As parents, it’s easy to get obsessed with how your child is developing compared to their peers. When you see other parents online, proudly posting photos of their perfect babies, smiling, sleeping through the night, talking, crawling, counting, taking those tentative first steps (while yours seems a million miles away from doing these things), it’s natural to worry that your little one is falling behind the pack.
After talking to countless other mums and dads over the past few years, I know that traditional developmental milestones like these can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, especially among first time parents, making us question whether or not we are doing a good job. I’ve been there myself and know first-hand just how much these worries can mess with your head.
The thing is, raising a child is a steep learning curve…for all of us. No two babies are the same. They don’t come with an instruction manual (as much as we wish they did!). We’re all just learning as we go, trying to get through the day and do our best for our babies and our family.
Thankfully, for any parents out there who feel lost, worried or in need of support, there are some really great resources online like the SMA® Baby Club, which has some brilliant features to help you navigate your first days, months and years of parenthood. It’s completely free to join and members get access to expert parenting tips, 24/7 advice from the SMA® Nutrition expert Careline team, exclusive competitions, and even a personalised Welcome Pack when you sign up, which includes a pack of milestone cards that can help you track your babies progress over their first 1000 days.
Resources like this are so good because they’re not just informative, but also completely impartial and judgement-free, offering tried and tested advice from experts at every stage of your baby’s development. In contrast, if we find ourselves comparing our baby’s development against what we see other parents post on social media, I worry that we immediately set ourselves up to fail, because more often than not, these kinds of posts only show the highs (and rarely the lows) of our parenting realities.
Which is why we do ourselves no favours by constantly comparing.
Every baby develops at their own pace and – on the most part – they all hit the key physical and mental milestones eventually. And rest assured, there are systems in place through your health visitor, GP and nursery, to make sure these major developmental milestones are all being tracked, so we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves. If there was a problem, someone would let us know about it and help would be at hand.
Now, when I became a dad for the first time, I was such a worrier. Our first son Teddy was an August baby, born prematurely, right at the end of the school year. As a result, I found myself constantly worrying, comparing the timing of every one of his firsts against other kids in his age group. Worrying that he wasn’t smiling enough. Anxious that he wasn’t rolling over or crawling yet. Ultimately worried that, as a preemie, if he was falling behind now, he’d be behind for years to come.
But I needn’t have worried. Today, at two and a half years’ old, he’s pretty much like every other kid his age. Smiley. Cheeky. Walking. Talking. Insanely cute (OK, I’m biased on that one). Pushing the boundaries. Basically, just as you’d expect. Ahead in some areas, behind in others, but hitting all the key developmental milestones you’d expect for a kid his age.
So, after becoming a dad for the second time last year (with baby Hugh back in November), I’ve decided – for my own sanity and to make sure we really enjoy these amazing early years of his life – to worry less about developmental milestones this time around, and instead take a more holistic approach to the whole thing from now on.
Not comparing and constantly tracking my boys’ progress against others, but rather encouraging, celebrating, and teaching them all the values that I hold dear.
With a new set of alternative milestones, based not around their physical ability, but rather their emotional intelligence, celebrating acts of kindness, sharing, generosity and independence. All things that I think will serve them well as they grow up, while avoiding the types of toxic masculinity that were so rife when I was younger.
Because, I want my boys to grow up in a world where nice guys don’t finish last. A world where their value isn’t judged by how big and strong they are, but rather a society where kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness and compassion are seen as the true mark of a man:
Our kindness milestones
- Saying please and thank you (without being prompted)
- Forming real friendships
- Sharing their toys
- Holding your hand
- Giving great hugs
- Telling a joke
- Being kind to animals (not poking them in the eye or pulling their tails!)
- Playing happily on their own
- Getting engrossed in a book
- Comforting someone who is upset
- Saying “I love you”
After seeing our eldest son Teddy start to tick off many of these kindness milestones over the past year, I literally can’t wait to start teaching our other little boy Hugh to do them all too. There really is nothing more heart-warming to witness, which not only makes you proud to be a parent but also hopeful for what the future might look like for them.
For more information on the SMA® Baby Club, you can sign up here for free and get exclusive access to all the support, advice and helpful parenting tips that I mentioned earlier. Plus, members can also get involved in the SMA® Baby Club referral programme, where you can be in with a chance of winning a fantastic prize, simply by inviting other parents and parents-to-be to join the Club!
This sponsored post has been written in collaboration with SMA® Nutrition.