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The Basics: Child Developmental Milestones

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The Basics: Child Developmental Milestones

May 09, 2022

As a new parent, it’s important to you that your child meets all the expected developmental milestones, like walking and talking. But which milestones are backed by research, and how do you know if your kid is meeting expectations? Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, explains what the important milestones are, how to measure your child’s development, and when you should speak with a specialist.

Episode Transcript

Parents often wonder if their baby is lazy. I have parents use that term all the time. If their child isn't doing everything they think they're supposed to be doing, the parent labels their child as lazy.

For example, I have parents telling me a lot that their 12-month-old is lazy because they're not walking. Your child isn't lazy. Walking can start any time from 9 months until 18 months.

Parents will tell me their child is lazy because they want to be fed. If your child is under 18 months old and still learning how to use utensils, that's not lazy. They're just still learning. If they're 4 and they want you to feed them, that's not laziness. It's them being manipulating and trying to get you to do what they want.

Parents will also ask me about why their child isn't talking. They think that their 18-month-old should be saying sentences and instead only says about five words. Well, the biggest language explosion happens between 18 months and 3 years old. By 18 months, they should be saying four words, in addition to mama and dada. Boys tend to talk later than girls too. Not sure why, but that tends to be what I see. Girls tend to be more social. Boys tend to develop their motor skills faster.

I get the opposite too. Some parents think their children are developing completely normally when, in fact, they're behind on motor or speech milestones. This is one reason we do the autism screening at 18 and 24 months, to catch those kids that are behind and determine: Is this expressive speech delay? Are there not enough opportunities for motor development? Is there a concern for autism? Does the child have a different diagnosis that requires evaluation by specialists?

Now, I'll end with this as a heads-up. There was a recent article published in the "Journal of Pediatrics" outlining about how developmental guidelines for the first five years of life needed updating, and the Centers for Disease Control just adopted these new guidelines.

It will take a little while for everyone to catch up with these new guidelines when pediatricians do their screening evaluations at well-child visits. But we have a general good idea of where your child should be. As pediatricians, we are really good at figuring out if your child is on track developmentally, or if they need to see a specialist for a speech or motor developmental delay.

If you are concerned about a specific developmental issue with your child, be sure to discuss it with your child's pediatrician.