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Welcome to the first in a series of guest articles from Fiona O’Farrell, who is a Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist & Sleep Consultant Specialist, with over 15 years experience.

1. First year foundations of baby development

Did you know your baby’s development during his first year of life lays the foundation for acquisition of all higher developmental skills!

What exactly does this mean?

By the time your baby gets to school age and learns to read, write and ride a bicycle, the skills required for these actually start when your baby is learning and mastering the developmental skills as a baby.

baby development fundamentals

2. Critical first 3 years

The first three years of your baby’s life are the most critical for learning and development. Did you know by the age of 3 years, 90% of your baby’s brain has developed.

3. Sequential brain development

Baby development occurs in a sequential order. What this means is each stage of baby development lays the foundation for the next higher layer of baby development. So if your baby misses a developmental milestone it does not necessarily mean your baby is more intelligent. Rather, it is like a red flag to the possibility your baby may have difficulty acquiring that developmental milestone.

The most frequent missed developmental milestone is crawling when baby goes straight into walking.

For your baby to master a developmental milestone such as crawling there are specific pre-requisite skills which need to be mastered first, hence the sequential order.

4. Developmental milestone charts

baby development fundamentals
During your baby’s first year of life you will hear a lot about developmental milestone charts. These charts are used to measure your baby’s growth and development. These charts are used as a guide to development progression.

So when you read your baby should smile at 8 weeks, this does not mean exactly on the 8 week marker your baby should smile.

5. Different rates for different babies

All babies develop at different rates, some will acquire developmental milestones quicker and some slower. This is normal.

6. Development pattern

Development progression follows the same pattern ie: sitting, rolling, crawling standing, walking.

7. Developmental milestones age ranges

There is an age range for the acquisition of developmental milestones. An example of this is walking. Mastering walking anywhere up to the age of 16 months is normal. Many parents are unaware of this fact and are reassured to know if their baby is not walking at 13 months that is okay.

As a parent …..

As a parent there is a lot you can do to help your baby learn and master the developmental milestones. Try though not to focus just on your baby’s achievement of the developmental milestone, as this can result in a sense of expectation rather than enjoyment during your baby’s first year of life.

baby development basics

About Fiona O'Farrell

Fiona O'Farrell

Fiona O'Farrell

Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Fiona O’Farrell is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist Specialising in Baby Development, Baby Sleep Difficulties and Premature babies for over 15 years.


Fiona is validated By the Department of Health and is a Board Director of Irish Neonatal health Alliance. Fiona is also Mum to 3 young children.

Fiona reassures parents helping them to give their baby the best start in life. Fiona's work helps parents help their baby to develop to their full potential and develop positive long term healthy sleeping patterns. Fiona’s approach is totally baby focused.

Fiona contributes regularly to the media and provides corporate talks and talks to Health Care Staff.

To connect with Fiona visit www.fionaofarrell.ie and you can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.