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"And we're off"

Hang onto your hats, we've got a lively one here. Welcome to all things toddler.



(1 - 3 years)

The journey: Pregnancy stage

Inspired by real mums' experiences, here's a step-by-step (and crawl-by-crawl) guide to the first three years

Congratulations. There’s a small person soon to be coming your way. The umbilical cord has formed and established the circulation between the placenta and the embryo. The little heart is flickering now and four tiny limb buds are appearing too. Over the coming month, the head will take shape with eyes, ears, nose and mouth all starting to appear. Little fingers, toes and elbows are also becoming distinct as your baby’s legs and arms grow. With so much going on inside you, it’s quite understandable if you get a little morning sickness. Don’t worry, it normally eases around week 12.

Your baby has developed taste buds and will start swallowing amniotic fluid around now. As the legs and arms continue to grow, your baby is now able to move them and the heart settles into a regular rhythm – about 110 to 160 beats a minute. Try and take it easy as much as possible (not that you’ll need much encouragement of course). At 12 weeks, you’ll get the first picture of your baby – definitely one for the album. It might not show all the wonderful detail in your baby’s face, like the lips and eyebrows, but they are all there.

Have you felt something like butterfly wings or tiny bubble-like feelings in your tummy? That’s your baby. Not everyone feels these at the same time, so be patient if you haven’t – they’ll come. This month, your baby will be capable of thumb-sucking. Those little ears are continuing to develop, and will be aware of your voice through the amniotic fluid. The sense of touch also comes around now. While your baby gets used to these new-found feelings, it’s a good time for you and your partner to brave the shops and negotiate your way through all the new gear you’ll need.

Somersaults. Turns. Kicks. Your baby is enjoying using muscles which are growing stronger by the day, and the brain has between 12 and 13 billion nerve cells by now. These will soon allow your baby to memorise sensory experiences, so you can show you’re there with a gentle, caressing hand on your tummy. When you have your 20 week scan, you’ll be able to see how much your baby has come on. You might be able to find out if it’s a boy or a girl too – unless you’d rather keep it a surprise.

Every day, your baby’s getting a little bit chubbier, although the skin is still wrinkled. The brain is continuing its rapid development and is starting to make sense of the signals it receives. All the senses are becoming more refined so your baby may begin to respond to sound. Music, singing and talking are all great stimulus for your baby. So feel free to share your day, tell stories, maybe even chat about your choices while you shop for maternity clothes.

Feel a little tired? That’s normal at this time, so when you get a few minutes have a lie down and catch 40 winks. It’ll do you both good. Your baby is busy growing and is now breathing with a regular rhythm. Because it’s reached a certain size, you’ve probably noticed a slowdown in movements. The senses are coming along nicely too. Your baby can detect changes in light – even through your tummy, and is now able to taste what you’ve eaten.

Just a month or so to go. Inside you little bones are strengthening, hair is growing, fingernails and toenails are forming and your baby’s skin is turning a lovely soft pink. Getting ready for the big day, your baby will ideally have turned and be in the birth position with its head down. If you feel a slight tugging or pain in your lower abdomen, it’s nothing to worry about – it’s just your pelvic joints loosening, getting ready to let your baby through. So, time for you to be ready as well, and start thinking about what to pack for hospital.

Here we are. Well, almost. Your baby is fully developed and ready to make an entrance. So check that the car has a full tank of petrol, and the baby seat’s all fitted and strapped in. Bags packed and handy by the front door. It won’t be long now before you feel the strong, regular contractions letting you know your baby is ready to meet you.

It’s not unusual to have a few false starts and trips to the hospital as your due date arrives. You may have started experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, but you’ll know when the real ones arrive - they’ll be longer, stronger and gradually get closer together. If your contractions haven’t started, don’t worry, that’s totally normal. Most people give birth a week either side of their due date. Inside you, your baby is now totally prepared for life outside the womb – adapted to breathing air and living on milk. Any day now…

Look who’s here. Congratulations and welcome to your new arrival. The feeds will be coming thick and fast to start with, as your baby’s little tummy is so tiny. And you’ll probably notice over the next few days that there’s a difference in the nappy department as your baby’s poo changes from the sticky meconium to something more manageable. What’s left of the umbilical cord will also fall away after a week or so. Your baby hasn’t mastered muscle control, so initial limb movements will be jerky (and unintentionally hilarious). But towards the end of the first month, your baby’s muscle control may start to develop. Try moving a toy slowly from side to side in front of your baby and see if those little eyes follow it.

This month, if you start chatting or singing, you may have seen your baby look at you, maybe even give you a little smile. That first smile is always a big moment, but at this stage, it’s just as likely to be caused by a little bit of wind. You might also have noticed your baby becoming more alert and reacting to things that are going on. This will make moments like bath time even more fun.

The small, slightly wrinkled centre of your world – it’s amazing what you’ll do to keep your baby happy. Who'd have thought the noise of a hairdryer and sleep would ever go together? When awake, your baby may be busy trying lots of new challenges, like swiping at things and learning to control hand and finger movements. Around now, your baby might also start to recognise you, happily kicking and punching the air and treating you to a real smile.

