No matter how much we're told that children develop at their own pace, parents spend a lot of time worrying whether their child's development is on track.
As comedian Michael McIntyre explains in this hilarious bit, "you freak out because you worry that you child won't pick it up... but you've just got to relax, they will pick it up".
Medical professionals and child experts will always stress that a baby's growth is almost always unique. However, they do also use development milestones to give a rough idea of baby's development schedule, especially in baby's first year.
Then, of course, there are the alternative baby milestones. Some parents might argue that they're the real milestones. Ones that aren't so many about child development, more rites of passage you'll go through as a parent.
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What are developmental milestones?
Developmental milestones are the skills most babies (and children) can do by a certain age. We tend to think of some of 'big ones', like walking and talking. But there are far more milestones to consider before the first birthday, like fine motor skills - such as the ability to grab objects correctly with a pincer grasp - or gross motor skills like army crawling, rolling from tummy to back, or rising to the sitting position.
However, rather than giving a fixed date for baby development, development milestones have 'windows' and are almost always phrased like 'You may start to see your baby doing XYZ'.
Are baby milestones important?
Milestones are an important method of monitoring your baby's development, however there is a danger that parents become hung up on them. Parents whose baby is 'late' hitting a developmental milestone may worry unnecessarily, or worse, be made to feel ashamed of their baby's development by other parents whose babies are hitting them 'early'.
While developmental milestones are used as a guide for which skills should be learned by a child's age, it really is important to stress that baby development is not a 'one size fits all' thing. All babies learn at different paces.
Even when giving a timeframe, health professionals will use the phrase 'most babies', because some will still develop before or after that window. They will also provide a rough deadline for you to seek help.
For example, "You may start to see your baby doing XYZ. Most babies can do this from months A to B. If your baby isn't doing XYZ by month C, speak to your child's paediatrician."
At this point, health professionals may be able to aid their development with some early intervention.
What are alternative baby milestones?
Alternative baby milestones are, to an extent, nothing to do with baby development at all. Instead, they're more about the things you'll go through as a dad in your baby's first year. They're a fun, fresh, tongue-in-cheek twist on what to expect as your baby grows.
The traditional baby milestones might suggest your baby should be eating solid foods by six month old. But the alternative baby milestones suggest that soon after you'll witness the first time your baby picks up their bowl and tips it over their head!
But there are the sweet ones, too. Moments that make all the screaming and crying and sleepless nights totally worth it, because you're a dad. And that's the most special thing you could ever ask for.
Newborn developmental milestones
These milestones are likely to come in the first month of your baby's life, when it's still all new and you're getting to grips with what it means to be a dad.
1. The first 'poosplosion'
The dreaded poosplosion, or 'poonami'. Or, a whole new level of poosplosion as labelled by Dadultlife on Instagram... the poozooka!
Urban Dictionary defines the poosplosion as "When a baby has such a massive poo that it shoots out the top and/or leg holes of the diaper/nappy".
You'll only be able to muster the words "uh oh", whether you know it's coming or you find out at the change.
There's no getting away from it. It will happen eventually. It might be in the first month, it might be six months down the line. And you can be sure it'll happen when it's most inconvenient!
Just keep disease control on speed dial!
2. The first time leaving the house with a newborn
Leaving the house is easy, right? You do it all the time! Sometimes you do it several times a day...
But you've never done it with a newborn baby before. What's the weather doing? Do they need more layers? How many nappies do we need to take? Is there anywhere to change them where we're going? Will there be somewhere for them to feed?
Just get that first trip out of the way - once you’ve done it, the rest is easy!
3. The first bath time
Dads love bath time. Know one really knows why, but it might be reflective of traditional gender roles. Throughout history, the role of a father has very been seen to go out and work to provide for the family. Getting home from work, bath time was (and still is to an extent) our best chance to spend some real quality time with our baby.
Bath time is happy time for dads who still work full-time away from home and don't get back until 6pm. But this quality time will just get better and better.
4. The first novelty outfit
You might have had this outfit picked out for months, probably itching to put it on your baby for months and months.
The chances are it's something your partner is going to roll her eyes at - maybe a mini version of your favourite sports team's kit, or a mini costume from Star Wars or Marvel!
Two month old developmental milestones
You now have a two month old, and things are a little more settled. You've found yourself a nice routine, and you broadly know what you need to do on a daily basis. But there are still plenty of surprises and milestones to come.
5. The first time you're left alone with the baby
It depends how you look at this. It could be the first time your partner goes out without the baby, maybe for a walk or a coffee with friends. Or it could be the first time she heads for a bath and a relax.
Either way, it's a crazy mix of emotions. It wasn't that long ago that you'd never held your baby before, and now you're in charge of them, 100% responsible for their safety and wellbeing. It's exciting and scary all at the same time.
But don't worry. You've got this!
6. The first time your son sprays the room
An unfortunate reality of having a son is the fountain of wee that you'll inevitably encounter on many occasions. There's nothing quite like being utterly sleep deprived and feeling broken, crouched over your son changing his nappy... and then you get a face full of wee!
It's at this precise time you'll probably curse the people who've been telling you to "cherish every moment".
