Your child will grow and learn more in their first 12 months than at any other time of their life. This is a period where they begin to make connections to the world around them and to their emotions. Physical developments can include laughing out loud and assisted walking. From four months on babies sleep less during the day and the majority of babies will start to sleep through the night by 6–8 months.
Some weeks you may see amazing changes and some weeks none. Don't worry; you'll no doubt soon see progress again. Remember that if your child has additional needs, they may take longer to achieve certain milestones.
During this period you have the opportunity to get advice and review your baby's health and development at seven of your 10 available Maternal and Child Health nurse appointments – a home visit when you first leave the hospital, at two, four and eight weeks and then at four, eight and 12 months of age.
To find out more about the Maternal and Child Health service, how it works and how to find your closest centre, see: Maternal and Child Health
What your child may be doing
At four months:
- showing good head control, lifting it up 90 degrees when on his or her tummy
- smiling and laughing out loud
- reaching out for objects
- following moving objects with their eyes
- taking a greater interest in surroundings
- attempting to pick up objects using both hands
- vocalising to get attention and have their needs met
- recognising familiar faces and starting to interact more with others.
At eight months:
- keeping their head level with their body when pulled to a sitting position
- progressing from sitting supported by your arms to sitting alone
- recognising partly hidden objects
- trying to get a toy that’s out of reach
- looking for a dropped object
- moving by rolling or attempting to crawl
- making sounds such as ‘ah goo’ or similar
- imitating sounds
- clapping hands
- expressing feelings, likes and dislikes
- enjoying and demanding attention and affection
- increasing interaction with family members.
At 12 months:
- may be standing or walking
- pointing with their index finger
- showing needs and wants in ways other than crying
- saying three recognisable words
- understanding several words and simple commands
- helping with dressing themselves by holding out arms for sleeves and feet for shoes
- enjoying showing affection and always being near parents
- beginning to understand the meaning of ‘no’.
Talk to your Maternal and Child Health nurse about:
- eye contact and how to monitor your babies eyesight
- hearing development and signs that your baby is hearing well
- babbling and other verbal development milestones.
Your child's learning
You play a crucial role in your baby’s learning by developing a loving and secure relationship with them, encouraging them to use all their skills to explore the world around them and by encouraging their curiosity.
You can support your baby’s learning by:
- playing together
- talking and responding when your baby makes sounds or tells you in other ways what he or she wants
- meeting needs and having lots of loving contact
- responding to your baby’s movements and sounds
- providing different objects and materials to explore using all the senses
- getting to know your baby, noticing and responding to what he or she likes.
Play, an important way for young children to learn, begins at birth. Playing together is one of the best things you can do with your baby. Through play, babies learn about themselves and their place in the world, develop and practise social and language skills, expand their physical skills and think creatively.
Here are some suggestions for ways you can play with your baby:
- sing songs
- have ‘conversations’ where you respond to sounds your baby makes by saying something then waiting for your baby to make another sound
- look at books together
- play simple games like peek-a-boo and ‘this little piggy went to market’
- give your baby things to hold and play with (make sure they are safe for them to put in their mouth, as that’s one way babies explore objects).
Communicating with your child
Whether you’re singing a song or talking about what you’re doing as you cook or garden, your communication is helping your baby learn about language and many other things. Talk often to your baby and be sure to respond to the sounds your baby makes as well as to his or her other ways of communicating.
Your child's behaviour
Babies want to discover and explore. Their natural curiosity drives them to experiment with objects to see what they are like and how they work.
Your baby is learning how to behave, just as he or she is learning about how the world works. Your role is really important. You need to create a safe environment so that your baby can explore it without getting hurt or damaging anything.
Crying is a baby’s main way of communicating needs. Responding quickly to your baby’s crying and meeting her or his needs will make your baby feel safe.
Remember, your baby will learn a lot about how to behave by watching what you do. You are an important role model who will have a very big influence on your child’s behaviour.
For more information, see:
- Australian Breastfeeding Association – this large, community based self-help group is recognised as a leading authority on breast feeding
- Better Health Channel – this website contains information about different illnesses and conditions, healthy eating and health service directories
- Child Care and Kindergarten – outlines the types of child care services available and the things you need to think about in order to choose a child care service or kindergarten that best meets your needs
- Kids talk: 75 useful and practical tips on encouraging your child to talk (PDF - 338Kb) (pdf - 338.34kb)
- Maternal and Child Health Line (phone 13 22 29) – qualified maternal and child health nurses provide information, support and advice to Victorian families with children from birth to school age (5 years old) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Nurse on Call (call 1300 60 60 24) – this telephone service provides immediate, expert health advice from a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Parent Line (phone 13 22 89) – this telephone counselling service is available to parents and carers of children aged from birth to 18 years throughout Victoria. They provide information and assistance on a wide range of issues, including those who are struggling with or finding the parenting role challenging. They can not, however, provide you with legal or medical information
- Playgroups and Parent Groups – outlines what these are and why they are important.
- SIDS and Kids Victoria's Safe Sleeping - outlines information on safe sleeping methods for your child as well as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Safe sleeping for your baby - this news item outlines key areas contained in the Safe Sleeping Checklist.
- Welcome to Early Childhood Services - this contains information for parents about sending their child to child care and kindergarten
- Your Child’s Health and Development: birth to 6 years (PDF - 354Kb) (pdf - 354.46kb)