January 19, 2008

Baby Development

Cari emailed me on a subject dear to my own heart: worrying about baby development and milestones.

I know that you have mentioned before that your children were a little slow to reach their developmental milestones. My baby is 11 months old and is still not crawling. She rolls over and has excellent direction; and she has just started getting up on her hands and knees and rocking, but no crawling; and for sure no pulling up or standing. She has a few sounds, but no consistent words like mama or dada.

I'm wondering at what point I should start being concerned. (Well, more concerned than the near-constant mommy-worry that we all have.) She has been behind from the start in her gross motor skills, so I'm not extraordinarily surprised that she is where she is, but people are asking about it more often and I don't really know how to address it. I don't really feel like I need to address it to randoms who ask; but it is on my mind.

I know that babies develop at their own rates, but I guess I'm looking for reassurance that she really is okay and that others have been in similar situations.


Indeed, my kids have been "late end of normal" in their development. In a group of babies, my baby would be the one lying there like an enormous larva while the other babies skittered all over the floor.

Rob didn't crawl until he was 12 months old. Elizabeth didn't walk until she was 17 months old---and if she'd done it 2 days later, I would have had to say 18 months old. At 7.5 months, Henry has rolled over maybe a dozen times and never on purpose. NONE of my kids have been able to say as many words as they're supposed to be able to say on baby/toddler charts. They are all late, late, late.

I'm sorry, but the only way I can give reassurance here is to bring out some serious bragging. Saying "and they're turning out fine!" is insufficient: pretty much all parents think their children are brilliant and amazing, and for all you know my kids are drooling their way through school as I look on them fondly and tell you everything's fine, perfectly fine! So I must say more, but I will keep it brief: on national standardized tests, Rob and William are both coming up as top of the class. Also, I'm pleased to report that both of them can walk AND talk AND roll over.

So when SHOULD you worry? Because I am a chronic worrier (ever since reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child, I've been worried that we will be in such a terrible blizzard we will not be able to get back to the house from the barn) (we don't have a barn, nor have I ever lived anywhere with a barn) (but if we did, I would totally have a guide rope stretching between them), I like to turn over this kind of worrying to my pediatrician. I say to him outright, "I worry about everything. But I'm not going to OFFICIALLY worry until you tell me to worry." And about three times he's said, "It's not time to WORRY, but it's time to do a little extra investigation," and we do, and everything is fine. He says that, in general, as long as a child is continuing to make progress along the developmental timeline (even if the progress is slower and/or later than usual), everything is still fine.

I have been annoyed over the years by how SURPRISED people act at what is actually still within the normal range of development. "OH!" they say. "She's still not WALKING?" And their eyes get darty with surprise and alarm. "What does the DOCTOR say?" Or maybe someone says, "Let's see, 8 months--he must be crawling all over the place by now!" The prize goes as usual to my mother-in-law, who would ask if the baby was crawling yet, and then tell me AGAIN that children who crawl late tend to have learning disabilities. (Whuh? Even if this were true, why would she say so?)

And how should you deal with this sort of, um, concern? You could try hooking a leg behind the other person's ankles and giving a sudden sharp shove, as I fantasized doing many a time. Or, you can act surprised right back at them: "Well, no! But she's only 13 months!" (tone of voice communicates "Do you have a fever or something?").

For people who have genuine concern rather than the faked concern designed to make you feel bad, you can say that the pediatrician says there's a wide range of normal, and that he or she says your child is still well within that range. The words "well within" are not only comforting but also pointed: they communicate that not only is the concern unnecessary, it's a little on the ignorant side. You can look at them pityingly, give a little laugh and say, "Don't worry! I would tell you if there was anything wrong!" Like THEY'RE the big old worrywarts, while you yourself are laid-back and calm and definitely not lying awake at night fretting about how a larval child like yours will be able sit up at a desk.

