Every time I mention developmental milestones to weary, sleep deprived parents, I see them cringe; usually, because these ‘milestones’ generally equate to irritability, sleep regression, and heightened clinginess (aka a parental nightmare).
But these times are also an essential period of great growth, development, maturity, and learning cool new skill sets which form the foundations for all physical capabilities, social interactions, and intellect for later life.
The first 12-24 months and beyond is a time of constant evolution, and although your baby is learning all the time, from my experience, the common ages (and milestones) affecting sleep and behaviour are as follows:
- Growth spurts: your baby will have their initial growth spurt at between one to three weeks, and another between six and eight weeks.
- Catnapping is biological, lasting anywhere up to four to six months
- When cheek is touched, they will turn to the same side to suckle.
- May smile between five and seven weeks (if not earlier).
- Can respond to sounds and may turn head toward noise.
- Mimics facial expressions and expresses emotions.
- By three months can laugh and coo out aloud.
- Lifts head when prone on tummy (between four and eight weeks).
- Kicks legs vigorously by two months.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on developmental stages: Mental leap 1 (four to five weeks), Mental leap 2 (eight weeks) and Mental Leap 3 (12 weeks).
- Awake time between 40 minutes (for a newborn) to 90 minutes (three months).
- Require between three to five naps per day, total of 16 to 18hrs sleep in a 24-hour period. Click here for average sleep requirements by age.
- Alertness increases significantly as the fourth trimester draws to an end. As a result, babies may become more distracted during feed times, so many parents may notice their child wakes more frequently overnight for feeds to compensate.
- You can anticipate the infamous four-month sleep regression.
- Awake time between 90 minutes and two hours.
- Catnapping may persist up to six months as daytime sleep patterns are usually the last to be established. However, catnapping beyond six to seven months may highlight the need to address a change to the sleep environment, assess nutrition intake and/or routine.
- Teething symptoms can begin. The first tooth generally cuts between six and seven months.
- They can express emotions, recognise people, faces and voices.
- Their motor control and strength becomes more defined – reaching for objects, holding their head up, sitting up with support.
- May start rolling – which means transitioning from the swaddle.
- May sit up whilst supported.
- Introduce solid foods.
- Sleep habits may start to impact on self-settling and sleep ability, hence the importance of introducing a consistent day and night routine and sleeping environment.
- Separation anxiety can start as early as six months coinciding with the development of object permanence.
- Growth spurt at six months can cause increased hunger, crankiness, and increased night waking.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on current developmental stages: Mental leap 4 (18 to 20 weeks/four to five months) and Mental leap 5 (six months).
- May have five to six hours of unbroken sleep at night.
- Drop from four naps to three naps at around four months of age.
- Separation anxiety can start as early as seven months.
- Awake time between two hours and 30 minutes to three hours.
- Most babies will have cut their first, or consecutive teeth.
- ‘Fear of missing out’ peaks, which translates to increased difficulty sleeping in car or pram when away from home.
- Can sit up unsupported.
- Begin crawling.
- Start babbling, or may say some words.
- Fine motor control development – picking up and grasping objects, may attempt to feed themselves.
- Standing with support.
- Walking by holding on to your hands or the furniture.
- Uses pointing or gestures to communicate what she or she wants.
- More substantial solids; meat, grains, pasta, dairy, wholefoods etc.
- Growth spurt at nine months can cause increased hunger, crankiness, and increased night waking.
- Nightmares can start as early as nine months.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on current developmental stage: Mental leap 6 (eight to nine months).
- May have seven to 10 hours of unbroken sleep at night.
- Drop from three naps to two naps at nine months of age.
- Separation anxiety peaks between 10 and 18 months, and can ‘come and go’ up to age of two years.
- Awake time between three hours and 30 minutes to four hours.
- Cruising, walking, or taking first steps.
- Can say some words.
- Can understand some simple instructions such as ‘give me the cup’ or ‘put the cup down’ if you show them what you want.
- Begins to link words with their meanings e.g. may recognise words like ball or teddy and look for these if you name them.
- Fine motor control develops further, and they will probably use their fingers to feed himself at most meals, and can hold a crayon to scribble.
- Most babies are eating the same foods as the family.
- Parents may notice changes to behaviour – i.e. tantrums. These connection tools can help parents understand and support their children’s emotions, and minimise sleep regression at these times.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on current developmental stages: Mental leap 7 (10 to 11 months) and Mental leap 8 (12 to 13 months).
