Learn about some common developmental red flags for infants that we use to identify developmental delays and other problems.
If there’s one thing we’re sure of (as moms and as professionals), it’s thatchild developmentanddevelopmental milestonesdon’t always unfold in a perfect, linear way. There is a range of what’s considered “typical” development and all kids develop at their own pace.
While this is true, there are certain markers or developmental red flags that we therapists might notice that can point to possible developmental concerns that may warrant a referral for early intervention services. What are red flags for infant development?
Thanks to Wendi McKenna, DPT, PCS, C/NDT from Move Play Grow for helping us compile the detailed list below…
0 – 3 Months: Developmental Red Flags
1 || Feeding difficulties, especially when accompanied by irritability
2 || Preferring to turn head to one side more than the other
3 || Showing a strong preference for a specific posture or position, seldom moving out of a specific position (e.g. head tilted to one side, head turned to one side, arched back, or back arched to the side)
4 || Flattening of the back or side of head
5 || Decreased movement on one side of body compared to the other
6 || Excessive arching of back/body, or excessive stiffness or floppiness
7 || Significant birth history (trauma, medical complications at birth)
*Note: During the second month, babies’ movements are marked with increased asymmetry. Because of this, it can be challenging to discern subtle motor problems at this age. Pay close attention to strong movement preferences, noticeable stiffness or “floppiness”, and head shape.
By the third month of life, babies should start to organize to midline and adopt more symmetry with their posture and movements. They should be able to hold their head in a midline position and bring both of their hands to the mouth and body.
During this age range, babies begin to explore their bodies using their hands, beginning the process of developing body awarenessand body mapping in the brain.
Visionalso becomes more organized by the third month, because babies’ heads are more stable. Tracking (looking from side to side), divergence and convergence (perceiving objects that are near or far), and downward visual gaze (looking at something below the level of the eyes) become easier and more established.
Also, by three months, babies begin to show decreased frustration and increased tolerance fortummy time(as long as they’ve had lots of practice) and should be able to actively bear weight on their forearms during tummy time.
4-6 months: Developmental Red Flags
1 || Arching the body backward in any position
2 || Keeping one or both hands tightly clenched all the time
3 || Shifting weight and/or reaching only to one side during play
4 || Difficulty with initiating and maintaining sidelying position (at 5-6 months)
5 || Lacking variety in movements on the floor
6 || Consistently falling forward or extending backward when placed in sitting (at 6 months)
Babies that are 4 months of age are experimenting with active movement against gravity. They use their hands to touch their faces, bodies, and knees when lying on their back.
Arm and hand movements are usually symmetrical (the right and left hands moving in unison) and babies’ hands should be able to open and close easily. During tummy time, 4-month-old babies alternate easily between a superman position and a forearm propped position.
Babies in the 5 month age range begin to actively shift their weight from side to side, using this movement for stability (pushing one side of the body into a surface) andmobility (reaching out into space to interact with surroundings).
In tummy time, babies at this age can push up onto their hands and begin experimenting with scooting, rolling, and pivoting in a circle. They also begin to explore and play in a side-lying position, helping them differentiate between and coordinate the two sides of the body
Babies become masters in training on the floor by 6 months – rolling, scooting, and pivoting on their tummies and even starting to army crawl. They can stop and start any movement they want – even mid-movement, which means that they are using control rather than momentum to get from point A to Point B.
At this age, babies can use rotational movements and often you will see one segment or part of the body facing one direction while another is facing the opposite direction. 6-month-old babies are reaching, grasping, and crudely manipulating objects…and of course bringing everything to their mouths for further investigation.
Head control is complete by this age and babies can roll in both directions while keeping their heads off the ground.
At 6 months, babies can sit when they are placed in this position, with a slight forward lean, but without needing to prop on their arms and without a rounded back. They are likely to fall over backward or sideways, and this is normal.
Babies at this age can’t get into a sitting position by themselves yet, so it’s not a safe position to leave them in without close supervision.
