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One of the most bittersweet days as a parent is when your baby opens up his little baby fists, grabs for something the very first time, or reaches up to someone to be picked up for the first time ever.
For me, watching my children reach toward me to be picked up, gave me an intense feeling of joy along with the overwhelming sensation that my baby is beginning to explore the world on his own in a much greater way.
For one, a baby who reaches to be picked up has a preference of where he is – a sure sign of growing up! And two; a baby who reaches to be picked up has the coordination to explore the world on a much larger scale than before.
Babies, who begin reaching to grasp objects, or reach for their parents, hit a major milestone in their development when they accomplish reaching – as a parent you might be wondering – at what age does this usually happen?
How long do you have before you need to baby proof the house, or, what if your baby seems to be a little late to reach this milestone? What if your baby isn’t reaching at all yet… let’s find out all about it.
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Reaching for Mommy or Daddy Might Happen Around 3 Months of Age
Most babies will start reaching for familiar things like their mommy and daddy or their favorite toy by 5 months of age at the latest.
By 5-months your baby should be able to recognize when you enter the room and they will likely reach up to you in the most adorable way to be picked up.
That said, some babies surprise their parents when it comes to the reaching milestone – don’t be surprised if your baby is reaching and grasping objects by 3 months old.
Between 4-6 months of Age, Your Baby Will Have Mastered Reaching and Grasping
According to Askdrsears.com, at 4 months your little one will become capable developmentally to utilize their binocular vision.
Binocular vision assists your baby in reaching many milestones that naturally happen between 4 to 6 months of age well into adulthood.
Binocular vision is what it’s called when the eyes work together in accordance with limb and hand coordination. Reach and grasping is all made possible by binocular vision.
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So if you wear glasses your baby might start to reach for them around the age that their binocular vision is developing. Instead of having your baby pull off your glasses, or your dangling earrings – offer your baby plenty of toys during this time.
There are even ankle rattles that will occupy your baby while he’s kicking around.
Babies have a preference for the toys they play with, so if you find that your baby isn’t reaching for the toys you offer by 6 months of age, don’t stress – your baby might not be that interested in the toys you’re offering yet.
Keep offering a variety of toys until one of them sparks your baby’s attention.
Around 5 Months of Age, Your Baby Will Probably Like To Do More Things on the Floor
Most babies will be more comfortable on the floor by themselves around 5-months of age. In addition, 5-6 months old is the time when your baby can successfully roll over in both directions.
Babies love to play with toys while laying on their stomach or their back, and they might even start army crawling around a little bit at this age.
When Your Baby Finally Reaches For You To Pick Them Up, Your Heart Will Melt
Having your baby reach up for you is one of the most incredible feelings ever – it melts your heart to look down and see your baby reaching out his arms for you – your baby has officially recognized you as someone they want to hold them.
When your baby reaches up for you for the first time there are a few significant things that happen; your baby is physically capable of reaching for people or objects and your baby recognizes you as a trustworthy person in their lives.
At what age will your baby start reaching up for you?
It’s common to see 6-month-olds reaching up for their parents or close relatives. You might expect your baby to follow this common developmental milestone.
The most common rule of thumb is that soon after your baby starts reaching for toys or objects you might notice them start reaching for you.
What if my baby is reaching for strangers?
Babies generally will reach for people they know and trust, that’s why you will probably see your baby reach for mom and dad first.
If you notice that your baby is reaching for other adults who aren’t close relatives, such as strangers out in public, you can remind them that they don’t know that person and it’s not safe to go into a stranger’s arms.
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It’s good to encourage your baby to have a sense of confidence when they gain an opinion about who they want to be held by, but you don’t want your baby thinking it’s okay to go to a stranger.
You can teach your baby stranger danger even from a young age and still encourage the act of making friends with people in the world.
What If My Baby Isn’t Reaching For Me By 6-months-old?
Multiple mothers on a discussion forum were asking if it was normal for their 7.5-month-old to not be reaching out to them at all.
They spoke of their little ones reaching their backs or wiggling their arms when they got excited, but no sign of reaching their arms out to their parents.
The answer is that you have nothing to worry about if your 7-month-old isn’t reaching for you yet, but there will come a point when you might start to worry.
If your baby is 1-years-old and has not reached for you to be picked up, it might be time to start asking some questions. By a year old your baby should have consciously reached up for you at least once for you to pick them up.
