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Watching your baby transition from a tiny newborn to a full-fledged toddler can be thrilling yet somewhat overwhelming. Infant milestones, from the first smile to the first step, bring both pride and anxiety for new parents, who often compare these moments to standard age ranges for development.

Keeping a monthly record of your baby’s milestones is an intelligent way to monitor their progress and ensure they acquire essential skills. But what exactly do these monthly milestones signify, and why are they crucial?

For paediatricians, these milestones serve as valuable indicators of typical or atypical development. When they fall outside the normal range, it may signal underlying issues, offering a chance for early detection and intervention if necessary. According to Dr Ana Maria Velasco Bolanos, Specialist Paediatrician at Aster Royal Clinic, Downtown & Arabian Ranches, developmental milestones encompass the expected skills, abilities, and behaviours children usually achieve at specific ages.

These milestones are typically divided into three main areas: physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Monitoring them is vital for tracking progress, establishing realistic expectations, tailoring support and activities, and building a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Dr Velasco Bolanos says, “Some developmental delays can hint at special needs or disabilities. Meeting developmental milestones often lays the foundation for acquiring new skills.”

Red flags to watch

Dr Ignatius Edwin D’Souza, a consultant paediatrician and specialist clinical associate professor at Thumbay University Hospital, highlights the importance of closely observing potential developmental delays in children. Physical delays, such as difficulties achieving motor milestones like sitting up or crawling, may indicate underlying challenges. Cognitive impairments could manifest as a lack of curiosity, difficulty comprehending and following directions, or struggles in solving simple problems. Language delays might show up as limited babbling, speech difficulties, or difficulties expressing ideas. Dr D’Souza adds, “Social and emotional delays may be signalled by challenges in maintaining eye contact, engaging in play, managing emotions, or exhibiting appropriate social behaviours. Paying attention to signs like monotonous play and language delays is crucial for early detection.”

Myths and the role of paediatricians

Caring for a baby is already a demanding task, and monitoring developmental milestones can be another challenge. Online forums, news stories, and well-meaning loved ones often add confusion with questionable information and advice. Dr Velasco Bolanos helps dispel common milestone myths and emphasises the role of paediatricians in promoting better understanding.

Dr Velasco Bolanos points out that parents often compare their children to others and that paediatricians can educate them about the normal range of development, emphasising that children develop at different rates. Setting realistic expectations and providing reassurance are essential roles paediatricians play. Additionally, some parents may prioritise early academic skills, but healthcare professionals stress the importance of a holistic approach to development, including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional aspects. “They can provide resources and suggestions for activities that support well-rounded growth,” says Dr Velasco Bolanos. “Parents may hesitate to acknowledge potential delays due to fear or denial, and doctors play a crucial role in early identification, offering open communication and resources for evaluation and intervention.”

What parents can do

Dr D’Souza suggests using engaging toys and activities that encourage discovery to enhance a child’s developmental progress. Combined with outdoor activities, reading, and conversations that emphasise language development, this can significantly improve physical growth. Establishing consistent eating, playing, and sleeping schedules helps maintain stability and foster healthy growth. “Limiting mobile device screen time is crucial, as excessive use can impact language and social development,” says Dr D’Souza. “Encouraging group play activities can promote social interaction and critical social skills. Finally, parents can boost their child’s motivation and confidence by offering compliments and words of encouragement.”