Baby Milestones Guide for Mindful Parents
So you come home with your new beautiful baby with no instruction manual. You have to be kidding right? It seems there is a new challenge everyday, and you just don’t have any idea how you are doing as a new parent, or seasoned parent for that matter. Doesn’t seem fair does it?
But there is hope? The closest thing we have to seeing how well we are fairing, from a developmental perspective, are baby developmental milestones. A sort of “Developmental Report Card” for the parents. The reason I say “for the parents”, is because if parents make good choices for their babies, then babies flourish. If they don’t make good choices for their babies, then there are what we as therapists call “developmental gaps”.
By checking in with developmental milestones from the beginning of your child’s life, you can see if your baby how well your baby is progressing . Milestones are not an exact science and every child is different, but you will start to see patterns in your child’s development, and if you pay attention and have genuine concern for you child’s development, you will find ways to adjust or support you babies environment so they flourish.
Working in developmental for 17 years, I have seen more than my share of parents who have differing levels of concern for their child’s development, with some too busy, too inattentive, or to self absorbed to check in on their own parenting skills. But by an large, most parents do care, but can’t see their own maladaptive patterns and how they are affecting their babies. To be blunt, they are clueless. And just to be fair, I was one of them.
Even as a developmental therapist, somehow I had inherited “Parental Cluelessness”. Almost all parents have this, as we can’t see our own behavior. To add to this symtomatology, our brain has coping strategies to assure us that we are “awesome” just so we can make it through each day without breaking down. Interestingly cognitive science has the research to support that the parents that have the best “self” judgement, actually end up more successful in execution tasks. All this results in the very annoying symptom of “I’m raising my kid better than that other parent over there.” Oh…the not so pretty side of parenting!
So what’s the cure? Well…the science isn’t all in yet, and it probably won’t ever be. But we have some data that suggest there are a few promising leads. The first promising lead is Mindfulness; being attentive to the present moment. A close second is Non-Judgement; looking at things in a neutral manner. And third of course is Developmental Milestones; the skills growing babies have at certain times of development. I say all of this of course with a chuckle, but honestly, it worked for me.
Mindfulness is of course important because it allows you to focus and be the observer of your world. Since you baby is in it, you are in luck. You stop being distracted and actually attend to what is happening around you. You see and hear and smell and breathe. I add “breathe” because you may be a little shocked at what you see. Dirty diaper, diaper rash, crying baby who needs a nap, and on and on and on. It is sometimes easier to stay distracted quite honestly. But, I promise, staying clueless is never the best in the long run.
Every time I check Pinterest for a new recipe, or check my e-mail to get a time for an event we need to get to that day, there is undoubtedly, a long list of immediate needs to meet upon re-entry into the real world. However, with a little practice I come to expect it! And I am prepared…at least mentally. And always, as a family we get back in the flow of life with at least our heads above water.
The second ointment for a case of Parental Cluelessness, is Non-Judgement. This is simple once you get the hang of it. It is the same as being the objective observer in a science experiment. You look, watch, take data, and report. No judgement, no “I am so wrong”, or “I totally messed this one up”. You look, see, and take data.
Finally, by comparing your data to Developmental Milestones, you get a score. Did your data match the developmental milestones? Is your baby meeting the benchmarks, to a greater or lesser degree? OR are they not even near the developmental milestone benchmarks. Developmental milestones are taken from objective observation of literally 100’s to 1000 of babies, so in general they are an “average” guide to developmental skills. It is very possible that your baby may be ahead of average in some areas, right at about average for others, and a bit behind in a few as well. It’s when you start to see a pattern not related to your kids individuality that change needs to happen.
And yes, I have used this approach with success. For example, I noticed that my own children were both on the lower end of size developmental milestones, being little “peanuts” as I so lovingly call them. We didn’t worry because growth was consistent and within norms per our physician. But when I noticed that my baby was not sleeping through the night when the average baby would have been for several months already, we changed what we were doing. We set more structure, kept her up a bit more during the day, building in more social time, and got a noise machine for her to sleep with. With those changes, our little baby became a serious snoozer!
So, let’s all stop using developmental milestones to judge our babies. Let’s start using developmental milestones to check in on our own parenting. If we do this from the start, there will be little chance our end up in a doctor’s office or therapy center because there is “a developmental problem with the baby!” Instead, we will help our little kiddos along the wild road, allowing them to flourish and grow quite beautifully!
Basic Developmental Milestone Categories Include:
Fine Motor Development
Gross Motor Development
Emotion Development/ Emotional Regulation
note ** I should note that some children do have specific conditions that warrant therapy, and it is always good to check with a therapist if you feel as a parent your child may have a specific problem. However, this article is targeted at developing kids without congenital difficulties or a developmental diagnosis.