Now. Perhaps you could chime in with your reassurances for Cari. Late bloomers who ended up fine or better than fine? (Or, sure, why not: early bloomers who ended up in prison and/or on drugs?)

47 comments:

Omaha Mama said...

Rolling over and rocking both sound like steps towards crawling. If the 12-month appt is in a month, she can certainly talk to the dr. then. Kids change so rapidly at that age, she may be crawling today, as I'm typing this. I think that sitting up is a good step in development, as well as any other motor development. I think if there were any major red flags, they would have been caught at the 9 month appt. It seems like the main concern would be if there were no mobility. I wouldn't worry until the doctor says to worry (that's good advice Swistle!).

jen said...

They are all different, is what I say. It's also not a race. My daughter didn't utter a word till she was 17 months old. Then she didn't say anything else till she was well in her 2's. But sometime between 2 and 3, she picked up a massive vocabulary and hasn't shut up since.

My son refused to bear weight on his legs until he was 10 months old. He never rolled over that I'm aware of, though he can do it now. He went from slugslugslugslug to one weekend where he was all slugcrawlWALK who knows.

There's the Worrying Voice, that we all have, and then there's the No, Something's REALLY Wrong Voice and I really think we tend to just know when we're just worried or anxiously anticipating something and when something is really wrong. Trust your instinct. There's a whole wide range of normal, and surprisingly I had no idea just HOW wide till I had kids. Because what's normal and what the gen public thinks is normal is way different.

Hmom said...

My oldest never crawled. The youngest only crawled and did not walk until 17 months old. I'm happy to say that they grew up just fine... smart and physically adept. They both can crawl, walk, run, and roll over beautifully. I have to admit I was nervous with each one of them...and the comments from family and friends did not help.

Someone Being Me said...

I hate those fake concerned people that then feel it necessary to share their child's milestones with you. Like my dental hygienist who a couple of weeks ago acted shocked when she found out my 11 month old wasn't walking yet. She told me that her 11 month old was and she thought "all" babies did by 11 months. I wanted to hit her. I also got the same reaction from people when my son didn't get his 1st tooth until he was 10 months old. You can almost see them mentally patting themselves on the back. Like they had something to do with their child's progress.

Erica said...

My husband walked at 7.5 months, and ended up getting arrested several times in his late teens/early twenties. I walked at nine months and couldn't hold down a job for longer than six months until I was 23.

I'm serious.

Early bloomers = bad seeds!

Laura said...

My daughter never (not ever) crawled. She walked at around a year. She is now an honors scholar, graduating this year with a scholarship to college. Many, MANY children never crawl and I was told, by my pediatrician, that many doctors don't even consider it to be a milestone for that reason.

Mama DB said...

neither one of mine walked until 15 months.

My youngest rolled but never crawled. He just started pulling himself up on furniture at 12 months and then cruised until he walked.

My eldest did a sort of army crawl around 11 months. She did that until she started walking. Kids do things when they are good and ready and unless (as Swistle said) your pediatrician is concerned then you shouldn't worry about it.

I kept some extra cards for my pediatrician in my purse and when people became concerned about my child's development I offered them a card and told them that if they were concerned then they could contact a professional. It was a jerk move but I got tired of the people in the supermarket asking if my child had been "tested". ARG. Oddly enough, no one took a card.

Alissa said...

Delurking to say that my mother tells me I never crawled. Ever. Straight from rolling around to pulling up and walking...at about 13 months.

And my baby brother never uttered a word, not a single word (that anyone ever heard, anyway), until the day before his second birthday. Then he quite clearly asked for a glass of water.

Babies are all kinds of weird. And the vast majority of them are totally normal in their weirdness.

Gina said...

I don't know if this counts as a developmental milestone or not, but my son was four (FOUR!) before he was potty-trained. I was insane with worry that something was wrong with him, even though he was "normal" in every other way.

And the fact that I couldn't send him to pre-school, or kid's clubs, etc only made it worse (plus everyone's concern and unwanted advice).

