched

  • Sees black and white patterns 

  • Focuses 8-12 inches away

2nd Month:

  • Attempting to interact more with their environment, swiping at toys, and looking at facial expressions 

  • Beginning to track from the side to midline and back to the side 

  • Arms are starting to move away from their body more when they are on their back 

  • Legs are beginning to move through a variety of movements 

  • They will appear less curled up 

  • While lying on belly, they will briefly lift their head from the surface nearly 45 degrees

3rd Month:

  • Symmetry and midline orientation are beginning 

  • Visually tracking 180 degrees side to side and up 90 degrees while lying on their back

  • Can now consistently follow objects or faces while on their back

  • Hands are exploring their moth and clothing

  • Does not reach for objects but holds them 

  • Kicking is now more symmetrical and reciprocal 

  • Lifting their head and shoulders between 45-90 degrees from their surface, while on their belly

  • While on their belly they can track 180 degrees side to side with their head lifted from the surface 

  • Beginning to bear weight on their forearms with elbows in line with shoulders or in front of them 

4th Month: 

  • Period of symmetry and midline orientation

  • Bilateral symmetrical extremity movements dominate 

  • Beginning to bring their hands to their knees

  • Kicking their legs symmetrically or reciprocally 

  • Rolls from back to side

  • Able to raise their head and shoulders up 90 degrees from surface and hold up as long as they want, chin is tucked

  • Grasps objects with both hands

  • Hand-eye coordination begins

5th Month: 

  • Grasps feet and plays with them 

  • Brings feet to mouth 

  • Rolling from belly to back 

  • When rolling from their back to their side it is initiated with tucking their chin and reaching one hand across their body

  • Lifting head and neck from the surface when lying on their side

  • Beginning to bear weight on hands 

  • Practicing shifting their weight when on forearms 

  • Prop sitting is beginning, leaning forward with weight on hands 

  • Voluntarily grasps and holds objects

  • Can see across the room

6th Month: 

  • Grabs opposite foot 

  • Rolls back to belly and belly to back.

  • May start to transition from their belly onto their hands and knees 

  • Pivots on their belly 

  • Begins to sit without support

These points should give you a good idea of what to look for each month but again please remember that this list is an average of when a skill typically occurs and each child will have some individual variability in its development.

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    Why Early Intervention Matters

    Jump-starting your child’s intervention early is key. Medical research supports that early intervention correlates with increased likelihood of correcting and resolving all impairments. Research also shows greater confidence and ease from parents and caregivers with implementing exercises with their baby. With this ease, there is improved participation and compliance from the child, opportunity to prevent the progression or worsening of the condition which could otherwise lead to additional impairments, and preventing the potential need for more invasive intervention. 

    Additionally research indicates the above benefits correlate with shorter overall treatment duration and optimal treatment outcomes. For example, early intervention with effective physical therapy can prevent the possible need for a helmet to correct head shape or for the need for surgery to correct the muscle imbalance with torticollis. Some things you can look for to see if your child might need early intervention is if they demonstrate a preference to look one way, you see an area of flattening developing on their head, you see some asymmetry developing on their face or with their ears, you notice they are slow to acquire a new skill or the quality of the movement just looks off. Remember you know your child best and if something looks off or funny it may be and it is best to consult with a pediatric physical therapist that specializes in treating babies to have them perform an assessment to see what may be going on. 

    Summary

    Hopefully you now have a better understanding of:

    • What gross motor development looks like in the first 6 months of life
    • How to help promote your infant’s development
    • Why it is important to seek out help early if concerns are present

    Infant development is a marathon, not a sprint and the beginning skills lay the foundation for future skills. You are not alone on this journey we are here to help! You are doing an amazing job and your munchkin is so lucky to have you guide them. Some days will go better than others but stay consistent, take a deep breath, and keep going. 

    About Jump Start Physical Therapy and Training

    At Jump Start Physical Therapy and Training our mission is to educate, provide excellent care, and ultimately empower our parents to be our partners in their child’s care. We are building and supporting a community of strong, confident, and empowered parents to provide the tools, time, and space to allow their child to grow, develop, and explore with intention and safety. We are a concierge pediatric physical therapy practice in South Florida that provides in-home or place of choice, evidence-based physical therapy and wellness services to promote motor development in the environment the child is most comfortable. We also offer virtual wellness consultations to answer any questions you may have about your infant’s development, advice on your child’s progress, and to discuss the goals you want your kiddo to achieve. 

    If you have any questions please reach out to schedule a virtual wellness consultation by writing to [email protected].

    One Response

    1. This is so helpful. I am first time mom and really needed some guidance that is trustworthy versus looking through endless posts in google and not knowing whether or not I could trust the source. THANK YOU!

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