Milestone bragging and why it doesn't matter
Really, it doesn't matter when your baby first rolls. Photo: Getty Images
My first-born rolled at five weeks. One day during tummy time he threw his head to the side, cocked his leg and flipped over. I thought it was a funny trick, but one he was unlikely to repeat, after my early childhood trained mum informed me that no child could properly roll at five weeks. However, much to our surprise (and my delight) he did it again. And again, until he was doing it all the time and thus become the baby who could roll at five weeks, giving him a great party trick and his mother something to feel very proud about.
I admit, I was quietly chuffed that my very clever baby could roll weeks, if not months, before other babies. Clearly he was an advanced physical specimen who would go on to be an elite athlete, achieving all his milestones early and being accepted into the gifted program at school.
When all a baby does is lie motionless for the first few weeks, any tiny bit of progress is cause for celebration and documentation.
Ah ... no. In the months that followed, my lovely boy crawled slightly ahead of schedule, sat up slightly behind schedule and took his first steps bang on average. Now 6, he wins some races, loses some races and overall is a beautifully average kid.
Which makes me look back on all the emphasis I placed on his rolling milestone and laugh. And I was reminded of this when my sister rang me the other day, after a mothers group catch-up with her first-born.
"All the other babies are sleeping longer than my baby," she said. "And some of them are eating meat. I’m only feeding him vegies, is he behind because he hasn’t had meat? He's grabbing things and hitting other milestones that some of the others haven’t …" She went on to ramble a few other concerns and ended with, "Did you sometimes compare your baby to other babies and wonder if they were doing what they should be?"
Um … of course I did. That’s what mothers do!
But new mothers everywhere, I am here to let you in on a little secret: none of it matters. In the vast majority of cases, your baby will sit, crawl, walk, eat, talk, sleep through the night, use the toilet, drink from a cup, stop sucking their dummy and start school with the rest of their peers - and no one will ask you how old they were when they rolled the first time.
I realise some children will struggle with some of these milestones, and unfortunately some of them will have developmental and behavioural difficulties that will cause stress and anguish for their parents. I’m not being flippant about that.
But I'm talking about all the little things that worry first-time parents no end, and the way we compare our baby to other babies, only to realise with time and subsequent children that we worried a lot more than we needed to.
Like when they sprout teeth. I kept a record of all my first-born’s growing teeth, comparing him to the average and even to my own baby book (yep, I was a first born!). But I didn’t document a single one of my second child’s chompers. I knew they’d come when they were ready, and the time and order of them wouldn’t affect her life - or mine - one bit.
I weighed my first baby religiously and noted his progress in his blue book growth chart. My daughter looked like she was getting bigger and was certainly growing out of clothes, so that was enough for me.
I’m pretty sure this is something we all do and it’s not going to change. When all a baby does is lie motionless for the first few weeks, any tiny bit of progress is cause for celebration and documentation. And of course we want to know our baby is normal, healthy and on track, so we compare them to other babies for reassurance. But we usually learn down the track that they all do things in their own time, and almost always catch up in the end.
A child of a friend of mine didn’t walk until he was over 18 months. She worried about it incessantly, comparing her son to others his age who were now running, until the day he stood up and started walking as if he’d been planning it all along. So when her daughter got off to the same start, she reassured anyone who mentioned it that "she’ll walk when she’s ready" - which is exactly what she did.
Some kids talk early, others take their time. Some toilet train with ease, others make their parents feel as though they will never get it. But you know what? They eventually do.
So when you're comparing your baby or toddler to others, worrying whether they're hitting their milestones or sitting at 'average' on the growth chart, or doing what your mothers group babies are doing, remind yourselves that there's wide range on the chart for a reason. If you're really worried, seek advice from your GP or child health nurse. Otherwise, relax and reassure yourself that they will all reach them in their own time ... and that no one changed the world by rolling early.
Did you worry about your baby reaching their milestones or fitting within the growth charts? Have you ever been guilty of milestone bragging? Comment below or on the Essential Baby forums.