Social Emotional Developmental Milestones in Infants(From Birth to 12 Months)

7 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Social Emotional Developmental Milestones in Infants

The joy of meeting the social-emotional developmental milestones in infants is unexplainable. Social and emotional skills help your little one to build strong bonds with people in the later stages of their life. When these skills begin to flourish, babies/toddlers learn to manage their emotions, and experience empathy. Their social and emotional development will naturally happen as they grow up.

However, if you introduce story time and parallel play in your infant’s life, their cognition and social-emotions skills will have a sound development. Babies need a lot of love right now – it will help them to feel empathy in the future. Further, you can literally teach empathy to your baby. Other than that, you can refer to this article if you want to know what your baby will be able to do from your delivery up to their first birthday.

In This Article

What is Social and Emotional Development?

The mountain of life skills that babies learn during their growth helps them to navigate through life in a better way. These skills are called Social-Emotional skills. Social and emotional skills allow a baby to manage their emotions and feel Empathy. Aside from that, they play an important role in forming and preserving relationships. Furthermore, it impacts their future decision-making capabilities.

  • Social-Emotional skills
  • Boost a child’s self-confidence
  • Make them emphatic
  • Help them to maintain good relationships with people
  • Provide them with an understanding to value other people

Why is Social Development Important in Infants?

reading a book to baby

Sharpening your baby’s social and emotional skills now will provide a foundation for their development in their later years. The following are the reasons for which social and emotional development holds such importance.

1. Allows Them to Learn New Skills

Before your baby socializes with other babies, they engage in parallel play. In this type of play, babies carry on their little games such as playing with blocks. However, their curious mind wonders what the other baby is doing. Thus, they begin to mimic each other’s social cues. Moreover, new environments and even toys foster them to become comfortable with ‘new’ situations.

2. Enhances Their Linguistics

Language skills are a gigantic part of social development. Babies have a good shot at learning more words if they hear more of them. It can be done by describing what you’re doing to your little one, even if they can’t get it. Other than that, the more you talk to your baby face-to-face, the better their cognitive and language skills will get. Further, many parents also narrate bedtime stories to their newborns. Babies can’t grasp the story but the words, expressions, and voices greatly enhance their verbal skills.

3. Improves Their Adaptability

Babies who experience new situations such as a different caregiver or a fresh environment learn to adapt. They begin to understand that they can also trust people aside from you or your partner.

4. Develops Their Self-esteem

Your little one’s self-esteem will start to grow as they get love and attention from new babies or adults. Playdates, and daycare can do all this for your baby.

Top 3 Major Areas of Social and Emotional Development in Infants

baby smiling at mom

These are the main areas of social and emotional development.

1. Ability to Show Emotions

Babies convey their feelings by using their body posture and facial expressions. In 2 to 3 months, they start to show their ‘social smile’, and once they reach up to 4 months of age, you can listen to their adorable laughs. In the future, your little one will clearly show their distress if they don’t like someone holding them.

Gradually, infants learn to understand the different types of emotions people express to them. They also learn to imitate those emotions. If you cheerfully interact with your baby, their response will also be joyous.

[Read : When Will My Baby Give Her First Smile?]

2. Feeling Empathy For Others

An understanding of someone else’s emotional state makes a baby emphatic. They should be able to recognize their emotions and respond to them properly. Well, you can’t imagine that your baby will suddenly hand you their bottle with a pat on your back when you’re stressed about your bills. However, infants have empathy, and it starts to grow as they age.

Some research which is conducted in this area describes that when infants could hear the cries of other little ones, they stared at their peers and their mothers. However, it has not been proven that this is a clear sign of empathy.

3. Self-Identity in Relation to Other People

The feeling of self plays a huge role in your baby’s social-emotional development. As they grow, they start to answer or respond to those who call their name. With time, they will perceive that there are some things they do that other people may not like. Thus, your baby will try to get your and other people’s approval by keeping that in mind.