Don't worry, in time you'll learn to expect it as Tom Briggs of diaryofthedad.co.uk explains: "You get Matrix-style bullet-time reflexes that will help you evade the 'fountain', whether you've had any sleep or not".
Three month old developmental milestones
No longer considered a newborn, it's around this time that you'll be thinking that it's all gone by in the blink of and eye... but equally it feels like the longest three months of your life, and you don't remember what it was like before you had a baby.
7. Stopping your baby crying with something really random...
Sometimes the most outlandishly random things that stop our babies crying. And in the pits of desperation, in the dead of night when we want nothing more than for our baby to stop crying, we'll do that same thing again. And we'll do it again and again and again.
Before long, you're having to explain to other people why you're having to bust out the sunglasses and sing 'Who Let the Dogs Out' when your baby gets upset.
8. When you notice the dad resemblance
This might happen as early as the first few days of your baby's life. In fact, so many new mothers lament the fact that they've spent nine months carrying the child, only for them to come out looking like their dad!
But, it might take a few months for you to notice some features that look JUST like yours. And boy is that special!
A number of studies have suggested that dads who perceive their children to look like them are more likely to be involved in the day-to-day care! (That's not an excuse to shirk your responsibilities if the baby looks like their mum, by the way!)
9. The first time they self soothe
It's been months of sleepless nights. It's feels like you were a baby the last time you had a good night's sleep. You and your partner wake to the sound of a few faint groans and cries from your baby. Somethings different. Rather than jump out of bed, you pause for a second. You and your partner look at each other, wide-eyed and shocked at what's just happened... your baby went back to sleep without support.
4-6 month old developmental milestones
Around this time, you'll be looking at your baby and thinking 'they're starting to look like a proper little child'.
10. The first food mess
There's nothing like the horror of when your baby reaches for the bowl and you realise they're not after the food. Time moves slowly but you're powerless to stop it, as your baby lift the bowl directly above their head and you hear the splatting of the food falling all over their head, their clothes, the high chair, the floor.
Oh, and be prepared for all the facial expressions imaginable. Something strange happens to their faces when they start eating foods.
11. The 'dad arm'
After all that holding, lifting, feeding and carrying, you might start to notice the 'dad arm'... one arm getting bigger and stronger than the other!
12. The first time you get it wrong
This could happen at any point, but it hits you harder when you're a few months into being a father and you feel like you've got this whole dad-thing nailed.
Don't worry, you will get things wrong. It's impossible to get it right all the time. Don't worry, don't dwell on it too much. You're still a great dad, and the things you do right definitely outweigh the things you get wrong.
7-9 month old developmental milestones
Over half way and you feel like a dad master. But there are still plenty of dad milestones to come before your baby turns one!
13. The big bath
Once your baby is comfortable in the sitting position, they can stop using a baby bath or a bath seat, and sit in a shallow bath instead. That's great n'all, because it's a sign your baby is getting more independent. But your partner will no doubt question why you got in the bath too with your clothes on!
14. Thinking they're an evil genius
Honestly, this could happen at any moment in the first year (and probably in the years to come!), but there will come a time when you look down at your baby and think, 'that's an evil genius right there'. A right little Stewie Griffin.
15. The first time they fall off something
They can sit up now, it's cool. They can sit up anywhere. Right? RIGHT!?
Tragedy! Disaster! Hospital? But they're giggling... so, they're fine?
You can almost guarantee it happens when you've got the baby on your own, too. And that, dads, is the first time you'll use the phrase "don't tell your mum".
16. First time your child eats “floor tapas”
As the name suggests, floor tapas is when they eat something off the floor of indeterminate origin. Unfortunately, it’s long gone…..best of luck.
17. You're a lightweight now
There was once a time where three pints would be no problem. But as a first time dad, the combination of no sleep plus reduced alcohol means that when your lips next touch a pint you're likely to feel the effects even worse than when you had that first pint all those years ago!
10-12 month old developmental milestones
As you approach the one year mark, the developmental milestones start to become fewer and farther between. But there's still plenty to control.
18. The first faceplant
Walking is definitely one of the big milestones. But it's usually followed quite quickly by a total faceplant as they try to walk too far, too fast, too quickly. And it's usually like the panic that follows the first time they fall off something.
19. The first food critique
They're well into their food journey now and you might start to experiment a little more with other foods and flavours. Some might be a hit, but others will come with a harsh critique in the form of a scrunched up face, pursed lips, maybe even its own over-the-top 'bleurgh'!
You'll never forget that first time you spend ages rustling something up for your dear baby, only for them to behave like you've served up sick.
20. The first time you hear 'dada'
Babies start to talk around 12-18 months old, so this one might not be too far away. And it's perhaps the ultimate alternative milestone for us dads.
It's a moment that feels like pure gold - something that will melt your heart, just like this dad experienced.
Do alternative milestones matter?
Alternative milestones aren't something we need to keep track of, or measure development against. They reflect the fun, sweet and often disgusting side of being a dad - the things you're sure to go through when you have a baby.
Do dads develop at their own pace, just like babies?
Absolutely, no first-time father knows everything there is to know about raising a baby. Just like babies, some dad pick it up quicker than others, but taking time to find your feet doesn't make you a bad father.