Late Bloomers

As new parents, we’re always reading about, hearing about and talking about infant milestones. Yes, they’re important. No, not every child reaches the same milestones at the same age. The age ranges given for each milestone are simply guidelines—the average age when the milestone is reached taking every child into account. Just like on the height and weight charts, pretty much no child on earth exactly matches the “average” or “typical” child. So, if you have a late bloomer—that is, your child hasn’t met one or milestones according to the guidelines—this article is for you.

What does it mean?

Most of the time, being later than average on a milestone just means that your child is busy working on something else that’s more interesting. Some babies walk at 7 months, while other perfectly normal babies wait until 13 or 14 months … or even 18 months! Unless there’s some underlying medical reason (which your pediatrician should recognize), the age when your child walks has nothing to do with his future as a soccer player or marathon runner. Likewise, “late” language development is usually nothing to worry about. In fact, the talking milestone is the most common delay, with as many as one out of five children talking significantly later than the average age.

When should I be concerned?

First of all, talk with your child’s pediatrician about milestones at every well-baby visit. The doctor can certainly let you know whether or not a particular delay or set of behaviors is worrisome. He or she can also tell you what to watch out for, and check for obvious issues like hearing or vision problems. If your pediatrician isn’t worried, then you shouldn’t stress, either. Doctors see it all, and they’re good at spotting actual developmental delays, versus normal variation.

What can I do?

If you’re concerned about your baby’s delayed milestones, then spend extra time working on them. Activities like holding your baby’s hands while he rests his weight on his feet can build leg strength, and you can even “walk” him around like this to help him get a feel for the motion. If talking is a concern, then make sure you’re giving him plenty of opportunities to develop this new skill. If he can get away with nodding yes or no and pointing, he will! Help him learn the names of things he points at, and don’t just try to guess at what he wants until he nods. Make him work a little, and he’ll learn that he has to talk to get what he wants.