Not reaching to be picked up by a loved one is one of the most common symptoms of autism in babies. If you notice that your baby hasn’t reached up to you by 1-years-old, you can try to encourage their motor skills.
How to encourage your baby’s motor skill development
There is plenty of things that parents can do to encourage their baby to reach, grasp, and have more developed motor skills.
When a baby is born, all that they can really do in the early days is wiggle around, looking at you as if they are in awe of the world around them.
This is because their head is so heavy that they can’t lift it quite yet, and their body isn’t strong enough to help them fully stand to walk around.
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But every milestone is accomplished right after the last one, in the most natural way for every baby. All of these milestones add up to your baby one day being able to walk swiftly through the room without anyone or anything’s help.
Encouraging your baby to aim for the next milestone is one of the best aspects of being a parent. You get to watch them grow, and celebrate each time a milestone is reached.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby isn’t hitting milestones on time
Most parents don’t have to think twice if their baby is late on a milestone or a few, but some parents have to consider this a reality. Autism or other physical disabilities could be a very real reason that your little one isn’t hitting milestones.
Yet, before determining a positive autistic diagnosis, proper evaluation should take place before – in the meantime, you can start by encouraging your baby to strive for the upcoming milestones.
Babies need the proper mixture of desire, strength, and balance to hit motor movement milestones
Baby’s need to have a certain mixture of natural skills to acquire the necessary strength and development to reach their milestones. This is usually done through regular day-to-day activities, but it’s no doubt that as a parent – you can help your baby move better!
Ways You Can Help Your Baby Acquire Better Motor Skills
There are plenty of ways that you can help your little one reach for better motor skills, the good thing is that babies are resilient and can manage challenges smoothly.
Over time you will notice that your baby is doing more physically if you perform the activities below with your baby.
Help your baby do a push up at 4-5 months to gain greater control of their stability
Between 4-5 months old, you can encourage your baby to push up more often.
Do this by helping your baby the first few times – stand above them and pull upward on your baby at their waist – when your baby is pushed fully up with your help then cheer them on.
After a few times of feeling how far they can push up with your help, your baby will be more likely to attempt to push up on their own. At first, your baby will struggle to push himself up by himself and only go into a push up with bent elbows.
You’ll know that your baby has mastered the push up when he can extend his arms fully, the pushup is necessary for your baby to be able to reach up over his arms to you.
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Help your baby reach and grasp as they learn between 4-5 months
Babies keep their little fists clenched tightly in balls until about 2-months-old, then they slowly begin to relax their fists. After your baby starts relaxing his fists he will begin playing around with grabbing and reaching.
At first, the grabbing looks like poking with 1 or 2 fingers at a time, then after a week of that, they’ll add in one more finger at a time.
After about 3 fingers worth of poking and ‘grabbing’ your baby will start really grabbing things, even though their strength is not yet established until a few month’s later.
Baby’s usually don’t hold an item on their own until about 4-months-old. You can begin encouraging them to grab toys, especially light ones much earlier than 4-months-old.
Clapping when your baby can fully grab something will help them recognize the big moves they’re making when they reach this milestone.
Help your baby roll over between 4-6 months
If you want to help your baby roll over easier and better, then you can encourage your baby to do it while laying on his back. Baby’s who are getting close to rolling over will need lots of room to do so.
Clear out the living room floor, for your baby to lay on so he can practice swinging his legs from side to side. One day you will see your baby accidentally rollover, which might be very surprising.
If your baby accidentally rolls over, clap your hands for amusement and encouragement to keep doing the intimidating movements.
Help your baby build strength to sit up around 6-7 months old
Since your baby has previously been doing floor work, he has already built a lot of strength.
The floor work I’m referring to involves those pushups and rollovers your baby has been doing all the time. The strength your baby has built from the floor work was the foundation for sitting upright on his own.
At about 6 or 7 months old your little one might be able to have more control over his posture, which allows him to sit upright. The vestibular system is what your baby has relied on to gain stability.
The vestibular system also gives your baby greater balance and a sense of his overall movement, this is because the vestibular system lies in the inner ears. You might notice that your baby seems off-balance if he gets an earache, due to the effects an earache has on the inner ear itself.
Don’t worry if your baby has an ear infection and seems to be off-balance. It will return to normal once the health of your baby’s inner ear is restored.
