Infants and Toddlers

Developmental Milestones of Infants and Toddlers

When children are born, a plethora of new challenges and adventures begin. Understanding these challenges is key to helping children develop well during one of the most taxing times of parenting. Here are some things to keep in mind with different domains of infant and toddler development:

Physical Development

  • Newborn Reflexes

    • Startle: throwing legs and arms in air when startled
    • Grasp: baby supports its own weight when being lifted into air by the hands
    • Rooting: when cheek is stroked, babies move towards finger (linked with breastfeeding).
    • Sucking: ability to suck breast milk
    • Walking: make motions as if walking when held (gets ready to walk)
    • TIP – These reflexes disappear after first few months and become behaviors
  • Senses

    • Senses that are well developed
      • Smell (TIP – If mom is leaving for the day, leave her shirt or another piece of clothing, it will help keep the baby calm!)
      • Hearing (TIP – babies prefer “motherese”, i.e. high pitched talking)
    • Senses not well developed
      • Vision (TIP – babies have poor vision, so if you want them to see you, get close to them!)
  • Some Gross Motor Development Milestones to Remember

    • Milestones:
      • Rolling over: about 3 months
      • Sitting up: about 6 months
      • Crawling: about 8 months
      • Walking: about 12 months
    • TIP – Don’t drive yourself crazy if your child is a couple months slow on these. Although if your child is 6 months late on or more of these, you may want to talk with a pediatrician
    • TIP – While you should scaffold many parts of your child’s development, physical development comes naturally, so don’t fret!


  • Some Fine Motor Development Milestones to Remember

    • Reaching for something: about 4 months
    • Holding/grasping: about 6 months (TIP – when babies reach this point, prepare! It is time to adjust your home so loose or dangerous objects can’t be pulled down. Also, you may want put those loose earrings away for a season or pull back and/or trim that long hair!)
    • Pincer grasp: about 9 months
    • Finer motions: about 1 year (ex. Holding silverware)
  • TIP – Remembering these milestones will help you avoid frustration in parenting (so don’t fret!)


Cognitive Development

  • How Babies Learn (according to Piaget and Vygostky)
    • Babies learn by doing – reflexes, early interactions (called circular reactions, learn more)
    • Babies learn by observing
    • Babies learn by interacting with others
    • TIP – Think of your baby like a little scientist, who is experimenting and learning about the world (so that when they throw food on the ground over and over again, you can understand that they are experimenting and learning and not fret!)

Emotional Development

  • According to Erik Erikson, infants and babies main challenge is establishing trust with the world (trust v. mistrust).
  • Babies are developing attachment and a secure base. You should strive for a secure attachment (instead of avoidant or resistant (anxious) attachment).
  • TIP – The following attachment related fears are normal and understanding them can help you have peace of mind (and not fret) when it comes to your child:
    • Stranger anxiety (8-10 Months)
    • Separation Anxiety (peaks at 14-18 Months)
    • TIP – Parents should not be afraid to leave the baby during the first two years of life (in the care of a responsible person) to go on dates, run errands, vacation, etc. because if the child doesn’t learn it is safe for you to leave during these years, it will be harder later

Some Relevant Concerns for Infants and Toddlers

To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise? That Is the Question.

Twenty years ago, circumcision was the norm. Today, it is becoming less common. Here are some thoughts to help you as you decide to whether or not to circumcise male children.

Benefits of Male Circumcision

  • Slightly lower risk of Urinary tract infections (1/1000 vs. 1/100)
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Lower risk of STI’s
  • Easier hygiene (although this can be taught)
  • Social, cultural or religious reasons

Drawbacks of Male Circumcision

  • Increased risk of complications
  • Removal of foreskin which protects the tip of the penis
  • Belief it decreases sexual pleasure later in life (not supported by research)

The Decision

Circumcision has both benefits and drawbacks, but when it comes down to it is a personal choice. Here are some other sources to help you in making this decision:

Author’s Opinion

The author sides with the American Academy of Pediatrics who stated in 2012 (see above resource), “after a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.”

Breastfeeding – What To Do When It Doesn’t Happen Easily

Breastfeeding has a plethora of researched benefits for both children (promotion of warmth and closeness, provision of all nutrients a baby needs, easier digestion than formula and many more) and mothers (release of Oxytocin, burning calories to help with weight loss, returning the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size, less expensive than formula and more) so what does one do when it isn’t a smooth process?