Turns out, there wasn't anything wrong with him - he was just being a stubborn pain in the ass.

Mairzy said...

Your baby sounds perfectly fine for her age. I've known children not to Do Anything at that age -- as it, they just Sat There. Yours is doing more than that already.

As for talking, I don't think there's even anything to wonder about there. My babies didn't start identifying anything with recognizable sounds until well after 12 months (my oldest takes the cake at 2 1/2 years). Trust your instincts. If you think she's fine, she probably is. If something keeps reocurring to you despite repeated assurances, then probably something is there.

And bravo to find somebody who has gone through the baby stage with two or three children. Swistle's advice is just the ticket.

Shannon said...

Elise has two words but otherwise is a lazy slug at at almost 9 months. She has rolled intentionally once. I'm kind of feeling forced to bring EI in, so I filled out the paperwork, I just have to mail it back. Since Darsie has cp and has been in therapy since very young, I just know E is fine, just a cuddly lazy baby.

Eva said...

My son just started walking at 16 months (crawling at 10). His twin sister started crawling around 11 months and still isn't walking at 16 months. We get comments all the time, like, they must be walking all over the place; or, wow, they're not walking? or, are they 8 months old? because apparently, if you're not walking, even if you have 12 teeth and hair and are the size of a 16 month old, you must be 8 months. I usually just say, we feel lucky they're taking their time, more time for us to finish childproofing... or, they're waiting until they can be steady before they walk, fewer bruises that way. Or I tell them that my pediatrician told me how refreshing it was that I wasn't worried, and that she wishes more parents were like me.

Linda said...

I agree with Swistle to some extent. Yes, if you trust your pediatrician, then trust your pediatrician. But they are not gods and don't know everything and some really suck and miss things. So get one that you like and trust, don't just trust blindly.

That said, one of my daughers didn't walk until 15 months and is fine at 3.5 years. She didn't roll over until 8.5 months. There is a huge range of normal and our ped always said that as long as their development is MOVING FORWARD (however slowly) and has not stopped or regressed, it's fine. It's the forward movement that is important.

Also, a lot of people don't know the normal range of development for kids and a lot of people honestly believe that early crawlers/walkers/talkers=BETTER PARENTS. Obviously, that's not true, but I tend to follow Swistle's example of educating those who are truly nice but ignorant and passive-agressively mocking those who are being asses.

Jodi said...

I think we get so worried because the parents whose children do hit milestones at a young age like to talk about it and "share" the news with everyone else. While the parents of late-bloomers tend to keep quiet.

It makes it seem as if 8 months is the normal age to crawl when in fact most babies don't crawl until they are well over a year old. And some don't for many months after that.

Definitely ask the doctor if you are concerned but don't worry until he tells you you have something to worry about. ;)

Beth A. said...

My daughter didn't crawl until about a week before she turned 11 months and didn't walk until 16 months. And at 2 1/2, you would never know it if you saw her on the playground, climbing and running.

I certainly worried about her (to put it mildly), but she kept making steady (if slow) progress forward and clearly wanted to be on the move. If she hadn't started walking by her 18-month checkup, I would have definitely talked to the pediatrician about it. That's something to consider - you should have a well-baby appointment coming up when she hits a year, so if you're still concerned by then, it would be an ideal time to bring it up. That way you wouldn't have to wrestle with whether you should make an appointment just to talk about this and feel like an overanxious mother.

Swistle said...

Linda is totally right: my post ends up sounding like I'm saying to blindly trust the pediatrician, but of course if you're worried, and the pediatrician isn't but you still are, go around him/her, or insist on having a test done, or whatever it takes to set your mind at ease. I would, wimpy as I am.

Stimey said...

My first: completely late talker, had therapy, etc...; wouldn't talk to other kids or play with them. Now he is never shuts up and is a total social butterfly.

My youngest: walked at 17 months. I think he just liked being carried. Runs like a maniac now.

