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Developmental Milestones

In caring for your baby after leaving The Medical Center NICU, keep these developmental milestones in mind, from your baby's perspective.

When I first go home:

  • Remember my stress signals; I still may get overstimulated. Overstimulation can interfere with my growth and development.
  • Help me work on my day/night patterns. Keep it light in the daytime and darker at night.
  • Remember my immune system is still not mature. I may get sick easily.
  • Monitor how much I eat so I can gain weight. I may need stimulation and cues/assistance to eat well. For example, you may have to unswaddle me, feed me on your knee instead of at your chest, tap my toes, change my diaper.


  • I am learning to establish relationships and build trust in my caregivers and environment.
  • I am working on my day-night patterns.
  • I am working on being more awake and alert.
  • Remember I can only see black and white (color development does not develop until approximately 3-4 months of age)


  • Lifts head at least 3 inches off floor when on belly
  • Turns head side-to-side and to sound
  • Plays with and watches hands
  • Smiles spontaneously
  • May laugh, chuckle
  • Holds hands open instead of fisted
  • May reach for toy or object

*These are general guidelines, all infants develop differently and milestones vary.


Always consider my prematurity when looking at milestones. Subtract how many weeks old I was when I was born from 40 then subtract that by how many weeks old I am now.

Example: a child born at 36 weeks who is 8 weeks old now
40 (full term) - 36 (gestational age at birth) = 4 wks
8 weeks (chronological age) - 4 weeks (adjustment) = 4 weeks corrected age

*Please consult your pediatrician regarding questions related to corrected age; this can be confusing. 

*Corrected age is only used until 2 years of age when assessing developmental milestones.



  • Encourage day/night patterns, keep environment lighter in daytime and darker at night.
  • Provide visual stimulation with black/white images, toys
  • Allow lots of supervised tummy time
  • Make sure my basic needs are met so that I will feel secure.


  • Encourage me to hold my head up when you hold me and when I am on my belly
  • Provide visual stimulation or talk to me on both sides to encourage me to turn my head side-to-side
  • Let me lay on my back or sit up and practice looking at my hands
  • Hold toys out in front of me to look at and reach them


Notify my doctor of any concerns that you have if I am not reaching milestones. My doctor my refer me for an evaluation to formally assess my development.

Services Available

  • Physical Therapy - may work on muscle strength, balance, walking
  • Occupational Therapy - may work on reaching, sensory issues, self help skills
  • Speech Therapy - may work on speech/language development, swallowing

Where can I get these services?

The Medical Center Rehabilitation Services: 745-1015

The Medical Center Home Care Program: 745-1381

First Steps Early Childhood Intervention: 1-800-643-6233

Commission for Children with Special Needs: 746-7816

Regional Child Developmental Clinic: 843-8284