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You can help your baby build the strength needed to sit up by putting him right in the middle of a circle of pillows.
Naturally, he will try to grab toys around him. Go ahead and place a few favorite toys nearby for your baby to practice grabbing from a seated position.
The key to having your baby sit up sooner is to have your baby experience a ton of various types of movement – these sensations of his body will eventually help your baby sit up.
Help your baby crawl between 7-9 months old
At some point in time around the age of 7 to 9 months old your baby will get into a crawling position, and look extremely eager to move forward. Except one thing won’t happen – your baby will not go forward.
She will basically be ‘stuck’ in a crawling position, and won’t have the strength to move forward with crawling.
This is because your baby doesn’t yet have the skill or strength to push forward, in fact, your baby might even push herself backward through a scooting motion.
Don’t worry though, your baby won’t give up on the mission to crawl forward. They will attempt many more times to accomplish successfully crawling for the first time. You will see your baby fold at the elbows, and straighten one leg out – crawling one step forward at a time.
Your baby will resemble Bambi the adorable baby deer when he learns to walk for the first time. If you get this milestone on camera you are one of the luckiest – it’s an adorable thing to watch your baby learn to crawl.
On the other hand, you can help your baby learn to crawl instead of just watching your baby reach this milestone.
Encourage your baby to crawl by lining up toys for him to crawl towards, make sure the surface your baby is crawling on is safe for them to learn on – there will be many falls before successful crawling takes place.
If it doesn’t seem like your baby likes to crawl on the surface inside, allow your baby to practice crawling outside on the grass or lay down a blanket inside.
There are a few different types of crawling that baby’s pick up on most of the time; bear crawling(hands and feet on the floor with butt in the air), army crawling, and the usual knees and hands crawling.
Help your baby stand between 7-9 months old
Along with learning to crawl, your baby will also learn to crawl around 7-9 months old too. This might seem like all one big milestone for your little one to hit. Pulling up and crawling all in one shot? I’ll take it!
Most parents are super happy to pull out the camera around this age, it’ll feel like your baby is performing many tricks around this age.
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Your baby will meet many milestones between the age of 7-9 months of age, and it’s your job as a parent to encourage your baby to stand up around this age too.
Let your baby know that it’s okay to stand up by himself to walk along the coffee table or using the toy walker. There are many ways to help your baby stand up and walk alone.
Babies respond best if the one’s they love are encouraging them to stand up and walk along. If your baby has a natural fall, let them know it’s okay for that to happen – to get back up and try again.
Encourage your baby to walk alone at between 9 – 18 months old
Babies will be able to walk on their own sometime between 9-months-old and 18-months-old, though some babies will walk sooner than 9-months-old. Walking on their own might be your baby’s biggest milestone out of them all.
Parents who have multiple children get to choose their favorite milestone…if they can pick at all. Every milestone seems to be equally as exciting as the last one. But, it’s no doubt that walking is a major milestone amongst babies.
Walking is certainly the most physically demanding on mom’s and dad’s – one moment your baby can’t walk and the next moment they are running around by themselves!
At first baby’s don’t have much strength to walk around 100% of the time without any falls, but don’t worry with practice your baby will develop the proper balance and coordination to walk smoothly.
You might need to help your baby get the hang of walking independently at first, of course the lower energy phase of learning to walk will soon be in the rearview and the higher energy of your baby jumping, running, and hopping after he has learned to walk will take over.
Keep in mind that some babies will revert backward in their other milestones as they learn to walk – this is because walking is such a demanding task.
Two steps forward and one step back applies across the milestones as a whole when your baby is learning to walk for the first time. So don’t worry if they are suddenly not doing another milestone they recently had down.
Encouraging your baby to walk will boost their confidence at the right time
You can encourage your baby to fully walk on their own by providing the right environment for your baby to learn in. Some babies love the feel of grass compared to carpet, pay attention if there is a texture your baby particularly does not like.
It’s best to have your baby with barefeet when they are learning to walk if the surface of the ground is safe to do so. Babies love to walk towards something exciting, whether that’s their favorite parent of the day, or, the stuffy they sleep with every night.
Giving your baby something to be exciting at the end of their session is one good way to motivate them to get moving. Some babies flat out don’t like to walk and would rather crawl, so if your baby is showing signs of preference – stand your baby up as much as possible.