Keep an eye on these things, but try not to worry too much.

Buckeye Mommy said...

Just delurking to say THANK YOU for posts like this one, Swistle! I have an almost 12 month old son who is babbling alot but not saying anything coherent. Lots of mamamama and dadadada but not specific at all. When I have friends say their kid called them mama at 6 months, my natural tendency to worry just goes into overdrive. Hearing from other moms just how wide the normal range is makes me feel so much better!

Doing my best said...

Reassurance here =): the baby sounds fine to me! Getting up on hands and knees and rocking is how my 2 who crawled started the crawling process.

Child #1 (boy) never crawled, WOULD NOT spend any time on his tummy, but was very interested in standing, walked early, but refused to speak at all until 18 months old; now he is "normal", but has inspired the creation of NUMEROUS behavior charts (I wonder if there's some "early walking=behavior nightmare" connection =)?)

Child #2 (boy) didn't crawl much, walked right before his first birthday, and at his 2 year old check up the only words he would say were: no, mama, and Blue (Blue's Clues). The Dr. was worried about this even after I told him that he knew 10-15 signs (milk, more, all done, cracker, etc...signing was so much easier than trying to interpret frustrated shrieks!). He did decide to speak more by his 3rd birthday, and now he is "normal".

Child #3 (girl): was pretty content to stay in one place until around a year old. She crawled a little. We started signing with her pretty early since it had worked so well with her brother, and she didn't start speaking much until she was about 2 (not that she could get a word in edgewise with her brothers...). She is 3 1/2 now and is "normal".

Child #4 (boy) was my first real crawler, he enjoyed getting around, but was not interested in trying to stand until 12 months. We sign with him too, and he didn't say much before 18 months, but in the month he decided to talk we discovered that he knew over 50 words!

Children really do develop at their own pace. Like someone else said, most doctors are more concerned with whether the child has lost skills, than how fast they are gaining skills. You're doing great, Cari!

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Swistle, I believe everything you say seeing as you have 5 kids and 5 kids worth of real world experience. That should be enough to set Cari's mind at ease.

It has certainly set my mind at ease about my non-crawling 8 month old.

In fact, I may just consult you for all further concerns I may have regarding my childrens' development.

Lis said...

Two examples from my own family - I didn't walk until I was 18 months old. I am told this is because I hate new things and I just didn't want to. (Fair enough, I say)

My brother was a very late talker and is now an engineer.

Oh! And, much like my high school results, no one ever asks what age I started walking at during job interviews, so don't worry about it too much.

AnnsyP said...

Thank you for this post. I frequently vacillate between being completely convinced that something is wrong with my son (generally when hanging out with other mommies and kids) and being positive that my kid is the smartest baby in the universe (when we are at home alone). He has hit every milestone late (except one that he randomly hit very early). But hit them eventually, so why do I doubt he'll hit the next one? I'm glad to see so many other women going through the same thing!

laughing mommy said...

My kids didn't even come close to walking until 12 months old.

My oldest didn't have a single tooth until 12 months old.

Both my kids now have all their teeth and walk great.

Farrell said...

Swistle: I think you gave great advice. And in general, from pregnancy on, people (MILs, and outsiders) tend to be RUDE and disrespectful to the MOTHER, the person doing her dardnest to ensure everyone stays sane...

Julie said...

My friend's MIL told her that her son was going to be a drug addict and end up in prison because he wasn't using utensils to eat at 12 months. Huh? My reply to people who comment about what my kids are or are not doing is usually "Everybody does it at their own pace." The hardest times for me to hold my tongue were when a comment was made IN FRONT of my children. There's a special place in hell for people who do that!

Black Sheeped said...

I almost failed kindergarten because I couldn't learn to tie my shoes. Could. Not. For so long. But I graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA or something. I think it all works out.

Cari said...

