Help! I’m Worried My Baby Isn’t Developing as He Should Be!

Written by Debra Luben, M.D. on May 7, 2016, 8:30:00 AM

Parents can’t seem to help comparing their babies to others. And, of course, a whole chorus of well-meaning friends, relatives and complete strangers are always anxious to offer their opinions about what baby should be doing. 

But try to remember that each person – and each baby – is different. 

Walking or Crawling 

Almost all babies start to crawl between 5 and 11 months and walk alone between 9 and 17 months. That’s a wide variance. Muscle tone may play a part. Some pediatricians recommend “tummy time,” or playtime on the floor face down, to build upper body strength. Sometimes physical therapy is needed.


Fine Motor Skills 

Babies usually can play patty-cake by about 9 months and stack two blocks by 13 months. Absence of a “pincer grasp,” being able to pick up a small object with thumb and forefinger, by 1 year is often the first sign of a fine motor delay. Occupational therapy may help a child build finger strength.



Understanding spoken words and being able to actually speak them are two distinct skills. Most babies start to utter one-syllable sounds, like “da,” between 4 and 6 months. By 18 months, they should be able to say about 50 or more words. They may be able to follow simple commands and understand “no” by 1 year. Many times these delays resolve with time. If not, speech therapy may help. 

What to Do 

Sometimes a delay is a sign that something is wrong, but usually you just need to be patient. Listen to your instincts. If you think there might be problem, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests babies should be screened for developmental delays during well-child checks at 9, 18 and 24 months. Eye and ear checkups, often the cause of developmental delays, should be part of each visit. 

I suggest two helpful websites. For a helpful list of physical milestones, visit the AAP site For information about cognitive development, check out the Centers for Disease Control’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. 

Is your child a late bloomer or early adapter? Leave a comment!


Dr. Debra Luben is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus clinic. Her clinical interests are centered on preventive medicine and wellness.





Topics: developmental milestones for babies, child development

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