Social-Emotional Development Milestones in Infants From Birth

Here are some of the major social emotional development milestones that your infant will show from birth to their first birthday (month-wise)

New Born Baby

Your infant

  • Starts to hold eye contact.
  • Tries to capture your attention by crying.
  • Gives responses to their caregiver’s smiles and voices.
  • Begins to like it when you hold them up.
  • Starts to enjoy cuddling.

2 Month Old Baby

Your infant

  • Begins to use their facial expressions to express their feelings.
  • Starts to spring a social smile.
  • Eye contact with caregivers increases.
  • Learns to mimic their caregiver’s or parent’s facial expressions.
  • Pays more attention to people and less to inanimate objects.

3 Month Old Baby

Your infant

  • Uses smiles and gurgles to begin conversing with you.
  • Responds to your smiles with raised arms, open arms, shaking legs and by smiling at you.
  • Tries to mimic your gestures or movements.

4 Month Old Baby

Your infant/baby

  • Starts getting curious whenever they listen to other baby’s voices.
  • Starts laughing.
  • Begins to cry when you stop playing (so that you play more!).

5 Month Old Baby

Your infant/baby

  • Gets very assertive.
  • Learns to discern between family members and outsiders.
  • Wants to play while eating.

6 Month Old Baby

Your baby

  • Wants your attention even more than their toys.
  • Begins to show their temperament (general mood).
  • Responds to their name when called.
  • Makes different noises with their tongues.

[Read : When Do Babies Recognize Their Name?]

7 Month Old Baby

Your baby

  • Begins to understand when you say ‘no’ to something.
  • Firmly shows their anger.

8 Month Old Baby

Your baby

  • Might show shyness around strangers and cries when parents leave them.
  • Can tell the difference when exposed to new situations.
  • Starts to cry when they don’t get something they wanted or when they get frustrated.

[Read : Stranger Anxiety in Babies]

9 Month Old Baby

Your Baby

  • Becomes capable of recognizing the images through their names.
  • Tries to physically respond to their image in the mirror.
  • Desires only their caregiver’s attention for consoling them.

10 Month Old Baby

Your baby

  • Becomes anxious when parents are not around.
  • Starts to understand acts of recognition like clapping.
  • Begins developing self-esteem.
  • Begins to fear heights.

11 Month Old Baby

Your to-be toddler

  • Likes to get approval from others, but dislikes not getting it.
  • May show disinterest in cooperating.

12 Month Old Baby

Your toddler

  • Shows high temper.
  • Occasionally cooperates.
  • Begins to develop a sense of humor.
  • Gets attached to one parent more than the other.

Top 3 Tips For Parents to Help Their Baby’s Social and Emotional Development

Help Their Baby's Social and Emotional Development

Social-Emotional Developmental Milestones in infants are a natural part of their growth. But there are a couple of things which you can do to ensure sound progress in this area.

1. Let Them Listen to More Words

Reading is an effective way to encourage your little one’s social and emotional development. They get to hear more words and the collection of these words begins to grow as they age. In their later stages, they will be able to articulate themselves better. Moreover, your baby can also point out the illustrations in the storybook which strengthens their thinking skills. They will capture the emotions shown through your expressions during your story time. It will also boost their ability to understand emotions.

2. Be Playful With Them

Games let you connect with your little one. Simple games like cooing in response and peek-a-boo are best for forming a bond with baby. Other than that, you can also turn simple things such as diaper changing, feeding and sleep time into a play. Your infant will learn to bond through this, and it is one of the most important social-emotional developmental milestones in Infants.

3. Exude Empathy

Many a time, it can be challenging to hold back your emotions. However, you still have to try your best to respond positively even if you don’t want to. Remember, your baby is observing and learning from you. “Show” empathy to your little one – if you see an infant cry, tell your baby things like ‘oh, he’s crying, he might not be feeling well, we should go see what happened, if possible, take them with you to check out what happened. Aside from that, always stay available to your newborn’s cries and all his needs.

Social-Emotional Developmental Milestones in infants are reached when they start learning the management and expression of emotions. How your baby will make decisions and keep relationships with people in the future is influenced a lot by their social-emotional development at this stage. Rejoice when they smile at you or when they get anxious while coming across unknown people. These are signs which indicate that they are progressing, socially and emotionally.

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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