Thanks, you guys, for your reassuring words. I kind of feel like a schmuck now because, seriously, three days after I emailed my question to the lovely Swistle, my daughter started scooting and today she army-crawled practically the length of our house. It's so nice to know that there are others having the same experiences. Thanks for sharing, really.

grandbeach said...

sort of in response to what your mil said about late developers tending to have learning disabilities I would like to say that my sister was fully walking independently by 10 months of age, while I was doing so by 9 months of age and in fact running as well which is from what I've heard, early. That being said, my sister had/has quite a severe case of dyslexia which as I'm sure you know is a learning disability. I myself have never been diagnosed with a learning disability but am fairly certain I have a mild case of dyslexia. We both always developed early when it came to motor skills (I always developed much later when it came to the physical stuff like getting baby teeth, I was something like 13 or 14 months when I got my first tooth etc) so guess that would prove your mil wrong (which I'm sure you already KNEW she was wrong but it's nice to have stories to back you up).

grandbeach said...

btw: my mom actually tended to get weird looks when people found out how early I learned to walk/run as if she had pushed us or something. she didn't. she would have been QUITE happy for us to have learned to walk later. but alas, I wanted to walk...and climb and go go go right NOW so yah, guess it didn't work out for my mom. kids just do things at their own pace I find (I have no kids, I'm only 23).

the new girl said...

I love this post and the answers. I have a nephew who is very advanced in his motor skills and reached his milestones ultra-early.

It's sometimes hard not to compare, even though you know you shouldn't...at least for me.

Great topic.

Sara said...

I have one of each, my 5 year old was ridiculously quick at doing everything rolld over sat up crawled you name it, he was walking at 9 months old! Just for the record, he's now in kindergarten and struggling fearcely and will probably get held back. (he was also deaf the first 2 years of his life and has had surgery twice to restore hearing the latest this last november things are improving.) Anyway, my 2 almost 3 year old was exactly the oppisite and almost killed me with worry, the child like your Elizabeth didn't walk until he was 17 months, he rolled over for the first time at 8 months or so, and the video I have of this clearly shows me "helping" him with my foot. Yet now, at almost 3 he counts, knows most his letters, is writing some of them...you know, they just pick their own way in their life.

Personally, I count myself lucky with Dylan, it was like he was a baby longer.

amber said...

For the record, my sister (now 22) didn't walk until she was nearly two years old. She is not dumb, or slow, or at all disabled - in fact, she's amazingly perceptive and brilliant (cough: just a little biased over here). She has one more semester of college, and then she'll have her degree in 'health promotion' (in case you're wondering that sort of degree gets you jobs in physical therapy, which is what she's after). She was an amazing athlete in high school, and she's annoying quick-witted.

So: to your friend Cari (and everyone else with 'slow' children) I think it's safe to say, those assholes bragging about their babies running all over at eight months are smug bastards - IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE.

Oh, PS: my other little sister walked and ran and all that jazz (like me) at 8 months, and...she blows at anything word-related and I suck at math. So there you have it.

amber said...

Actually now that I'm thinking about it, we ALL suck at math.

Sandra said...

No worries ... I was an early bloomer and I'm on all kinds of drugs!

:)

melissa said...

My son is 20 months and only says a handful of words clearly enough for others to understand him. When I brought my concerns up at the pediatrician's office he said "But look at his motor skills! He can walk, run, jump, crawl, pinch, throw a ball, etc..."

I think boys tend to be more motor-oriented and girls more language-oriented. All in all, it balances out in the end. All of a sudden whatever you are waiting for happens and then it's hard to remember why you ever concerned at all!

Mary said...

OK, I don't have any kids so I don't know what all the milestones are supposed to be. However, if I did have a kid (let's call her Katie) and some pushy overbearing parent made a comment implying that little Katie was progressing in less than stellar fashion, I would say,"No, she isn't walking quite yet, but seem to really be enjoying college algebra."

Minnesota Matron said...