If your baby is tired, and would just like to crawl then don’t force an attempt of walking. Forcing your baby or showing an overly encouraging walk might cause your baby to shy away from wanting to do it in the first place.
Some babies experience a lot of anxiety when they start walking, you should always take your baby’s cues of which milestones they want to work towards that day.
Will a baby reach for mom or dad first?
You might experience your baby reaching for dad when he’s in your arms. It’s a time of overwhelming happiness when you see that your baby wants to be held by the other parent.
This means that your baby loves and trusts the other parent. You might see your baby reaching for your partner around the same age as they master reaching, or it could take them a few more months to learn to trust being picked up on demand.
Babies love to communicate their need for hugs, kisses, or food by reaching up for their parents. When this happens confirm your babies wishes by giving them over to the other parent, or picking them up when they reach for you.
Is there any way you can pick your baby up too much?
At some point in parenthood, you might hear someone say something along the lines of “ Let him cry if you pick him up too much….”
This is something frequently believed among the parenting community, and I must say, I have never experienced holding my baby too much, out of all 5 of my children this never became an issue.
It seems to be the exact opposite – in fact – it seems that the more you can casually hold your baby the happier they are. Your baby will be the most content when he is getting enough attention or affection from you.
Humans need to be held, this is a core need for people to function optimally as a baby. So when you pick your baby up each time they reach for you, there is a deep sense of contentedness that comes along with it.
You are showing your baby that their needs are important and that you are there. In turn, a baby that is picked up when they ask, won’t get scared or discouraged as often and cry even less. I am a firm believer in picking up your baby when they ask you to.
It makes thing’s so much easier to hold your baby momentarily even if you’re busy, when you do they will calmer and probably let you put them down sooner than if you just left them to cry.
Will my baby hug me before or after learning to reach?
Hugs are one of the most cherished acts of kindness your baby will present you with, along with those slobbery baby kisses. So what parents are asking is if the baby hug comes before or after they start reaching?
I believe the baby hugs come way before your baby starts reaching, for most parents there is usually a time around 2-months-old that your baby will seem to snuggle up on you with their chest. As if they’re leaning towards you a little more firmly, at least this is what my little one’s did.
A few other parents on a Reddit thread discussed this topic, and here is what they had to say;
Posted by a ‘deleted’ user of Reddit.com:
“It occurred to me this week that my 7 month old hasn’t hugged me yet. She recently started leaning over from a sitting position to rest herself against my chest, but she doesn’t use her arms to reach out and grab hold of me. Otherwise, she loves to be cuddled and prefers to fall asleep being cuddled. I read that babies can start hugging by 5 months. Should I be worried?”
Other parent’s answered like so;
Reply by xxlilstepsxx:
“Definitely don’t be worried. 10 times out of 10, ignore what you read on the random articles on the internet. If you’re truly concerned, ask your pediatrician.
That said, my son is 22 months, and only recently started hugging. Before, when we’d ask for a hug, he’d lay his head on our shoulder and let us hug him.”
You’re perfectly ok, I promise.”
Reply by Codaflow:
“Our 17 month old daughter does the same thing. It’s awesome. But she didn’t start doing that until about 1.5 months ago.”
As you can see the age range of when your baby will reach for a hug can be at any point in time, it seems like it depends a lot on personality rather than then hitting the milestone physically.
It depends on how much the ‘hug’ is used in the household and how much you baby gets hugs from family members as a baby. Don’t be worried if your baby isn’t hugging you soon after reaching has been accomplished – your baby is probably right on track in terms of development.
You can always ask your pediatrician if you’re starting to get worried at any point in time.
Babies who have Autism don’t meet the usual developmental milestones like reaching
It’s well documented that babies who have autism or developmental disabilities don’t meet the same developmental milestones that babies usually do by 18-months-old. Doctors have certain tests that parents can do for their baby to determine if further testing is necessary – if you feel your baby needs to be tested it’s best to do it by 18-months-old at the latest.
Below are the common signs that your baby should be tested for Autism by 18-months-old
It might be uncomfortable to think your baby might have autism, but if your baby is exhibiting signs of autism then being diagnosed early on is best. Parents who wait longer than necessary to have their infant checked for autism, only risk-taking longer to treat their baby’s autism.
Not treating infant autism is a matter of comfort for your little one, if your child has autism you and your child’s primary care provider will design a treatment plan that keeps your baby’s optimal livelihood in mind.