Three months in and your baby’s physical development is racing along. To keep up, you’ve probably become rather expert at eating on the go. But your baby will like a routine – when feeding time comes around you may notice wriggles and kicks of happy anticipation. Your baby is also learning to coordinate hands and eyes, and might surprise you by copying your facial expressions. That’s because around this time, some babies start to become a lot more sociable and enjoy being around people.

There’s nothing quite like checking out how your baby’s doing compared to all the other new mums’. And you should have plenty to chat about – like the funny little expressions your baby makes and the amusing gurgling and babbling. By the end of this month, your baby might have grown noticeably and become more coordinated; able to see and reach out for things close by, as well as following movements. And if there’s something your baby doesn’t like, don’t expect manners. A rude and highly-effective turn of the head will let you know.

Five months gone already. Some of the things your baby could have learned by now are quite complex – like cause and effect (which is what makes games like ‘peek-a-boo’ so entertaining). By the end of this month, your baby may be ready to move out, but only into the next room. Chances are your little one might be starting to want to move too. Watch out for tummy-rocking and the first attempts to ‘swim’ along the floor. It’s a great time, especially when your baby looks up at you and gives you a great big smile - with that first tooth poking through.

As your little one’s tiny muscles get stronger day-by-day, your baby may start to lift itself up onto all fours. So get used to seeing the world from knee-height. Sitting upright might also be possible, if supported with a collection of strategically placed cushions. Although it’s not a real conversation quite yet, your baby may stop in the middle of babbling to give you a chance to say something. During these exciting days you may notice your little one picking up on emotions and laughing along with you.

Bigger and heavier by the day, your baby is really growing – as you may have noticed with more baby-grows moving into the too-small pile. Your little one’s getting even more coordinated, and you’ll probably see finger foods quickly disappear as tiny fingers reach out for them. Sitting up might be unsupported now, so it’s a great time to introduce the first cup. Why not choose a bright, colourful one? Your baby’s sight’s improving by the day after all.

By now, your baby may be taking a real interest in what’s going on. Instead of just smiling at every stranger, expect a thorough hard-staring visual interrogation. This month, babies tend to become especially curious. Everything your little one sees may well become an object of intense fascination, holding a gaze for several moments at a time. Around now, it’s also quite normal for your baby to become very attached to you and cry at naptime or bedtime. On the plus side, your baby might be sleeping through. Still, good idea to keep that baby monitor close by.

Although your baby won’t have a full set of teeth yet, chewing and mashing food presents no problem. This isn’t just eating practice – it helps your baby’s little speech muscles get ready too. On which subject, you might have noticed your little one is already beginning to try and communicate with you in new ways. And as your small friend might be a rather mobile small friend – speedily crawling around your home – you’ll need to keep a close eye on what those inquisitive little fingers get hold of.

Those first simple words may come any time now (though they may not be the ones you’re expecting). Your baby will also be expanding its knowledge by holding things in each hand and bashing them together to see what happens. It'll be noisy, but when your little one reaches up for a cuddle, everything will be forgiven. Your baby might even have learned a communication trick or two, like waving bye-bye. Gets you every time.

Tiny little hand-prints about a foot up the wall? Another magical, difficult-to-clean milestone in your baby’s progress. Cruising (also popular on baby-height furniture) is the first stage of walking. But if your baby hasn’t taken those first unsteady steps yet, that’s fine – it’s totally normal for babies to start walking any time from 11 to 18 months. Around now, your baby might also try to do things without help, and might start dropping objects, just to see them fall. Only a month to go, and it’ll be time for the first birthday.

A whole year has gone by and your baby is starting to become a real individual. There are lots more firsts on the way; a moment or so of standing unaided, a few tottering steps of independence, total absorption listening to a favourite story. It’s also around now you might start hearing that all too familiar word ‘no’. But don’t worry, your baby isn’t being naughty. It’s just one of the first steps towards developing a personality. The coming year may see your toddler turn into a bit of a chatterbox as well, talking to you (and inanimate cuddly toys) learning more words and beginning to build sentences.

Your almost-not-a-toddler’s full of beans. Playing outside and drawn to climbing frames, slides and swings like a magnet. Noticed how you’re being followed around and copied? Your child is role-playing. It’s a great way to learn and you’ll find ‘toys’ like telephones and brushes get lots of use. As potty training begins, you could start finding yourself joined in the bathroom by a new friend. You may also want to start teaching a few simple rules – always heap on the praise for things well done. Each day, your little one will try and become more independent. Here’s to all the years to come.

Ready for another stage? Jump forward (or back) now.

Great, you'll find that in my SMA.

Toddlers use loads of energy dashing around – and all the time their little bodies are busy growing. So your toddler needs a well-balanced, healthy diet with lots of variety. Here we explain the important food groups for toddlers and give you some tasty recipes for toddlers, packed with good nutrition.

find out more SMA 'you're doing great'
Great, you'll find that in my SMA.

When you have a baby, you can find you have to learn a whole new vocabulary. But don’t worry, we’ve put an easy-to-use interactive dictionary together for you. It even includes some shorthand abbreviations so you can understand your maternity notes.

find out more SMA 'you're doing great'

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