A Child's Milestones Between Weeks 8 and 12
Heather Morris, a Registered General Nurse and a State Certified Midwife of over 25 years, provides an overview of a baby's development in the newborn stage of weeks 8 - 12. The below report details milestones babies may be reaching at this age, advice which may be helpful to parents and, potential red flags to look out for.
Overview of Milestones Expected Between Weeks 8 and 12
Motor skills: lifts head and chest in prone position; has head control in a supported sitting position.
Cognitive development and fine motor skills: reaches for and holds a toy or rattle.
Hearing, Speech and Language Development: makes cooing sounds and shows responsive vocalisation.
Social, Emotional and Behavioural Development: visually very alert; responds to the sound of a familiar voice; enjoys eye contact; shows awareness of surroundings.
An In-Depth Review of a Baby's Development at 12 weeks
Between the age of two to three months, a baby’s movements become smoother, with their arms waved symmetrically and hands held loosely open. They will kick vigorously and need support at their shoulders when being bathed and dressed, but will have head control when supported in a sitting position. At this age, a baby will be able to hold their head erect and steady and show little or no head lag when helped into a sitting position. When lying on their abdomen (supervised tummy time), a baby will lift their head and upper chest, well up to the midline using their forearms for support. [Sharma, 2014; Dosman, 2012]
Visually, a baby will become increasingly alert and show particular interest in nearby faces, moving their head deliberately to gaze attentively around. They will follow movements within their visual field and watch the movements of their own hands with interest. The defensive blink response is clearly shown. When feeding, a baby will fix their eyes unblinkingly on their parent / carer’s face. [Sharma, 2014]
At this stage, a baby will engage caregivers in playful verbal, tactile and motor interactions. [Dosman, 2012] They will respond to the sound of a familiar voice and turn their head towards a sound source. Verbally, they will respond to a caregiver’s voice and vocalise delightedly when spoken to or pleased. They will cry when uncomfortable and may lick their lips in response to the sound of a feed being prepared.
A baby will start to show reactions to familiar situations by smiling and cooing and making excited movements. They are likely to start enjoying bath time and respond with obvious pleasure to friendly handling, communication, and playing. [Sharma, 2014]
By three months, some babies may be sleeping for up to 7 hours at night (giving parents/caregivers some much-needed rest!). If wet or dirty nappies aren’t changed because the baby is sleeping, this could trigger a bout of nappy rash. [Morris, 2012]
Advice which may be useful for parents
During weeks 8-12, your baby may start: developing an awareness of their surroundings, enjoying the ‘feel’ of things, smiling at familiar faces and voices
- Try to get lots of skin to skin contact with your baby, besides helping the bonding experience, it can also be very comforting. You could try some simple baby massage by rubbing baby oil into your baby’s skin while talking to them.
- By three months, your baby will start developing a keener sense of their surroundings and increasing their sense of touch. Try using materials or toys with different textures that your baby can play with and feel.
- Your baby’s neck will be getting stronger and daily ‘tummy time’ – a few minutes spent on their tummies - is important. It will help improve their co-ordination, muscles and the skills needed for movement.
- Going nappy free during ‘tummy time’ will also allow the skin to breathe and help avoid nappy rash problems.
Health checks / interventions (weeks 8-12)
A baby will have their second set of vaccinations at 12 weeks and these include:
- The second dose of the 6-in-1 vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Hib and hepatitis B (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB)
- The second dose of the rotavirus vaccine which is given as an oral vaccine in two doses for babies aged 8 and 12 weeks.
Potential ‘red flag’ warnings (weeks 8 - 12)
At three months, any of the following could indicate a ‘red flag’ warning:
- Does not follow moving objects with their eyes.
- Does not grasp objects.
- Does not smile at people.
- Cannot support or lift their head.
- They have stiff legs with little movement.
- Minimal arm movements.
- They keep their fists clenched.
- Frequently resist being held.
- Does not verbalise particularly when hungry or uncomfortable.
- Does not respond to loud sounds.
Between 8-12 weeks, babies develop at different rates and ‘red flag’ indicators tend to be more relevant after 6 months of age.
CF Dosman, D Andrews, KJ Goulden. Evidence-based milestone ages as a framework for developmental surveillance. Paediatr Child Health 2012;17(10):561-568.
Ajay Sharma, 2014, Mary Sheridan's From Birth to Five Years: Children's Developmental Progress 4th Edition
Red Flags early identification guide – birth to five years, Childrens Health Queensland hospital
Morris H. Getting to the bottom of nappy rash. Community Pract. 2012 Nov;85(11):37-8.