Preemie milestones for the first year 

Many parents of preemies aren’t sure how to track their babies’ development. This makes sense since preemies often take a little bit longer to hit certain milestones than other children their age. It’s usually more useful to use a preemie’s adjusted age when looking for these milestones, because this age is more accurate for where preemies might be developmentally if they’d been born at the expected time. Adjusted age is the number of weeks early that your baby was born subtracted from their actual age in weeks.

According to a 2008 guide from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, and March of Dimes, the following are some milestones to look for when monitoring a baby’s development (remember, all of these milestones apply to a preemie’s adjusted age, and they certainly don’t apply to all babies, because every baby is different!).

  • 2 months: By this age, many babies can move their hands and legs, lift their head and chest during tummy time, hold objects in their hands, cry if they need something, respond to sounds, make eye contact, look and watch people and things, and recognize their primary caregivers.
  • 4 months: At 4 months, many babies can bring their hands to their mouth, reach for and grasp objects, startle when they hear a sound, laugh, squeal, bring objects to their mouth, show an interest in mirrors, and comfort themselves.
  • 6 months: Many 6 month old babies can sit without any help, hold one object in each hand at the same time, respond to their name, babble ‘nonsense’ sounds and make cooing noises, shake objects and hit them against other things, follow things with their eyes, look in the direction of things that have left their sight, and show emotions like happiness, unhappiness, and excitement.
  • 9 months: A 9 month old baby may be able to pick up small objects with their pointer finger and thumb (pincer grasp), crawl, roll over, transfer objects between their hands, recognize certain words, copy your words or movements, try to help feed themselves, can play peek-a-boo, and might seem scared when they see a stranger.
  • 12 months: By 12 months, many babies can stand without assistance, take a few steps alone, put objects in a container, point at things, associate simple words with objects or people, hand over objects over when asked, help with getting dressed, appear to be more comfortable when they’re around their caregivers, and can play with other children.
Your little one may not go exactly by these guidelines, so remember not to compare them with other babies. If there’s one things that babies have in common with adults, it’s that they all develop at their own speed, in their own ways! You can use the above milestones to keep an eye on your baby’s progress, but it’s not a good idea to use it to set goals.

  • “Growth and development after prematurity.” Tommy’s. Tommy’s, 2016. Web.
  • “Supporting you and your preemie.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics’ Preemie Health Coalition, 2008. Web.
  • Maureen Mulligan LaRossa, R.N. “Developmental Milestones.” Emory University School of Medicine. Emory University, 2016. Web.

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