Totally different but I saw a genetic link with speech. I started talking at 8 months and all three of my children uttered their first word during that month. The first two walked at nine months, the third at one year. I knew enough to be happy about that, too. Finally, there's a really interesting writer, Suzanne Antonetta, who's written a book about neurodiversity. She puts all of us along a neurological plane, with autism and other neurological disorders being simply one slice of the broad span that is humanity. A VERY normalizing approach.

Steph in NJ said...

My cousin started walking at 10 months and my aunt had heard that early walkers end up being too "type A" so she pushed him down (gently) every time he started walking, to encourage crawling (she'd heard lots of crawling made kids grow up to be patient).

My poor cousin would walk until he saw his mom coming, then drop to the floor and crawl until the coast was clear, then walk again.

At 24, my aunt wishes he'd actually get a job. So much for ending up being a type A!

donna said...

I worry all the time too. About stupid stuff. Our girl didn't get her first tooth until she was 9 months and she's 14 months now and not really talking much. In fact, she never calls me Mama but uses Dada for every word sort of like a Smurf uses the word "smurf" for any and all words.

I too put it in the hands of the pediatrician. I still worry but he assures me he's happy so I try to stay happy too.

desperate housewife said...

Oh my gosh, I got "She's still not WALKING?" all the TIME with Addy. She didn't walk til fifteen months, and didn't even crawl until she was almost a year. And of course she's totally fine, and once she started walking, took off running within the week and hasn't slowed down since. I worried my HEAD off about it until she did walk, and now I wish I could get her to hold still.

brenna said...

When my MIL would make not-so-subtle comments about my son not walking as he neared his first birthday, my reply was always: "Walking? God, no! He keeps trying but we keep pushing him down. I couldn't watch my soaps if I had to keep chasing him all over the place."

She eventually quit asking, and he walked not long after his birthday.

BRash said...

I'm told my brother and I were both REALLY EARLY BLOOMERS for everything - rolling, crawling, walking, talking. He's a crazed in-and-out of prison drug addict ne'erdowell and I'm wildly successful, emotionally healthy and live a wonderful life.

Raising kids is a crapshoot.

Tessie said...

I love these posts and the comments because you can always find your child's developmental "issue" somewhere.

I also like the idea of "as long as they're progressing steadily, everything's probably fine".

That Little House things haunts me to this day and when I was a kid I made my dad string a line between the barn and his house for that exact reason. I mean, it COULD HAPPEN in Minnesota. IT COULD!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Great post and great comments. And great Little House reference. I felt the same way, and I was in NEW JERSEY with no barn (maybe a Pottery Barn?) in sight.

My girl didn't roll over till 8 months, never crawled, walked late. (at...14 months? How come I can't remember?!?! Jeez. Shows you just how much it matters now.) We did take her to physical therapy just to learn how to assist her gross motor skills and it really put my mind at ease.

Her gross motor skills were also helped by the exercises in a video called 'baby builders'. http://www.babybuilders.com/

K in the Mirror said...

I didn't learn to tie my shoes until fifth grade. Seriously. Velcro was popular and nobody realized I didn't know how to do it until I got new sneakers when I was 11. :)

I can tie them now. And I was okay even all those years I couldn't.

nicole said...

Well, with 45 comments already I'm sure mine is extraneous. Still, I will contribute. My now 4 year old did not walk until he was 20 months old! We were literally waiting for the Early Childhood Intervention program people to call us to schedule an evaluation when Buddy finally got up and got moving. He is absolutely fine now, of course. As Swistle said, there are ranges to these milestones, something people don't realize or just completely forget about. Your pediatrician should be your guide to concern, along with your own Mommy instinct.

Lis said...

That shoe tying comment made me have a flashback. They make velcro for a reason! When I was in Year 1 they had a shoe tying race on my first day of wearing lace up shoes. They let me give up after FOREVER and then the teacher had to re-tie my shoes for me. I asked to go back to velcro after that incident.