Teaching and Activities for Baby’s Development 0-12 Months

Although our roles as educators and doulas don’t typically extend for the first 12 months, I’ve found that parents LOVE learning about what’s coming, what to expect, and how to support their baby’s development.  Here is some information about physical, emotional, and cognitive development in the first year.  In 12 short months, there are leaps and bounds in development!  Remember, babies develop on different timetables, so these are estimates.  If you are working with a parent who has concerns about their baby’s development, have them talk to their pediatrician or an early intervention specialist.


The first 12 months of a baby’s life bring many rapid and important physical changes.  A baby goes from little control of the limbs or hand-eye coordination (0-3 months) to reaching, grasping, and rolling (4-6 months), sitting independently and balancing (6-8 months) then crawling, pincer grasp and eating solids (8-10 months) to eventually walking, stacking, squatting and standing (11-12 months).  And, they usually triple their birth weight by their first birthday.


Emotionally, babies develop their sense of security within the caregiving relationship in the first 12 months. Babies’ brains are wired to interpret relational cues in response to their needs. Babies develop their attachment systems to regulate their emotional state and their survival is dependent on their caregiver. The foundation for emotional resiliency comes from the pattern of being emotional then being soothed, over and over again.


Babies’ brains are recognizing faces, communicating through cues (hunger, sated, upset, needing comfort, in pain and relaxed/ sleeping) and beginning to organize the patterns in the caregiving relationship. Babies brains develop based on the level of security and safety they feel when their nervous system is co-regulated with their caregiver. Babies have already cataloged the sounds of their home language by 6 months old and prefer their safe adults by 9-10 months (protesting to strangers).

Activities to Support Attachment and Bonding

Infant massage: The benefits of massage are skin to skin contact, regulation of the nervous system, promotes better sleep and improves blood circulation. Infant massage supports all levels of development for babies and can be calming for both the parent and the baby.

Reading cues: Help parents interpret their baby’s cues by asking: How did you know what he needed? How do you know when he’s hungry? When he’s full? What do you think he needs when he cries? And point out when parents help make baby more comfortable by saying: He calms down when you hold him. You knew what position would make him more comfortable. When you talk, he looks toward your voice. Build confidence in parents so they know they are important to their baby and they can trust themselves to meet his needs. The bonding process is done by the parents, so it’s important they are feeling a growing responsibility to respond and nurture their baby.

Floor time: Spread a blanket on the floor and let your baby lie on her back and belly. Sit with the parents on the floor watching the baby. Give the baby free space and toys (if desired). Tummy time is important for baby’s spinal development and strength in the back. Use mirrors, toys and activity blankets to keep baby entertained. When she gets fussy, watch Mom or Dad respond to the cues. Allow space for them to find a solution and be patient and confident that parents will find their way!

Great toys for 0-12 months (There are no rules about how to play! Let your child explore.)

  • Stacking blocks, simple containers
  • Safe kitchen utensils: stirring spoons, spatula, whisk, measuring cups
  • Cardboard boxes: small, medium and large
  • Flashlights, balls and water bottles

There are many ways we support new parents on their journey. Education gives them context to understand their baby’s behavior. Support let’s them travel this unfamiliar terrain and find their confidence. Give them positive feedback as they learn! And holding space for them to grow, learn, and celebrate is one of the best gifts we can give our clients.


Abby Bordner

CLD, CPD, CLE®, ICCE, Faculty

Abby Bordner started her career in Women’s Health. She began at Planned Parenthood in Portland, OR where she was trained as a health counselor for contraception and HIV/AIDS. She had her first child in 1999, when she began her interest in birth work. She pursued her doula certification, shortly after became a childbirth educator and eventually a lactation educator, as well. She teaches many educational workshops related to birth and parenting. She started an online parent education and personal support coaching business called Relationship Based Parenting. Her passion is working with families as a health and wellness educator to build skills that support compassionate families and all the important dynamics within it. She has two children and lives in Santa Fe, NM.

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