“Ask the Baby Expert” question number #39: “Is my baby falling behind? What is a developmental delay? Is my baby…NORMAL?”
Ewww… there’s that ugly word again, “Normal”. What is “normal“ anyway ??
Well, don’t ask me! I tell my patients and parents every day, “There is no such thing as “normal!”
Are there any Mommas out there that have never worried about baby meeting her milestones on time? I sure don’t know any. It’s normal (eek!) to worry about everything, especially as a first-time mom. It comes with that cute little package, along with mommy guilt and yoga pants. You’re not alone. 😉
I am going to ease your mind and lay it all out here in this post. So here’s the take-home message; the butter on your bread of worries:
This is the most important thing you need to understand about baby milestones and developmental delays:
It’s not about “When” babies hit their milestones, IT’S THE”HOW” THAT IS MOST IMPORTANT.
Doesn’t that sound better, lovely mommas? Now take a breath and lower your expectations! Ha! Quit it with the mommy guilt already!
“So is my baby’s development abnormal, EB?”
Now, my answer to that question is,”It is possible your baby’s development is atypical.” I think the term “developmental delay” is misleading. I think it should be “atypical development” that we should be talking about.
These days, babies spend too much time in baby containers in front of screens and don’t get enough tummy time. So atypical development is not uncommon anymore. And babies today are hitting their milestones later than babies of a few decades ago, but it doesn’t mean they all have a developmental delay because it is becoming more “normal.” Ew!
If you were to ask me if your baby has a developmental delay, I might say,
“Don’t worry about the timing right now. Show me (tell me)what your baby is and is not doing that’s causing your concern.”
Then, I will ask you to take a deep breath, open your mind and ears, and I’ll walk you through this. Don’t worry, I can teach you everything you need to know, so just stick with me a little longer, OK? ♥
(If you keep reading, there is an AWESOME FREEBIE at the end of this post that will make you feel like a Super-pro Momma who’s got her ducks in a row and mascara on BOTH eyelids! You’re welcome.)
I very much dislike how everyone is so focused on how early their genius, athlete babies hit their milestones. But people don’t understand that how a baby moves and practices new motor skills is what makes any child a coordinated, intelligent human being, NOT how early they meet their milestones.
So Mommas! Please stop comparing your babies!
I’ll give you an example. Have you heard anyone say “my baby started walking at 8 months old!” I have– a few times. My inside voice says “if I see your kid walking at 8 months old, I WILL knock him over. You’ll thank me later.” Tee hee hee, just kidding…kind of. 😉
But really, the issue with walking too early is that these super-advanced babies have missed out on a lot of development that will prepare him for higher learning like reading, writing and athletic ability down the road.
If you’ve heard me on my soapbox, you know what the most important milestone is (after lots of tummy time)…CRAWLING. (Read: The Importance Of Tummy Time .)
Babies who crawl for at least 2 months before walking are far more coordinated physically as well as cognitively. Crawling requires all for limbs on both sides of the body to work together, but in opposite motions.
As humans, all our physical movement patterns (like walking, running, dressing) require rotation and diagonal movements, and they are planned out by using both sides of the brain before executing. If a baby skips crawling, it can have major learning implications, like difficulties with speech, writing, reading, attention, memory, problem solving, and more.
If a baby skips crawling, it can have major learning implications, like difficulties with speech, writing, reading, attention, memory, problem solving, and more.
So, what I’m getting at (and thanks for sticking with me) is that the way babies progress from one skill to the next is much more important than what age they hit their milestones. A baby who crawls at 10 months and doesn’t start walking at 13 months is much better off than a baby that can “sit up” at 4 months but never learns to roll or crawl.(Read: Sitting is Not a Milestone.)
I know you are wondering how you can help your baby connect those skills together with good motor patterns (moving the “typical” way). Well, mommas, you are in luck. Because today only 😉 …
I am giving away my MILESTONES CHECKLISTS for FREE so you will know how to help your baby develop beautifully! There are 42 milestones on these checklists!
What? 42 motor milestones? Why so many? I only know about rolling, sitting, crawling and walking!
The ones you don’t know are super important! They are sometimes called “bridge” skills. Human babies use very predictable motor patterns (movements) in a very predictable order, because we’re born that way! We are pre-wired to develop from a tiny little ball of cuteness to a tall, strong, capable man or woman.
It’s exactly like fetal development in the womb. Everything happens for a reason, everything that happens has a certain order to lead to the next level of development. Fetuses always develop their upper bodies before their lower bodies and their hearts before their brains.
Fetuses do not “skip” developmental stages unless there is a problem with their genes or Momma’s womb. Typically, if a baby isn’t developing correctly, he will be premature or born with disabilities or complications. There’s no such thing as a “developmental delay” in the womb!
So I hope that you aren’t listening to those people that say “all babies are different and they develop their own way in their own time.” This is a slippery slope to parental denial when there is an existing developmental delay, disability, or disorder.
Now, I don’t want you to think I’m Negative Nelly by focusing on problems instead of accomplishments. Understand that my job is to identify difficulties as early as possible so babies get the help they need as soon as possible.
If your baby is diagnosed with “developmental delay” it is usually because they aren’t using the correct motor patterns or movement sequences to “bridge” to the next skill.
Instead of getting offended, get help! The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
A lot of babies that start therapy early (and I’m talking around 2-4 months old!), will be caught up by toddlerhood and have no lifelong difficulties! Isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want our babies to have the healthiest, happiest lives possible?
If you still don’t believe that most babies actually develop the same way, I suggest you watch a wonderful documentary called “Babies” by Thomas Balmés. It compares four babies from four different corners of the world and follows them from birth to walking. It’s beautiful and so enlightening!
Another great resource is a book titled “Building Babies Better” by Roxanne Smalls. It’s a quick, easy read and it simplifies how the sequential motor skills are the building blocks of development. I give it to all my baby-patients’ parents. I’ve gone to her presentations, as she is also a pediatric physical therapist. It just makes sense, trust me.
So, in a nutshell…
- It IS important that you pay attention to your baby’s
motor development. It is the foundation of everything to come.
- But don’t worry so much about WHEN your baby meets her milestones! Make sure she is hitting them in the right order with the right movement patterns.
- I am here to help you! I’m a baby expert, baby coach, new-mom ally…whatever! I am here for you and I WANT you to ask questions. Remember, don’t worry about getting it all wrong. You can’t possibly do everything right. You’re not perfect. You are imperfectly human. And you rock, Momma!
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ~Maya Angelou
(Just had to throw this in here, I love this quote and pass it on to Mommas quite often.)