Babies (0-12 Months)

Image of a baby boyYour 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-based learning

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.

​Related information

For more information, see: