You know the feeling.
The brick in your gut when a fellow parent beams that her independently sitting baby is 5 months old, just as you catch your wobbly 7 month old before she topples over.
The throat tightening when see proof of your best friend's baby's first steps on Facebook as your same-aged kiddo is just beginning to crawl.
It feels as though we can't help but compare our babies' milestones, but is it valuable? Hands down, the most common question I receive from parents is, "My baby isn't ____ yet, should I be worried?" And I also hear from many twin parents who struggle with comparing the different developmental paces of their two.
Here are some things to consider if you find yourself battling worries over your baby's milestones or suffering the consequences of baby comparisons.
Is Your Baby Making Progress?
Most new parents only have the big benchmarks of gross motor milestones - rolling, sitting, crawling and walking - to use as measures of their babies' progress. But as a child development professional, I've seen firsthand how helpful it is to share with parents some of the more subtle developmental stepping stones that lead up to those big "WOW" moments.
By recognizing these "baby steps," you'll able to reassure yourself that your little one is indeed making progress, even if it's at her own rate. And you'll know what to look for next. Most often, when I recommend that a family seek a developmental evaluation for their child, it is because these building blocks aren't being mastered and there is little progress toward milestones.
Here are some of the major "baby steps" toward your baby's milestones to look for. Don't miss the free printable PDF version of these lists at the end of this post!
Who Are You Comparing Your Baby To?
It's nearly impossible to avoid the tendency to compare when you meet other babies and the inevitable "how old is your baby?" question comes up. My pediatric Occupational Therapist advice? It is far more valuable to compare your baby this month to your baby last month (and the months before that) than to compare your baby to your friend's baby.
My mommy advice? When faced with those inevitable moments of comparison, remind yourself of all the amazing things your baby is good at. And think beyond gross motor skills! Think of smiling and cooing and waving and eating and sleeping and separating from you and petting the dog gently.
I'll be completely vulnerable and let you in on a little secret. My little guy has always been ahead of the curve in terms of gross motor development. He's probably the reason for a pit in the stomach of many a mommy as he navigates the playground like a child many months older. BUT he can't stick his tongue out because of his tongue tie (and my guilty mommy conscience thinks possibly because we waited so long to have it clipped). And he's never been a great sleeper. So I am prone to my own unique brands of baby jealousy, insecurity and sensitivity when around other kids and parents (and at my lowest, I have gotten in the car and cried after watching another baby lick a popsicle with ease).
I share that to remind you that every single parent has insecurities and worries. Even the mom of the kid sitting at 5 months and walking at 10. Keep perspective and don't focus on the few areas that your baby may need extra time on. Remember that your child is a whole person with many strengths!
Talk With A Professional
It's definitely important to discuss any concerns you might have about your baby's development with your child's doctor. Baby development doesn't occur according to a neat little chart with exact months for each milestone. There is a range of "normal" that is often much wider than parents realize.
Your child's physician should be able to help assess whether there's anything to be concerned about, make appropriate referrals if needed and, more often than not, reassure you that your kiddo is on the right track!