How To Stress Less Over Baby and Toddler Milestones
When I was teaching elementary education during COVID, we used to say it was kind of like learning how to drive a plane in the air. Terrifying, complicated, not always the smoothest but you just had to jump right in because the only other option is crashing. I think this metaphor also applies to parenthood. Each new phase feels like a completely different challenge and it can be overwhelming. These phases can also feel like they last a lifetime. Sleep regressions, teething, learning to crawl/walk/talk… the list goes on!
When it comes to milestones, there are those incredible moments when your child first giggles, crawls and walks. With it comes a tidal wave of emotion. Always bittersweet, with a mixture of pride and overwhelming love in seeing your baby learn something new. But also unexpected feelings of sadness and fear in letting go of each younger phase and moving into the unknown. It’s a rollercoaster.
Living in a time of information overload can be both incredibly useful and toxic. There is so much information coming at us and everyone has different opinions about how parenting should be done. In one way, it is so helpful to have resources to use for things that may feel completely unknown to us. Like starting solid foods or tackling sleep challenges. In other ways, we can find ourselves in a dark hole scrolling and terrified about our children not reaching certain milestones.
As a new parent, I keep finding myself coming back to the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is hard not to compare our children. We love them so much and we want the best for them. When we go to the playground and see another toddler a month younger than our kiddo running around and scaling the steps to ride down the slide, while our baby is still crawling– we can’t help but wonder if something is wrong.
I am not a doctor or physical therapist and am not here to give medical advice. But as an educator and parent, I do know that each child is different and progresses in unique ways. Our biggest job as parents is helping to teach our kids how to explore and navigate the world on their own. Getting wrapped up in the milestones will only create unnecessary stress and sleepless nights.
If you find yourself stressing about baby and toddler milestones, today’s post is for you. Here are some ways to not lose sleep over them so you can enjoy (and endure) each new phase with less worry and sleepless nights.
How To Stress Less Over Baby and Toddler Milestones
Choose Your Support/Care Team Thoughtfully.
It is so important to choose your support team thoughtfully. Pick caregivers, doctors, nurses, PT professional, family and friends that align with your own morals and ethics around parenting. There is nothing worse than going to a doctors appointment and feeling more concerned and unsupported than you did when you arrived. Choose professionals for your children’s support team (and your own!) that take the time to listen to you and your concerns and help put you at ease or give you the referrals or support you need. Spend time with family and friends that you feel comfortable sharing insecurities and concerns with. These worries should be met with validation and support and not make you spiral further.
If You Start Worrying About a Milestone Connect With a Professional You Trust.
Instead of sitting on a worry for weeks or months, get in touch with your child’s doctor or PT if you have concerns. Most likely they will put you at ease or give you information or resources that can help you moving forward. Holding onto something alone can feel so heavy, and our minds tend to blow things up when we perseverate on it. At our last doctors appointment, we were worried about our 15 month old not walking. After the doctor watched him crawl and move around the room, she assured us that he would be walking in no time and it wasn’t something to be concerned about. He started walking the next week! These things take time and we all just need to take a deep breath and allow it to happen naturally when our kids are ready.
Talk With Other Parents.
One of the most helpful things I have found as a parent is connecting with other mothers. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful group of mom friends and many who have children older than mine. They are the perfect people to text or call when I’m feeling worried and overwhelmed. My concerns are always met with zero judgement and lots of love and support. Again, when I came to some friends a few weeks ago with concerns about my 15-month-old not walking, I said, “When should I be concerned about him not walking?” and their response “Never” was exactly what I needed to hear. Of course, never is not exactly what they meant, but they were just trying to tell me, he’s doing great and I don’t need to stress about it.
One of my friends then shared that her daughter started walking around 16-months and that some kids are just more cautious and wait until they have everything perfected to make the big moves. Being open, honest and vulnerable with others can cause them to do so in return and we can learn so much from each other.
Don’t Doom Scroll.
This seems to be a theme across the board… we are all learning that doom scrolling is never a good idea. Especially when you are already concerned about a milestone and looking for information on the internet. It’s ok to seek blogs or accounts that align with your parenting style and you feel good about the advice and recommendations they give, but pay attention to their actual qualifications. Anyone can make a blog and start giving parenting advice. Don’t trust everything you read and try to limit your exposure. In the end, it should be your care team that you go to for the real advice.