7-9 months: Developmental Red Flags
1 || Scooting on back or bunny hopping on legs instead of crawling
2 || Inability to bring hands together at midline
3 || Inability to sit unsupported
4 || Difficulty bearing weight on hands and arms
5 || Limited desire to move, explore, or climb
6 || Asymmetrical use of the sides of the body
7 || Sitting with very wide legs or W-Sitting
7-month-old babies are experts when it comes to transitioning in and out of positions on the floor. They roll, pivot on their tummies, push up onto hands and knees, and even up onto their hands and feet like a bear.
They are learning to crawl, trying to get up into a sittingposition, and even pulling to stand.
Quality and refinementof movement come into focus during the 7th month. A baby’s ease and desire to move demonstrate that they have a strong foundation in basic movement skills and movement patterns.
Babies will all learn to move (no matter how they choose to do so), but if the foundation isn’t solid, compensations will begin to emerge and will get stronger over time. This can lead to future challenges.
8-month-old babies are becoming more and more active, exploring and transitioning between positions. They can get from the floor into a sitting position independently and may begin to crawl.
They begin to pull to stand and may want to climb onto low furniture and up stairs. They find all small objects on the floor, putting everything into their mouths.
In a sitting position, if babies use very wide legs or a w-sitting position, it can be an indication of decreased postural control. These positions limit movement and muscle activation.
9-month-old babies are on the go! They are crawling, climbing onto furniture and up and down stairs with help and supervision, and pulling up to stand at various surfaces. Climbing, while scary for us as parents, is essential to the development of spatial awareness.
Through climbing, babies learn about heights, distances and space how their body moves in space.
10-12 months: Developmental Red Flags
1 || Lack of variability in movement
2 || Lack of desire to explore using movement
3 || Strong preference for using one side of the body
4 || Consistent asymmetrical movement patterns
5 || Cruising only in one direction
6 || Consistently standing, cruising, or walking on tiptoes
7 || Having a general demeanor of “learned helplessness” – wanting and waiting for an adult to do everything for them
8 || Struggling with grasping and releasing objects
At 10 months, babies are very busy practicing skills and experimenting with new things. They love the concept of “in and out” and use it to put their bodies in and out of spaces, and to put toys in and out of containers.
Babies at this age are also starting to imitate gestures and interactions more easily (e.g. waving bye-bye, interactive games like peek-a-boo), showing signs of social development by interacting with familiar people.
11 and 12 months
At 11 and 12 months, babies become independent with standing. They gain more control of grasp and release with small items, play pat-a-cake, and love to bang objects together.
At this age, babies really pay attention to toys in their hands, exploring properties by feeling and looking rather than always going straight to the mouth.
Babies at 11 to 12 months are crawling, climbing, standing, and even starting to take a few stepsby themselves. It’s amazing what can happen in one year!
By 1 year, all babies have a good understanding of their bodies and what they can and cannot do. Foundation skills and movement experiences over the previous several months ensure the development of efficient movement patterns and a huge repertoire of movement options to access.
Variety and variability are the hallmarks of healthy development!
They will adopt movement patterns and preferences based on the strength of their foundations, so more varied practice throughout the first year will ensure they have a gigantic repertoire of movement options to access. Variety and variability are the hallmarks of development.
Other concerns and indicators for higher risk of developmental delays
-Low birth weight
-Alcohol and other substance use during pregnancy
-Sudden or noticeable regression in developmental skills
If you are concerned about your baby’s development, it is best to speak with your pediatrician and arrange a consultation with a pediatric therapist. The earlier we can detect challenges and provide prevention in the form of early intervention services , the better the outcomes will be.
Resources for Infant and Toddler Development
Learn more aboutdevelopmental milestonesfor infants, toddlers, and preschoolers here!
Learn more about primitive reflexes and how thepersistence of primitive reflexesimpacts childhood development?
Check out thesedevelopment-boosting activities for babies!
Be sure to grab our Developmental Milestones Handbook and our Developmental Milestones Printable Handout Pack!
Find out more about the 2022 CDC Milestone Updates!
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Wendi McKenna is a pediatric physical therapist who is passionate about helping parents understand, marvel at, and support their babies’ and children’s motor and sensory development. She guides parents and their little ones in hands-on workshops for individuals and small groups where she tailors personalized approaches for more proactive and thoughtful engagement in age-appropriate activities. Learn more about Wendi at moveplaygrow.com.
