What is a developmental delay?
It's a slower-than-usual progression toward childhood milestones such as sitting up,crawling, walking, and talking. Having developmental delays doesn't necessarily mean that a child will have a permanent or long-term developmental disorder. In fact, most children recover from delays. Preemies, for example, routinely fall behind on reaching milestones, achieving them on a timeline based not on actual birth date but on due date.
Every baby's pattern of development is unique, although babies tend to acquire skills in a sequential pattern. Some infants develop gross motor skills (like sitting up) earlier, while others are faster to acquire fine motor skills (such as picking up small objects). Some are slow to move but quick to verbalize sounds. What's most important is that over time your child continues to develop increasingly complex mental and physical skills.
What could cause a delay?
Your baby may simply be focusing on (and practicing) particular skills at the temporary expense of others. However, language delays(which may not yet be obvious) should be closely followed. They could stem from lack of communication with adults or from a hearing problem. Less common reasons for delays include disorders such as spina bifida and autism.
What should I do if I think my baby has a delay?
Learn about the normal timeline for language acquisition and physical development; and the warning signs of a delay. Have someone evaluate your baby's development, hearing, and vision. (Your baby's doctor should be monitoring these things regularly.)
Write down any worrisome observations you've made and tell your baby's doctor about your concerns. You may also want to consult with a pediatric doctor who specializes in developmental issues or a speech pathologist. Trust your instincts. Your baby may just need some extra time (serious delays are rare), but it doesn't hurt to be attentive to potential problems.