Resources to Assist with Breastfeeding

  • Family and Friends (especially those who have breast fed before) are a great place to turn (so don’t overlook them!)
  • Web sources can have some great insights to help you along with nursing a baby (WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Women’
  • When the baby is first born, nurses and possibly a lactation consultant will be on hand to help if your baby is born in a hospital and may be available to help later on as well
  • If not born in a hospital or if you seek extra help talk to your doctor, or a lactation consultant in your area (in Utah, see the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition)

Other Tips

  • TIP – If Dad is feeding with a bottle, he should remove his shirt so that the baby has skin to skin contact to encourage bonding.
  • TIP – Pacifiers can be great for babies, but you should avoid giving them to a newborn too soon (“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce a pacifier until breast-feeding is well-established, usually three to four weeks after birth” – Mayo Clinic Site)
  • Although it can be time-consuming or painful (especially at first) remember the importance of breastfeeding: “the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.”

Getting Babies to Sleep (And Sleep Safely)

How could something as cute as a baby be the cause of so many sleepless nights and fussy days due to sleep problems? While the answer to that question is not given here, the following are some tips for helping babies sleep through the night and to do it safely.

Safety First – Suggestions to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

  • Infants should sleep on their backs (even though they don’t want to)
  • Firm crib mattress, covered by tight-fitting sheet, should be used in safety approved crib
  • No bedding, loose and soft bedding and soft toys in the crib can contribute to suffocation
  • Swaddling infants older than 2 months for sleep is not recommended
  • One-piece sleeping clothes best and convenient
  • Be aware of room temperature
  • Not sleep in car seat, or bouncy seat (especially fluffy ones). Don’t nap at the same time as your baby if in the car.
  • Avoid baby necklaces, bibs
  • Only one child per crib (no crib sharing)
  • Infants shouldn’t sleep in adult beds
  • Pacifiers may be used, but consult safety protocols
  • Infants should be observed by sight or sound at all times

Other Sources for Information on Safe Sleeping: CDC, AAPWebMD

Some Sleep Suggestions

  • Put the baby to bed drowsy
  • Wait a few minutes when they are fussy so they can learn to sooth themselves
  • Establish a predictable routine that is calming
  • Use a pacifier (this can also reduce the risk of SIDS)
  • Have a healthy attitude. One site put it well when it said, “Getting your baby to sleep through the night is a worthy goal, but it’s not a measure of your parenting skills. Take time to understand your baby’s habits and ways of communicating so that you can help him or her become a better sleeper. If you have concerns, talk to your baby’s doctor.” (Mayo Clinic)

Other Sources for Sleep Suggestions: Mayo Clinic, WebMD

Supplemental Materials

Other Things to Remember

A Pacifier or Not?

  •  Pros
    • Reduces chances of SIDS
    • Helps meet need to suck (gives mom a break)
    • Helps teach self-soothing
  • Cons
    • Higher risk of ear infections (2x)
    • After age two it can begin to negatively impact teeth that won’t reverse itself (before this point normally reverses in 6 months)
  • TIP – If you decide to use one, don’t do it too early. Wait 3 or 4 weeks to ensure that healthy feeding is occurring
  • TIP – It is generally better to wean them off of pacifiers earlier rather than later because the older they get (two, three and older) it becomes more difficult)

More Info: Mayo Clinic, WebMD

Food Allergies

  • Unless you have a history of allergies in your family, don’t fret about it
  • Going crazy about it actually invites allergies
  • Introducing things earlier actually may prevent allergies
  • 80 to 90% of most allergies go away by age 5

More Info: WebMD

Understanding Different Types of Crying

Types of Crying

  • Basic Cry
  • Anger Cry (develops later, more as a toddler)
  • Pain Cry (more sudden)
  • Attention Cry (weaker, develops later)

Responding to Crying

  • Remember – Respond promptly (you can’t spoil a baby)
  • First “responders” diapers, hungry, sleepy
  • Second responders – STAY CALM
    • Rocking
    • walking
    • sit them on the dryer running
    • drive around (last resort)
    • singing/playing music
    • Vacuum
    • Last attempts – place baby in safe place, and WALK AWAY
  • TIP – Think of what it was like in the womb (motions, sound, warmth) and try to replicate those conditions

Other Resources: WebMD, Oklahoma Gov.

Latter-Day Saint Resources

Good Reads




Note for Author: For information not provided in links, see 2017 personal notes on lecture about the nurturing stage of parenting and authority stage of parenting from SFL 240 class