Milestones For Your Premature Baby

Having a baby—even if it's your fourth—is so exciting! But it is not as easy as you might think.  If your baby was born more than three weeks early, you may have more questions about your baby than a parent whose baby was born on time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists important milestones—or achievements—in a child’s growth, so you know what to watch for at each age.  It is important to remember that development is not a race. Babies develop at their own speed and in their own way. Some children do not reach every milestone at the same time. This is especially true if they were born early.​

How to Adjust Your Baby's Age  

If your baby was born early, ​they has 2 important days to mark on the calendar. The day your baby was born is ​their official date of birth, but their estimated due date is also an important day. When you measure your baby's development— what is "normal" for your baby's age—consider both of those dates. By looking at the difference between them, you can adjust ​their calendar age to account for ​their prematurity and calculate ​their  corrected. During the first 2 years, using​ their corrected age will give you a better idea when they should reach common developmental goals.​

  • ​Here’s what to do: If your baby is 12 weeks old, but was born 6 weeks early, subtract 6 from 12. This gives you 6 weeks. Use this adjusted age when you look at the milestones. By age 2, most children have caught up to the normal range, and you won’t have to do this math. If your child has not caught up, they may require extra support for a longer period of time.

  • ​Watch for progress: The most important thing is to make sure your child is moving forward in his development. For example, your baby should progress from pulling himself up, to standing, and then to walking. Remember that children reach new milestones at different ages. You will know your child better than anyone else. When you watch them, you will see ways she is growing well. You will also know if she needs more help. Remember, you do not have to do it alone. There are doctors, teachers and other people and information to support you. We hope you will reach out to our specialty workers to help you reconnect with resources and skilled professionals to make sure your baby meets their milestones at the appropriate time.

Preemie Developmental Milestones

Note: The information below shows how young children typically develop. It is important to use your child’s adjusted age when tracking his development. So, if your baby is 19 weeks old, but was born 5 weeks early, his adjusted age is 14 weeks (or about 4 months). This means you should refer to the milestones listed under “at 4 months (16 weeks)” to see what your child should be doing at this age.

At 2 Months (8 Weeks)

Motor

  •  Moves hands and legs actively 
  •  Keeps hands open most of the time
  •  Lifts head and chest when lying on tummy
  •  Controls head a little, but may still need support
  •  Holds objects in hands

Language

  •  Responds to sounds (for example, turns when hears voices and rattles)
  •  Makes cooing noises like “aaaah” and “ooooh”
  •  Cries when needs something

Activities

  • Fixes eyes on a person or object (a mobile, for example) and follows its movement
  •  Has different cries for different needs

Social/Emotional

  •  Makes eye contact and smiles
  •  Recognizes and enjoys interactions with mother or primary caregiver

At 4 Months (16 Weeks)

Motor

  • Brings hands together, or to mouth
  •  Lifts head and pushes on arms when on tummy
  •  Reaches for objects
  •  Turns or makes crawling movement when on tummy

Language

  •  Turns head to follow familiar voices
  •  Laughs and squeals
  •  Combines sounds more often (for example, “aaah-oooh”, “gaaa-gooo”)

Activities

  •  Grasps more and reaches for objects
  •  Brings objects to mouth
  •  Increases activity when sees a toy

Social/Emotional

  •  Is increasingly interactive and comfortable with parents and caregivers
  •  Shows interest in mirrors, smiles and is playful
  •  Is able to comfort himself

At 6 Months

Motor

  •  Puts weight on feet when held standing up
  •  Sits by himself
  •  Bangs and shakes objects
  •  Transfers objects from one hand to another
  •  Holds 2 objects at a time, one in each hand
  •  Rolls over from tummy to back

Language

  •  Responds to her name, turns and looks
  •  Babbles, making sounds like “da”, “ga”, “ba”, “ka”

Activities

  •  Pays attention to what toys can do (make music and light up, for example)
  •  Looks towards object that drops out of sight

Social/Emotional

  •  Is becoming more aware of surroundings
  •  Notices if parents are present (or not)
  •  Reacts differently to strangers
  •  Expresses excitement, happiness and unhappiness

At 9 Months

Motor

  • Picks up small objects with thumb and finger
  • Moves more easily (crawls, moves along furniture, walks when hand is held)
  • Pulls to a stand

Language

  • Recognizes familiar words (her name and phrases such as “time for bath” and “go bye-bye”)
  • Babbles with combination of vowel and consonant sounds (for example, “dada”, “baba”, “mama”)
  • Imitates sounds and movements

Activities

  • Explores objects carefully (turns them upside down, puts hands inside openings)
  • Is more involved in feedings (tries to hold bottle or pick up finger foods)
  • Resists toy being taken away

Social/Emotional

  • Plays peek-a-boo and claps hands with excitement
  • May show anxiety around strangers

At 12 Months (One Year)

Motor

  •  Stands alone
  •  Takes first steps
  •  Turns pages of a book few at a time
  •  Puts small objects in container

Language

  • Combines movements with sounds (reaches for an object and uses voice at same time)
  • Pauses or stops when told not to do something
  • Associates “mama” or “dada” with parents
  • Uses one word again and again
  • Hands you an object when asked

Activities

  •  Is better able to feed herself (tries to drink from cup)
  •  Helps with dressing

Social/Emotional

  •  Prefers to be with parents and caregivers
  •  Plays with other children
Source -
Supporting You and Your Preemie: Milestone Guidelines for Premature Babies (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)