Invest in Some Parenting Books.
I honestly did not read one pregnancy or parenting book until Willy was about 12 months. It was then that I began to feel out of my element. Parenting is hard and we do so much based off of how we were parented and things that feel innate and natural to us. Consider your parenting ethics and goals and choose some authors and books that align. It is helpful to hear from others how they figured this whole parenting thing out and not feel so alone in that. Look for recommendations and some of our favorites below.
What does my child need from me in this moment?
In the end, you know your children best. Try to be present with them and ask yourself what they need from you in that moment. Kids change, just like adults and just because they were one way for the first year of their life, doesn’t mean they will be like that forever. Try to be there for them no matter where they are on that journey and let them go at the pace they need to. And give yourself a break too, you’re doing a great job and your child is so lucky to have you love them and help guide them along the way.
Parenting Resources We Like:
- Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
I had a lot of PPA – the best advice I got was from my OBGYN to delete instagram and apps like Wonderweeks. It took me a long time to let comments roll off my back (“he’s still not talking”) but once I decided what my parenting style would be, it did get easier. Great suggestions in this post!
I love that your OBGYN suggested deleting those apps! It is honestly so detrimental to new parents that are trying to do their best! We all expect our parenting style to happen naturally but their are so many choices and it’s hard to draw the line sometimes. Thanks for sharing, Sara!
This post is SO timely for me. I have a 7 week old baby and I am already getting incredibly worried about milestones. ATM, it’s neck and head strength. Your suggestion regarding choosing the right care team for you was spot on. I met with an LC a few weeks ago,who came to our house and told me (among other things), that my baby was “floppy” for her age (4 weeks) and should be stronger. I spent the next several days spiralling, stressing and angry that I PAID this woman to give me lactation support and instead she commented on my parenting. Thankfully, my midwife affirmed that we were doing great and our baby girl is healthy and exactly where she should be in her development.
Oh good I’m so glad I could help relay this message early on for you. Being a new parent is so incredible and wonderful and also SO overwhelming! I’m so sorry you had a negative experience with your LC but happy you were able to detect that and get support from your midwife. Trust yourself and your instincts because you know best! Good luck with everything and congrats, enjoy that sweet babe.
Thanks so much for the article Kelly! These tips are so helpful!
When I first had my son I thought developmental targets were universal and set in stone. I stressed about them, assuming that all kids were meeting them. Over time I realized that they actually vary a lot according to the different sources. For example, the CDC advises that by 18 months a child should try to say 3 words plus mama and dada, but my local health unit has a developmental target of 18 words at the same age. That’s a big discrepancy! Knowing this helped me worry less. The CDC also updated their targets recently to better capture things that a majority of kids could do at specific ages and I find looking at their targets so much less stressful now!
Many of the milestones are also biased towards experiences that children are expected to have. For example, some children might not have stairs in their home and might therefore learn to climb stairs at a later age when they’re exposed to stairs regularly. So sometimes it feels like there’s an element of “teaching to the test” with developmental milestones.
I’ve also noticed that tons of toy companies are trying to capitalize on parental fears about development. Why are there so many cheap plastic toys being marketed as sensory objects for toddlers when they could just engage their senses with the things already in their environments (textiles, animals, their toys, things in nature, etc)?
I really appreciate the way that you and Jess write about parenting! Thank you!
Oh good I’m so glad, Anna! It’s so unfortunate that there are so many different outlets working against parents and targeting such a vulnerable group of people! Awareness is key and I’m so glad that you found that out early on. Thanks for sharing.
I just finished the series “Babies” on Netflix and the biggest takeaway I took from the show was how almost every researcher kept saying “stop and enjoy your child.” Even with all of their research, they pretty much said every kid is different and there is no right or wrong way-especially with milestones. And to trust and follow your baby/child! Also, I can’t recommend this book enough “Hunt, Gather, Parent” by Michaeleen Doucleff. And finally, a few first-generation American friends think Americans overthink everything and just laugh at some of our parenting obsessions.
YES! This seems so simple but so important. Stop and smell the roses. Thank you for the book rec as well! That sounds like a goodie! Yes, we do tend to overthink EVERYTHING. Oy.