Latest posts by Wendi McKenna DPT, PCS, C/NDT (see all)
- The Most Common Developmental Red Flags for Infants - May 17, 2017
- Protected: Infant Developmental Red Flags (Members Only) - June 6, 2014
Months Is not gazing at objects; does not tune out repetitive sounds; does not move eyes to follow sound Does not respond to loud sounds Does not coo or make sounds When lying on back: keeps hands fisted and lacks arm movements; is not bringing hands to mouth; lacks symmetrical arm movements; does not turn head to ...What are red flags in children? ›
Hyperactivity or constant movement beyond regular playing. Frequent, unexplainable temper tantrums. Unusual fears or worries. Difficulty taking part in activities that are normal for your child's age.Which is the red flag for developmental delay? ›
Using only one hand to complete tasks • Not being able to move/open one hand/arm • Drooling during small tasks that require intense concentration • Displaying uncoordinated or jerky movements when doing activities • Crayon strokes are either too heavy or too light to see • Any know medical diagnosis can be considered a ...What are red flag symptoms? ›
Examples of red-flag symptoms in the older adult include but are not limited to pain following a fall or other trauma, fever, sudden unexplained weight loss, acute onset of severe pain, new-onset weakness or sensory loss, loss of bowel or bladder function, jaw claudication, new headaches, bone pain in a patient with a ...What are the common issues in infancy stage? ›
Common health problems in babies include colds, coughs, fevers, and vomiting. Babies also commonly have skin problems, like diaper rash or cradle cap. Many of these problems are not serious.What are red flags by 8 month old baby? ›
Developmental milestones: red flags for 8-12 months old.
|Age 8-12 months|
|Your baby may be able to:||You may want to talk to a healthcare professional if your baby:|
|Pull to stand||Cannot bear weight on legs with support|
At 18 months, according to the CDC, developmental red flags may be when a child is not copying others, not gaining new words, and losing any skills they may have once had. For a 2-year-old, look out for an inability to follow simple instructions, walk steadily, or use common items like a spoon.What are social development red flags? ›
Red Flags of Social Development:
Trouble playing in a group or bullies others. Aggressive when frustrated. Withdrawn or sad (in groups or alone) Continued anxiety with parental separation.
- Overly controlling behavior. ...
- Lack of trust. ...
- Feeling low self-esteem. ...
- Physical, emotional, or mental abuse. ...
- Substance abuse. ...
- Narcissism. ...
- Anger management issues. ...
Common examples of red flags include poor communication, not respecting boundaries, abusive behavior, and gaslighting.
- EXAMPLES OF RED FLAG INDICATORS.
- 1) Suspicious Documents:
- 2) Suspicious Personal ID Information:
- 3) Suspicious Activity:
- 4) Suspicious Medical Information:
- 5) Alerts from others, such as:
No word combinations by 24 months. Slowed or stagnant speech development. Problems understanding your child's speech at 24 months of age; strangers having problems understanding your child's speech by 36 months of age. Not showing an interest in communicating.What are red flags in cognitive development? ›
To spot early signs of cognitive development delays, look for these signs: Lack of interest in playtime. Disinterest in the environment. Slow to respond.What is the most common developmental delay? ›
Language and speech problems are the most common type of developmental delays.What are the 10 red flags? ›
- 1- Lack of Communication. ...
- 2- Disrespecting Boundaries. ...
- 3- Lack of Trust. ...
- 4- Difficult to Rely On. ...
- 5- Controlling Behavior. ...
- 6- Friends or Family Are Wary. ...
- 7- Dwelling on Past Relationships. ...
- 8- They Make You Feel Insecure.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- Cerebral Palsy.
- Conduct Disorder (CD)
- Developmental Disabilities.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
- Doesn't respond to loud sounds.
- Doesn't watch things as they move.
- Can't hold their head up when on their tummy.
- Doesn't smile at people.
- Doesn't bring hands to mouth.
