Is Baby Not Meeting Their Milestones? What To Do Next
Have you noticed baby is having trouble reaching a certain milestone? Or does it feel like something isn’t quite right with your child’s development?
All parents have concerns at some time about their child’s development. This is a normal reaction and expected part of being a parent! But if you are noticing your child is struggling to meet certain milestones, you may suspect baby is experiencing a developmental delay. It’s important to listen to these concerns and reach out to a healthcare provider early.
Remember: A developmental delay is not the same as a disorder or disability. It just means a child has not yet been able to display the skills children typically have at their age.
If you suspect your child may be experiencing a delay, you should always speak to a healthcare provider about your concerns. You can do this during a well-baby visit or schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. You can also reach out to a specific type of healthcare provider that specializes in a form of treatment (although often pediatricians will provide referrals to these providers, so a pediatrician may be a good place to start).
Is there anything you can do to prepare for your baby’s appointment? Yes! Here are some tips to prepare, so you can learn more from baby’s healthcare provider.
- Track baby’s milestones. Use our milestone checklist to follow baby’s growth and development, and see if they are meeting their milestones. You can also track their abilities using the ability checklist. If baby was born premature, remember to adjust for prematurity.
- If possible, document baby’s developmental delays. For example, if you are noticing baby is having trouble standing, you can take a quick video on your phone to show the healthcare provider. This gives them a real life example, and helps them to determine what should come next.
- Be prepared to take notes. The provider will give you information during the assessment, so best to write it down in a notebook or on your phone! They may refer to a more specific healthcare provider, such as an occupational therapist or physical therapist, for a course of treatment to help baby.
What if your healthcare provider provides a diagnosis? A healthcare provider usually won’t provide a diagnosis right away; they will do tests and evaluations to determine what may be going on with baby’s development. If they provide a diagnosis, it’s important to also get information on:
- A course of treatment. Make sure to listen to their recommendations for treatment to help determine what is best for baby.
- Support groups. For specific diagnoses, there are often support groups (such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association). These support groups will connect you with families that have similar diagnoses. Support groups can be a great, lifelong source to ask questions and navigate difficult situations.
- Making accommodations at school. As your child approaches school age (or if they are already in school), it’s important to work with their school to make sure accommodations are made to help them get the most out of their education.
What if your healthcare provider says “wait and see”? Sometimes children outgrow developmental delays, and just need a little more time than other children. This can cause healthcare providers to tell parents to wait and see if the delay goes away.
We understand that it can be frustrating for a concerned parent to hear that they should wait and see what happens with their child’s development. If you’d still like to see if there are ways to learn more about baby’s development, here’s what to do:
Trust your instincts. You know your baby best. If you feel like there is something not right, then continue to ask questions and look for answers. There is nothing wrong with getting another opinion or having your child screened.
Obtain a free screening at a therapy clinic. While children often need a referral from a doctor to get therapeutic treatment, it is possible to obtain a free screening for therapy. These are sometimes referred to as a free developmental screening, and usually screen for speech, occupational, or physical therapy needs. Screenings typically last 15-30 minutes.
Contact an Early Intervention office to see if your child can receive services. In the United States, there are state-funded early intervention programs. These programs provide physical, occupational, feeding, and speech therapy, as well as social work services. Early Intervention services are typically for children 0-3 years old. Every state is different, so contact your state’s program to learn more.
Make sure your healthcare provider is doing the recommended developmental screenings. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental and behavioral screenings during well-baby visits at 9, 18, and 30 months. They also recommend children are screened for autism spectrum disorder at 18 and 24 months. It’s important to make sure baby’s healthcare provider is doing these screenings, and that you know the results.
Keep baby active! While you search for answers, keep baby strong by doing games and activities. Keep up with Tummy Time and the Baby Games Calendar. If you haven’t yet, try out Massage+ 30, 10, 5. Explore our website for more games and activities!
Remember, it is always better to talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns, even if it is a single issue and baby is showing all other signs of healthy development. It’s never too early or too late to get baby on the right pathway!