Gather a bunch of babies or toddlers in a room and you're bound to recognize a wide range of skills and abilities. But when it comes to comparing your baby with your friend's baby, it's important to remember no two babies are alike.
"Not every baby develops at the same pace," says Chicago pediatrician Dr. Julie Selig. "Comparisons with other babies aren't always fair."
Some babies, however, may need some extra help when it comes to reaching important milestones. The earlier you connect with services, the better and sooner progress will be made, she says.
A developmental delay is determined when your child does not meet a developmental milestone in the categories of motor, speech/language, cognitive or social/emotional skills at an expected time. For example, most babies can sit up without support at 7 months. If your baby is still not sitting on her own at 9 months, this would be considered a developmental delay. It is also important to note if your baby reaches a milestone and then falls behind, unable to reach that same milestone as time progresses, this also may indicate a developmental issue.
In many cases, delays are caused by reversible factors, such as hearing loss from ear infection or lead poisoning. Other factors may be genetic, stem from birth issues (prematurity, infection, etc.) or simply unknown.
"Parents are usually the first ones to sense that there may be a developmental issue," Selig says. "Many 'normal' babies may fall behind in one area and yet make great strides in another, and milestones are simply guidelines. Most issues turn out to be minor."
Your best bet: See your pediatrician for an evaluation, she says.
Most pediatricians screen for developmental delays during routine visits, but don't be afraid to ask about your baby's milestones and share your worries.
Plainfield mom Robin Gonzalez shared her concerns at her daughter's 6-month-old check-up.
"I realized she was delayed after reviewing the milestones with my pediatrician, confirming that she was not meeting them," Gonzalez says. "She didn't seem to have any issues with wanting to respond to me or follow with her eyes, but had difficulty holding herself up. I spoke with the doctor and we treated her as if she was a newborn and went step by step on developing her muscles."
She rolled over at 12 months and walked at 18 months after taking swim classes that helped strengthen her muscles.
"She is now 3 and doing all the things she should be. I couldn't be happier for her."
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
See more of Amy's stories here.