There are many signs that point to possible autism so it’s important to be aware of these signs even if you don’t believe that your child is at risk for autism. If your baby is displaying any of the following signs, it’s best to have your baby diagnosed by the time they’re 18-months-old.
By 18-months-old your baby will probably have mastered most of the milestones in this article, so if your baby has not met most or any of these milestones it’s best to do further research and contact your child’s pediatrician if necessary.
If your baby doesn’t smile ever when the caregiver approaches to play or talk
One thing babies without autism do is smile when they are smiled at, this might be one of the first things you will see your baby do. If your baby has not yet smiled at you or another caregiver it could be indicative of autism.
If your baby doesn’t seem to have the most common baby gestures at all
Gestures are a baby’s way of communicating in the early years of their childhood. If your baby isn’t displaying signs of waving goodbye or hi when you walk into the room it’s an indicator of autism.
Some of the common gestures for this age include pointing to the objects or toys they want to play with.
If your baby is not talking or babbling by 18-months-old
By 18-months-old most babies will have conversations with their caregivers. Babbling or starting to form words is common amongst toddlers under 2-years-old – if your baby has yet to conversate with you or another loved one then this might be a sign of autism.
If your baby exhibits repetitive actions with little variety to what they perform
Babies 18-months-old and younger will usually play with a variety of toys – they exhibit many actions while they play. An autistic child will only have one or 2 actions that they repeat all throughout the day.
If your baby seems to be doing the same thing over and over without performing other actions, this might be a sign of autism.
If your baby doesn’t make eye contact with anyone while talking or playing
Babies who have autism don’t make eye contact very often, or they avoid eye contact altogether. This is generally because they are less responsive and not as engaged as babies without autism.
If you notice that your baby isn’t making much eye contact or doesn’t look around the room ask their pediatrician for further evaluation.
If your baby seems like they aren’t enjoying interacting with you this could be a sign of autism. Most babies enjoy interacting or playing with caregivers and other toddlers, so if your baby doesn’t engage in joyful activities without others this could be a warning sign.
If your baby does not respond when you baby call your baby’s name
Most babies start to learn their name early on, and will respond to it accordingly. So if your baby doesn’t respond to their name at all by 18-months-old, you might need to have them evaluated for autism.
Babies with autism aren’t able to understand or pay attention to their name which is one of the most obvious red flags.
When your baby doesn’t follow your pointer finger when engaged with you
By 12-months of age, most babies will look to something that an adult points at with their finger. Try to get your baby to look at something with your pointer finger, if you believe they might have autism they won’t respond to you trying to get them to look at the object.
If your baby doesn’t ever reach to be picked up by you or other people your baby trust’s
Babies love to interact with at least one person, whether it’s you or another person. That’s part of human nature, and even shy babies will interact joyfully with at least one person. Yet, autistic babies don’t enjoy interacting with other people.
If you notice that your baby doesn’t play with other children, or won’t engage joyfully with you, it might be a good idea to have your baby evaluated for autism.
Do babies want to reach before they can physically do it?
Babies with autism won’t reach for their caregivers or anyone else because they aren’t able to engage in this manner. You might find that every time you go to your baby’s crib they don’t reach for you at all if they do have autism.
When your baby reaches for you they build confidence and assertiveness
Every time your baby reaches for you to be picked up, and you affirm the request in return – you help your baby become more confident overall. By responding to your baby’s needs such as picking your baby up when they ask you to, you teach your baby that their desires matter.
Most importantly, you teach your baby that you are there to help, and the bond between the both of you strengthens every single time you reach down toward your baby lovingly. Your baby needs this confirmation when learning to use their voice.
Babies who are shy can be encouraged to branch out of their shy character, and trust other close relatives when parents encourage them to ask to be picked up by other adult caregivers too.
Picking your baby up when they learn to reach for you is an important milestone in your little one’s life. There will be many more milestones to be met and celebrated during your child’s baby years, but reaching to be picked up is an unforgettable moment.
Looking down at your baby, whether they are crying to be picked up or happily reaching for you is something special for everyone. Don’t discourage your baby by getting upset or frustrated if they want to be picked up often.
Even though picking your baby up can be a demanding task, it is one that won’t last forever. Parenthood comes and goes in the blink of an eye – so enjoy these moments while they last.
Studies show that babies who are held often, become strong, healthy, confident adults.