Celebrating Milestones: Your Baby's First Year
At this fun baby stage, your little one is able to recognize names and basic words like "no" or "bye-bye." They may also begin to string syllables together in long chains.
Milestones can come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a promotion or an epic vacation, every accomplishment deserves to be celebrated.
Month 1: Welcome to the World
The first month of a baby's life is filled with new baby smells, snuggles and bonding. It's also a time for Mom and Dad to get used to life outside the womb.
Your little one may start imitating you, saying "mama," or even basic words like "no" or "uh-oh." This is called receptive language and it's the first step toward their ability to speak.
They may begin to recognize your face and voice, and will probably make eye contact with you for the first time. You may also find them sucking their thumb/pacifier for the first time - a sign that they're learning to self-soothe.
One fun way to celebrate your baby's first month is by taking a handprint each month. Place them side-by-side on a canvas and frame them for a sweet keepsake. You could also put them in a memory box with other special mementos from your baby's first year. This is a lovely gift that your child will treasure as they grow.
Month 3: Smiles and Coos
At around the three-month mark, your baby starts to smile on purpose. While they may have experimented with a few involuntary grins during the first month, this is usually their first genuine smile that shows happiness and delight. They will often smile at their caregivers and family members who regularly interact with them, and they might even smile in response to a specific joke or funny face you make.
They also start to coo a lot more at this point, and it’s adorable. A coo is typically a single-syllable sound like ’ahh’ or ’ohh’ and does not require them to fully open their mouth. You can encourage your baby to develop their vocal skills by singing songs to them and engaging in fun games like peek-aboo.
They are also storing memories by this point and may recognize your face, basic words such as ‘no’ and 'bye-bye' and familiar sounds. This is called receptive language and it helps your baby learn about the world around them.
Month 6: Solid Food Adventure
As they reach this month, your little one will start to develop an appetite for solid foods. Depending on their readiness, this may be a time to start introducing fruits, veggies, and other food items that are soft enough to chew. Be sure to use a variety of colors and flavors to encourage their adventurous palate. It's also a good idea to avoid foods that are high in sugar and salt and to stick with recommended first foods.
This is the time when your baby will probably develop their pincher reflex, which means they can grab chunks of food and explore them themselves - freeing you from the tedium of spooning up mush!
Your baby is also storing memories at this age, and they may recognize you when you speak to them. They may even be able to string together some syllables and make simple words like "ball" or "bottle." They may even begin to point at objects that you name for them. This is called receptive language and it's an important precursor to their ability to speak.
Month 9: Crawling and Exploring
The next big milestone is learning to crawl and explore. Babies get ready for their crawling debut with plenty of supervised tummy time, which helps strengthen the muscles in their necks, shoulders, arms, and trunk. They may also start to rock back and forth to build their momentum.
Crawling is a complex movement, and it can help your baby develop gross motor skills, visual-spatial awareness, cognition, problem-solving, and balancing. They'll learn how to navigate the environment around them, such as avoiding the coffee table and going beyond the recliner to reach their toys.
Babies typically start crawling between 6 and 10 months, but each baby develops at a different rate. Some skip crawling altogether and move directly to sitting, cruising, or walking instead.
As your baby starts to crawl, be sure to put away any loose items in their cot, such as pillows or toys, to reduce their risk of SIDS. You should also avoid placing anything hazardous in your baby's cot, as this increases their risk of injuries and choking.
Month 12: First Steps and First Birthday
By this time, your baby is moving at lightning speed and transforming into an independent toddler. Usually, they're rolling over, sitting up, crawling and pulling themselves to stand. They also know their own name and begin pointing to objects they want. They may even take their first steps!
Babies in this stage often use different cries to communicate and can start showing displeasure when they don't get what they want. They also develop a deeper understanding of their parents and caregivers and engage in purposeful two-way interactions.
This is a great time to throw a big first birthday party for your baby! Hummel suggests hosting a home party instead of an event at a venue, so your baby can stay comfortable and familiar. Make sure you have plenty of space for the babies to crawl around and play and set up a station to change diapers or bottle-feed. This will make everyone feel more at ease and allow you to focus on enjoying your guests and the celebration of this milestone!
Monthly Milestone Photos
The first months are filled with sleepless nights, round-the-clock soothing and the occasional fleeting smile. By month two, though, your baby is starting to make eye contact and track you with their eyes, a sign that they're learning about object permanence and mimicking your actions.
These days, it's easier than ever to catalog your little one's milestones with an app that acts as a modern journal. You can easily add photos and captions, and share your Baby Story with family and friends.
There are also tons of adorable baby milestone photo ideas out there. These can be as simple or elaborate as you like, and you don't even need a fancy prop.
For example, a diaper shaped into a number is an easy, cheap and cute idea for a monthly picture theme. Or you could turn an old blanket into a growth chart by placing your baby on it each month. Another fun prop idea is using a hat to mark the seasons – for example, with a hat with berries in summer, pumpkins in fall and winter.
Memory Box or Scrapbook
As you watch your baby grow into a toddler and beyond, create a memory box to store photos and small souvenirs. You can use a special keepsake box or just a plain cardboard box that you decorate with paint, stickers, glitter and other embellishments. Just be sure it’s a box your loved one will enjoy opening and using in the future.
Another great idea is to keep a journal about your baby’s first year. Write a short letter or paragraph after every milestone and save it. Then one day your child can read about how much you love and appreciate them.
Also, consider keeping a scrapbook or calendar. This is a good way to keep track of the little changes your baby makes day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month. For example, you might write about a new food that your child loves or an adorable moment like their first smile. You could even add things like pop culture events or current news that you think will remind your child of their early years.
Family Time Capsule
A family time capsule is a great way to involve everyone in the celebration. Ask each family member to bring or send an item for the time capsule that is important to them. Then, at the birthday party, each person can show their contribution and explain why they chose it.
The time capsule can include personal items, such as love letters from grandparents or a favorite childhood toy. It can also contain cultural items, such as newspaper headlines or current trends.
During your baby's first year, keep track of important milestones with a daily journal or baby book. Jot down funny or sweet moments and any "firsts." Then, at the end of each month, collect those little slips of paper and put them in a pretty jar. When your child is older, they can read about all the funny and memorable things that happened during their first year of life. You can even make salt dough hand and footprint ornaments to add to the time capsule. Those little paws and toes will be a priceless keepsake that will remind them of how tiny they were!