When Should Preemies Meet Developmental Milestones?

You may worry about whether your preemie is meeting developmental milestones on time, but take heart; most premature babies meet developmental milestones within normal ranges for their corrected age.

Corrected age is calculated by subtracting the number of weeks premature your baby was born from their actual age in weeks. So if your 9-month-old baby was born 3 months premature, they would be expected to meet the same developmental milestones as a 6-month-old baby who was born full-term. 

Learn when your baby should meet specific milestones, which babies might meet milestones later than others, and what you can do to help your little one.

When Should Preemies Learn to Sit Up?

Baby sitting up on floor
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Say goodbye to stacking pillows around your baby to cushion falls. Learning to sit up is one of the first developmental milestones that preemies meet. Most preemies are able to briefly sit up at about 6 months and will sit up well by 9 months.

Keep in mind that some babies dealing with health problems of prematurity may sit up later than their peers.

Rolling over is an important step to learning how to sit up. You don't have to force it, but be mindful of opportunities for your child to try to move laterally.

Play games with your baby to get them to move more. Eventually, they will use these skills to learn to sit up.

When Should Preemies Learn to Walk?

A baby learning to walk.
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Get your cameras ready! At approximately one year of adjusted age, your preemie should be taking their first steps. Some parents of preemies may have to wait longer for this developmental milestone, and some babies may need extra help when learning to walk.

This milestone is dependent on how regularly your baby gets the chance to move around freely. If your child's movement was restricted for a long period of time, they may meet this milestone later than most.

Encouraging free play and tummy time will strengthen their torso and help them learn head control. These two skills are the building blocks to raising a healthy walker.

When Should Preemies Learn to Talk?

Talking to your baby will help him learn to talk.
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From "babababa" to calling Mom or Dad by name, it's fun to listen as babies learn to talk.

This is one developmental milestone that preemies may meet a little bit before their full term peers since they've been exposed to the language for a longer period of time.

Other preemies may need a little help in learning to communicate well. Most preemies begin making babbling sounds (such as "da," "ga," and "ba") at about 6 months, and speaking words such as "Mama" and "Dada" specifically to a parent around 12 months.

This is one of those milestones that will depend heavily on how much you communicate with your baby and have them around others who do the same. Reading books daily, singing songs, and dancing are all ways to support language in your preemie.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Preemie milestones.

By Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN
Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse in a tertiary level neonatal intensive care unit at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.