The Sweetest Baby Milestones (and When to Expect Them)

All milestones in your baby's first year are special, but some are especially sweet. Find out when to expect these cute baby milestones and what they mean for your child's growth.

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When you hear "baby milestones," you probably think of the developmental milestones a pediatrician checks off on your child's health record, like rolling over, first steps, and first words. But the cute tricks your child suddenly springs on you are equally good evidence that their mind and body are growing fast.

Here's a timeline of milestones for some of those "grab-the-camera" moments and what they say about your baby's growth and development.

Newborn to 8 Months OId

Your baby's first eight months are full of lots of firsts! From smiling and laughing to eating their feet, here are some sweet things to expect.

Smiling

1 1/2 to 2 months

What parents could possibly forget the first time their infant intentionally flashes a gummy grin? Of course, these "social smiles" (as opposed to the fleeting grimaces infants make when they're gassy) are heartwarming. But they're also a sign that the parts of your baby's brain that control eyesight and muscle movements are booting up.

A smile also shows off your child's newfound social savvy. They're starting to understand the positive emotions a happy face conveys—and that making one can get them plenty of attention. So encourage them by smiling at them as often as you can and, of course, acting surprised and pleased when they smile back.

Laughing

3 to 6 months

Laughter is instinctive, but it's also something your baby has to learn. By this age, they've heard other people laughing many times, and they've gained enough control over their vocal cords to realize it's something they can do too.

Don't be surprised if they laugh like Flipper at first, making a staccato "heh-heh-heh" and then a high-pitched squeak as they inhale. The reason: Their larynx is still small and floppy, and they don't have good control over it. Savor this ultra-cute phase while it lasts because, by their first birthday, their laugh will sound much more like your own.

Blowing raspberries

4 to 6 months

If you're like most parents, you're looking forward to your baby's first words almost as much as you looked forward to their birth. So pay attention: An infant's first communication starts much earlier than you may think.

"One of the first forms of communication is 'blowing raspberries,'" says speech-language pathologist Amy Chouinard, M.A., CCC-SLP, co-author of Let's Talk Together: Home Activities for Early Speech & Language Development. "It shows the child is experimenting with his mouth, which goes hand in hand with speech development."

According to Chouinard, not all babies will blow raspberries. Yet those who do "blow bubbles" and display other complex mouth movements like licking their lips tend to pick up language more quickly as toddlers, a 2006 study found.

"So get close to your baby's face and blow raspberries at him," Chouinard advises. "When you do this, your baby will try to imitate you." Blowing raspberries will encourage them to try other sounds, which is great practice for forming consonants, vowels, and—eventually—words.

Eating their feet

4 to 8 months

Sooner or later, you'll probably find your baby happily sucking on their toes. While it might be a strange sight, it's an important milestone. Their hands aren't very coordinated yet, but they're eager to learn more about the objects around them. So, babies explore things by putting them in their mouths—including their own feet, once they've found them.

Besides promoting body awareness, toe-sucking is satisfying and soothing to your little one. So don't discourage it; this phase generally passes on its own. Also, don't be concerned if they never do this trick—not all babies do.

8 to 12 Months Old

From 8 months through 1 year, your baby is hitting lots of physical and emotional milestones. They will likely begin to mimic you and demonstrate attachment to people and things.

Brushing their hair or teeth

8 to 10 months

Imitation is one of the best ways for your child to learn about the world. Now that they can grab things, they're bound to try to use some of your stuff. Your baby's fine motor control isn't developed enough to let them do delicate tasks, but they can hold your comb or brush up to their hair and try to drag it through their fuzzy mop.

If they can get their hands on a toothbrush, your baby may attempt to give their gums and teeth a once-over too. In fact, they may scour their mouth for hours once they realize how good the bristles feel on their gums. Be careful: Their grand finale may be to throw the toothbrush into the toilet.

Wanting a lovey

10 to 12 months

Not every baby becomes attached to a lovey or comfort object, but many do around this time. You may have to lug a stuffed teddy along on every outing.

Grin and, uh, bear it. Your baby is mastering a few milestones that bring significant changes right now, like learning to cruise and taking their first steps—away from you. As a result, they're bound to feel insecure sometimes, which is where their comfort object—whether it's a stuffed animal, blankie, or cloth diaper—comes in. Its cuddliness reminds them of the affection they get from you. It also gives your child something to hold onto, literally, as they face up to the new challenges in life.

Blowing kisses

10 to 12 months

You've sent plenty of smooches your baby's way. Now they may blow one back. Being able to bring their hand to their mouth is a major development. At birth, your baby's arm muscles were contracted, and their hands were in fists. But by about 8 months, everything has loosened up enough so they can hold a bottle. Now their control's so good that they can put their palm to their lips and flick it away with bravado.

There's more: Your growing baby is showing that they like giving affection—a sign of healthy emotional development. Try saying "Blow a kiss!" and see whether they do it; if they do, they have a great understanding of spoken language.

12 to 18 Months Old

As your baby hits the 1-year-old mark and beyond, they will begin moving their body and exploring fun games. This is an endearing time, so enjoy these firsts from 1 year to 18 months.

Playing peekaboo

12 to 15 months

You've probably been trying to play peekaboo for months—first to blank stares, then to polite "I'll humor you" smiles. But things are about to change: Your child will eventually join in, or even start, the game.

It's more than mere imitation: Your baby is learning about "object permanence." Before, if something was out of sight, it was out of mind, too; babies think it simply ceases to exist. Now, if something suddenly disappears—say it's you, ducking around the corner of the couch—they wonder where it's gone and try to find it. Popping out and gently saying "boo!" will give your child a thrill at this age.

Going bottoms up

13 to 15 months

Why do toddlers sometimes put their hands on the ground, then look upside down through their legs? Their balance becomes much more refined as they master the whole walking thing. It's interesting to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways. A topsy-turvy look at the world stimulates their visual development too. Then there's also the most important reason: It's fun.

Dancing

14 to 16 months

Don't expect to see the moonwalk or the Macarena just yet. Actually, the most your child will probably do is bop up and down while keeping their feet planted on the ground. They may even hold onto a chair or your legs for support. But as they rock out, they're showing off their growing motor skills and ability to pick up the pattern of the music's beat. So dance along to encourage them.

Hugging and kissing

16 to 18 months

Your baby may have thrown their arms around you before or kissed you on command. But now, they may toddle over on their own to give you a hug and kiss for no reason—or so it seems.

As your little one starts exploring the world, they can sometimes feel torn. One part of them wants to be fiercely independent; the other part wants reassurance that you are still there. So the best thing to do is also the easiest: Hug them right back.

Sources: James Gaylord, M.D., and Michelle Hagan, M.D., co-authors, Your Baby's First Year for Dummies; Alan Rosenblatt, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrician in Chicago.

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