Is my baby ready... Development

Expert answers to your most common developmental questions

You asked us: Is my baby ready…

…to have a pacifier?
…to stop using a pacifier?
…to recognize me?
…to stay overnight without me?
…to see clearly?
…to respond to her name?
…to learn baby sign language?
…to sit up by herself?
…to lift his head up on his own?
…to roll over?

Experts: Umberto Cellupica is a paediatrician with a community practice in Maple, Ont. He is also a staff paediatrician at York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill. Leslie Rourke is an associate professor of family medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

…to have a pacifier?
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to hold off on giving baby a binkie until she’s comfortable with feedings and is used to your breast, says Cellupica. This usually takes two to six weeks. If she develops nipple confusion (when baby gets used to artificial nipples and has a hard time latching onto yours) it could mess up your feeding schedule. Keep in mind that pacifiers can be a hard habit to break. Try rocking her, singing, playing music or carrying her in a front pack to soothe her if you’re not ready to give her one.

 …to stop using a pacifier?
The more your babe sucks away on his pacifier, the harder it will be to get him to give it up. “If your baby does not stop using her pacifier on her own, try to wean him from it by age two,” Cellupica suggests. Regardless of the way you choose to wean him, be sure to do it gradually. If bedtime turns out to be the biggest hassle (it likely will), it might be a good idea to change up his routine, which might help him forget about his binkie.
…to recognize me?
The odds are great that baby will recognize your voice right after birth, but visual recognition typically takes several weeks. “You will know she recognizes you because your touch and your voice will soothe her better than anything else,” says Cellupica. By the time she’s six months, she’ll know it’s you when you are with her, and even when you’re not physically in the same room: One study published several years ago in the journal Child Development showed three-month-old infants could recognize their mother’s face in photos.

…to stay overnight without me?
It’s a good idea to establish a good feeding schedule and routine before you get away for a night without your wee one. If you’re breastfeeding and have to be away from baby early on, be sure she’ll take a bottle of your breast milk from Grandma (or another trusted caregiver) before you go.

…to see clearly?
Your newborn might have big, beautiful eyes, but she has fuzzy vision in those first few weeks. “When your baby is first born, her visual acuity is 20/400. This is equivalent to being able to see the big “E” on an eye chart.” She can only see about 12 inches away from her and she’s most interested in human faces. (This means she can see your face clearly when you’re feeding.) At about six weeks the blurriness will be gone, and she’ll soon be able to track objects from side to side. Expect her to start reaching for objects a month later.

…to respond to her name?
While baby will startle to loud noises by one month, and turn her head toward the source of sounds she hears by four months, she’s likely to start responding to her name at approximately six months, says Rourke. The more you call her by name and use it around her, the sooner she’ll make the connection. Around this time you’ll probably notice your babe babbling, and she’s starting to distinguish emotions by your tone, too.
…to learn baby sign language?
There’s been several studies done that prove children understand language well before they can use it. There’s also research that shows kids who learn signing early on are more verbal at age two. Most babies show enough cognitive ability to learn baby sign language starting at about eight months. Start with the basics; simple actions such as waving bye-bye and blowing kisses are signs.

…to sit up by herself?
Most babies reach this milestone anywhere from six to eight months. Don’t worry too much if your babe takes longer; it might mean her balance or muscle strength still needs more time to develop. If she sits late, odds are she’ll start walking a little late, too. Some paediatricians say you can tell when baby is ready to sit by herself when she starts to show the “righting reflex:” Sit her down, hold her around the chest and tilt her body over. She will stick out her hand to straighten herself out.

…to lift his head up on his own?
Babies have little control over their head because of their weak neck muscles. Most little ones can lift their heads while lying on their tummy by the time they’re a month old. By two months he will hold his head up when held at your shoulder. Around the four-month mark, he’ll be able to hold it up when you place him in a sitting position. And, says Rourke, when he’s six months, his head control and neck muscles should be steady and strong. Once he has reached this point, he’ll start sitting up on his own, rolling over and eventually crawling.

…to roll over?
Your babe will learn to roll over once she’s learned to hold her head up. Rolling from tummy to back is easier and usually done by about three months, but rolling from back to tummy might take another two to three months to master. By six months she should be able to roll either way, says Rourke. Now that her neck, leg, back and arm muscles have developed, she’ll learn to sit up without help from you, and before you know it, she’ll be crawling all over the house.

*Please note that the information provided should be used a guideline. If you’re concerned about a something specific always consult your family doctor or paediatrician.