The most common severe birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. Although birth defects may be the result of one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional or environmental factors, it is often difficult to identify the exact causes. Some birth defects can be prevented.What are the red flags for autism at 12 months? ›
Toddlers between 12-24 months at risk for an ASD MIGHT: Talk or babble in a voice with an unusual tone. Display unusual sensory sensitivities. Carry around objects for extended periods of time.What are red flags for autism? ›
People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention. It is important to note that some people without ASD might also have some of these symptoms.
Red birthmarks are skin markings created by blood vessels close to the skin surface. They develop before or shortly after birth. Hemangiomas are tumors made up of dilated blood vessels that usually appear shortly after birth, although they may be present at birth.What are the five developmental milestones? ›
Milestones usually are categorized into five major areas: physical growth, cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development, and sensory and motor development.Is it a red flag if an infant or toddler prefers to be alone? ›
If your child almost always plays by himself, seems to struggle to make friends or join in with others, and refuses to share, there is reason for concern. These are all red flags that he is lacking one or more social skills.What developmental behaviors does an 18 month old child possess? ›
Your 18-month-old toddler is now walking and using basic words. At this age, children love to play and explore. They begin to show some independence and may play pretend and point at objects they want. They also begin to understand what things in the house are used for, such as a cup or spoon.What are red flags for toddler Behaviour? ›
Signs and symptoms of challenging behaviour
defiance (e.g. refusing to follow your requests) fussiness (e.g. refusal to eat certain foods or wear certain clothes) hurting other people (e.g. biting, kicking) excessive anger when the child doesn't get their own way.
- Not trusting your gut. Things don't add up, but you're projecting what you want while disregarding the facts.
- Inconsistency or noncommittal people are a big indicator of their desire to actually be there.
- Ghosting. ...
- Boredom. ...
- Playing house.
Red flags can be found in the data and in the notes of a financial report. A pending class-action lawsuit against the firm, which could compromise future profitability, is one red flag that is often found within the notes section of a financial statement.Which is a category of red flags? ›
The Five Categories of Red Flags
Warnings, alerts, alarms or notifications from a consumer reporting agency. Suspicious documents. Unusual use of, or suspicious activity related to, a covered account. Suspicious personally identifying information, such as a suspicious inconsistency with a last name or address.
Some of the key Red Flags include:
Display poor concentration. Follow what others are doing and appear 'lost' Have difficulty answering questions. Not follow the content of a conversation accurately, and as a result, talk 'off topic'
What are the red flags that a child will exhibit with possible emotional and Behavioural problems? ›
- Difficulty with Transitions: ...
- Excessive Clinginess or Attention Seeking with Adults. ...
- Attention concerns: ...
- Daily Functioning Concerns:
4. Two-word stage. During this stage, the child can speak two-word sentences that usually have some meaning. They group words together that they learned during the holophrastic stage.What are the developmental characteristics of infancy? ›
- Physical, such as fine motor skills (holding a spoon, pincer grasp) and gross motor skills (head control, sitting, and walking)
In the first year, babies learn to focus their vision, reach out, explore, and learn about the things that are around them. Cognitive, or brain development means the learning process of memory, language, thinking, and reasoning. Learning language is more than making sounds (“babble”), or saying “ma-ma” and “da-da”.What are some warning signs for developmental delays? ›
- Learning and developing more slowly than other children same age.
- Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking much later than developmentally appropriate.
- Difficulty communicating or socializing with others.
- Lower than average scores on IQ tests.
Five main factors identified in contributing to growth and developments at early childhood are nutrition, parent's behaviours, parenting, social and cultural practices, and environment.What would be warning signs that an infant is not able to meet the developmental tasks of infancy? ›
- Doesn't seem to respond to loud noises.
- Doesn't follow moving objects with eyes by 2 to 3 months.
- Doesn't smile at the sound of your voice by 2 months.
- Doesn't grasp and hold objects by 3 months.
- Doesn't smile at people by 3 months.
- Cannot support head well at 3 months.
According to Piaget, children have four stages of development which he classified as Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational. In each of these stages, children continually add new knowledge, build upon existing knowledge, and adapt previously held ideas to accept new information.What are the three stages of infant development? ›
This video divides infancy into three different stages of development: the young, the mobile, and the older infant or toddler. Each stage is characterized by its own crucial developmental issue.