Children develop at different rates. Boys are often talk later girls, while reaching motor milestones sooner. Preemies are notorious for developing on their own schedule. Some delays are cause for further evaluation while others truly are not a big deal. All delays should be brought to the attention of your child's pediatrician.
Here is a list of "hallmark developmental milestones" to keep an eye on. Be sure to address any concerns with your child's physician. Listen to your gut. If your doctor dismisses your concerns you may want to find a different physician. If "wait and see" feels wrong, don't be afraid to ask for a referral to a developmental pediatrician or other specialist.
Don't forget to use your child's adjusted age when it come to reaching milestones. Some physician use adjusted age up to the third year. So don't forget to use their due date instead of their birth date. Save yourself from some worries and frustration: DO NOT COMPARE YOUR PREEMIE WITH TERM BABIES.
At 4 Months:
Follow and react to bright colors, movement, and objects?
Turn toward sounds?
Show interest in watching people’s faces?
Smile back when you smile?
At 6 Months:
Relate to you with real joy?
Smile often while playing with you?
Coo or babble when happy?
Cry when unhappy?
At 9 Months:
Smile and laugh while looking at you?
Exchange back-and-forth smiles, loving faces, and other expressions with you?
Exchange back-and-forth sounds with you?
Exchange back-and-forth gestures with you, such as giving, taking, and reaching?
At 12 Months:
Use a few gestures, one after another, to get needs met, like giving, showing, reaching, waving, and pointing?
Play peek-a-boo, patty cake, or other social games?
Make sounds, like “ma,” “ba,” “na,” “da,” and “ga?”
Turn to the person speaking when his/her name is called?
At 15 Months:
Exchange with you many back-and-forth smiles, sounds, and gestures in a row?
Use pointing or other “showing” gestures to draw attention to something of interest?
Use different sounds to get needs met and draw attention to something of interest?
Use and understand at least three words, such as “mama,” “dada,” “bottle,” or bye-bye?
At 18 Months:
Use lots of gestures with words to get needs met, like pointing or taking you by the hand and saying, “want juice”?
Use at least four different consonants in babbling or words, such as m, n, p, b, t, and d?
Use and understand at least 10 words?
Show that he or she knows the names of familiar people or body parts by pointing to or looking at them when they are named?
Do simple pretend play, like feeding a doll or stuffed animal, and attracting your attention by looking up at you?
At 24 Months:
Do pretend play with you with more than one action, like feeding the doll and then putting the doll to sleep?
Use and understand at least 50 words?
Use at least two words together (without imitating or repeating) and in a way that makes sense, like “want juice”?
Enjoy being next to children of the same age and show interest in playing with them, perhaps giving a toy to another child?
Look for familiar objects out of sight when asked?
At 36 Months:
Enjoy pretending to play different characters with you or talking for dolls or action figures?
Enjoy playing with children of the same age, perhaps showing and telling another child about a favorite toy?
Use thoughts and actions together in speech and in play in a way that makes sense, like “sleepy, go take nap” and “baby hungry, feed bottle”?
Answer “what,” “where,” and “who” questions easily?
Talk about interests and feelings about the past and the future?
Remember these are just guidelines. If you child is a month behind, it may not be cause for concern as long as they do meet them. They may just need a little more encourage and support than a term baby. It's better to be safe than sorry. We know how important early intervention is, so take advantage of it. You don't have to "wait and see."
For a list of early intervention (birth to three) contacts by state click here. If your child is three or older contact for your school district for an evaluation. You can find a more comprehensive checklist at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html