- Capable of sleeping 10 to 12 hours overnight, but may still wake overnight.
- Two naps are still recommended.
- Walking without assistance.
- Separation anxiety.
- Awake time between four to five hours.
- Self-feeds with fingers and utensils.
- Imitates others.
- Likes to play games.
- Can identify one body part when prompted – e.g. “Show me your nose! Where’s your nose?”.
- Can follow easy instructions.
- Uses walker/push- and pull-toys correctly.
- Temper tantrums usually in full swing. These connection tools can help parents understand and support their children’s emotions, and minimise sleep regression at these times.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on current developmental stages: Mental leap 8 (12-13 months) and Mental leap 9 (14-15 months).
- Capable of sleeping 11-12hrs overnight.
- Drop from 2 naps to 1 between 14 months and 18 months.
- Flips through books by himself/studies pages/pictures.
- Separation anxiety.
- Displays more independence with daily tasks.
- Tantrums continue.
- Awake time increases up to six hours.
- Scribbles/doodles skillfully.
- Can form simple two-word sentences.
- Can brush teeth with your help.
- Can toss a ball overhand.
- Can take apart and put together toys.
- May be ready for toilet training/shows interest in going on the potty.
- Refer to the Wonder Weeks for further information on current developmental stages: Mental leap 10 (17-18 months).
- Capable of sleeping 11 to 12 hours overnight.
- Usually consistently on one nap per day.
Click here for a comprehensive (printable) guide to developmental milestones from 0-6 years. Trust in your child’s ability and natural progression; all babies are individuals, and will have their own unique inborn timeline. They will be capable of achieving each milestone as they are ready to, with limited parental intervention. Of course, if you are concerned about your child’s progression, consult your healthcare professional.
EFFECTS ON SLEEP:
Sleep regression is extremely common at these times – lasting anywhere between two to six weeks or more. Some changes you may notice with sleeping patterns include:
- Catnapping or shorter naps than usual.
- Difficulty resettling at naps and bedtime.
- Heightened irritability, fussiness or crying.
- Increased behavioral difficulties: tantrums, off-track behaviour and aggression.
- General unsettledness or wakefulness at sleep times.
- Bedtime resistance.
- Waking themselves up rolling in the crib (four to seven months).
- Standing up, sitting, or kneeling in their crib or jumping up and down (eight months onward).
- Increased intervention required from a caregiver to fall asleep, or back to sleep.
- Separation anxiety
- Frequent night waking – specifically after midnight.
- Wakefulness, unsettledness or hyperactivity in the early hours of the morning (commonly between 1:00 am to 5:00 am).
- Early rising.
- Optimise the sleep environment; particularly a warm, dark room that is free from distractions. White noise can also muffle any outside or household noises which may otherwise keep your child awake and wired at these times.
- Implement an age-appropriate routine to minimise overtiredness.
- Swaddle young babies for sleep times, especially four months and under.
- Be responsive to your child’s sleep cues. Because children are more easily overstimulated at times of developmental change, you may temporarily schedule their awake time slightly earlier e.g. by 10 to 15 minutes.
- Download the Wonder weeks for further insight on your child’s current developmental stage, and how you can best support them during these times of growth.
- Encourage wind-down time and positive sleep associations before sleep times. E.g. 10 to 15 minutes before naps, and 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Quality one-on-one time and promoting laughter through play builds connection and safety, and encourages the release of tension and frustrations. This is essential for sound sleep at times of change and unfamiliarity. If quality time is currently a part of your daily routine, you may try temporarily increasing the length of time spent to help your child adjust to any change with greater ease e.g. from 10 minutes to 15 or 20.
- Allow your child to offload their all-consuming feelings of frustration and exhaustion. It is not uncommon to experience improved sleep, and noticeable progress in developmental ability as an outcome. Remember; what goes in (e.g. frustrations, hurts and disappointments experienced in the present moment) must go out (i.e. emotional release such as crying, trembling and tantrums). Helping your child to release their feelings by day is preferable to most parents than assisting them to do so overnight (i.e. night terrors, disturbed sleep, screaming and nightmares).
Above all, try to remain patient, kind and sensitive to your baby’s needs. Extra cuddles will make them feel loved and secure….And know that this too shall pass!
TIP: Be sure to rule out any medical reasons for frequent wakings, fussiness, or change in sleep patterns first and foremost before following the recommendations mentioned above, or embarking on a new sleep routine/program.
Every child reaches milestones at an individual pace. For any concerns regarding your child’s development, contact your healthcare professional.