Movement “Milestones” in Babies

Babies who stood early scored better on cognitive tests by age four.

It’s a classic joke that when new parents talk about their babies they compare how fast the children develop. Now it looks as though there may be some truth in the joke.

A new study found that babies who fit within the “normal” developmental time frames but stand up relatively early also scored better in some cognitive measures at age four.

standing baby girl outside on lawnScientists, doctors–and experienced parents–have long known that when babies take longer to reach the usual developmental milestones like standing, crawling or walking, it may be a sign of developmental problems. All such activities are indications of how well the brains and nervous systems are developing.

Previous studies have shown a connection between standing early and IQ in the teen years. The significance of the new study is that these babies were well within the usual developmental time frames.

The study was led by Edwina Yeung, PhD, of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Yeung is an epidemiologist.

The findings of the study came from journals kept by mothers of 599 children. The journals tracked developmental milestones such as standing assisted, standing unassisted, crawling and walking.

Children in the study learned to crawl and stand with assistance around nine months of age.

Babies who learned to stand with assistance relatively early scored higher in tests of ability to pay attention, learn and remember. As preschoolers, those babies also scored higher on adaptive skills like learning to use spoons and forks or to dress themselves.

Babies who crawled early also tended to do better on developmental tests. Dr. Yeung and the research colleagues found no connection between standing, crawling and the child’s communication and social skills at age four.

The findings were different in twins, however, which may be because twins are more likely to be born preterm and underweight.

The researchers noted this was an association but not proof of cause and effect.

The study was published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

Funding for the study was provided by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

None of the authors reported a conflict of interest.

HealthDay, “Those baby ‘milestones’ may have longer-term importance”
Pediatrics, “Gross Motor Milestones and Subsequent Development”