There’s no manual to becoming a parent. Sometimes your baby or toddler will do things that seem odd – like eating dog food or crawling backwards. Here’s a short guide to what to expect in the first few years, and who can help when you’re not sure.
A child goes through a few key phases of development in their early years – from helpless newborns to rambunctious toddlers. Rather than measuring each child by milestones, it’s important to remember that every child will develop at their own pace. However, certain physical, emotional and mental abilities are signs that your child is entering a new phase.
First few months
In the first few months, a baby will generally start to smile, reach for objects, and be able to raise their head and chest when they’re laying down on their stomachs. In this stage, it’s normal for them to sleep with their eyes open. It may seem odd, but it’s perfectly normal.
Next few months
After a few months, a baby will start to work out how to use their hands and voices. They’ll be getting stronger, so they can sit without support and have greater control of their heads. It’s normal for some babies to be louder and cry more than others. Regular and excessive outbursts could indicate they’re in pain, but maybe not - all babies experience frustration differently. If they go through spells of calm before the emotional storm, then it could just be their temperament. However, if they never seem to settle then it’s a good idea to talk to a health professional.
After the first six months
It’s around this time that a baby will start responding to familiar words, like their name. They’ll also become more mobile – even if it means just rolling backwards and forwards for a few months. It’s normal for babies to crawl backwards. In the beginning, their arms will be stronger than their legs. It’s natural for them to use their arms more than their legs as they explore the space around them.
One year olds
Physical growth will not be as fast as it is with infants, but emotional and social development will start to ramp up. Many one year olds can walk, and they’ll want to do things independently. They may have rapid mood shifts and temper tantrums. These are all normal as the baby starts to understand that they can manipulate the world around them. They may also want to drink the bathwater — it won’t hurt them. They’ll be getting better at feeding themselves, so bath time can be a good opportunity to help them practice drinking from a plastic cup filled with water from the tap.
Two year olds
Most two-year old toddlers can run, walk, climb and jump. They’ll also enjoy being naked and will start to show an interest in toilet training. They may also want to eat the dog’s food – it’s all normal and part of them exploring the world.
Where to go for help
Every question you have is a good and valid one. Your GP is there to help, but if you can’t get in to see them you could also try your local pharmacist, children’s hospital, a medical clinic or a home-visiting doctor service.