When Will My Preemie Hit Major Milestones?

mother and babyIf your baby was born early, you may have questions about how this will affect her development. In the most general of terms, if she has no serious problems due to prematurity, she will hit major milestones at the age as she would have if she had been born at the expected time.

The length of a normal pregnancy is 37 to 42 weeks from the mother’s last menstrual period. If your baby is born earlier than 37 weeks, he will be considered premature, also called preterm. The pediatrician or neonatologist (specialist in newborn babies) will tell you if he is premature, and how early they believe he was born. Dates based on the last period are not always 100% correct, so the doctor will be looking at your baby’s weight and appearance to determine if he was born early.

How early your baby is born and how small she is both affect how well she will do after birth. Late preterm babies born at 35 to 37 weeks are still at risk for medical problems, although less so than extremely premature babies.

Essentially all babies born earlier than 35 weeks go to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), where they get care in a warm incubator. Here, nurses and doctors can monitor them carefully and give them what they need. Preemies may need oxygen and assistance in breathing. A baby born before 34 weeks may need a feeding tube. Those born between 32 and 36 weeks usually survive, but may have significant health and developmental problems.

The tiniest infants, who are the most premature, very often have a variety of abnormalities. Most of their organ systems cannot function until they develop further with time. However, the care of these tiny babies has improved to the point that 90% or more of those born at 28 weeks survive. 24% of babies who weigh between 901 grams (just under 2 pounds) and 1000 grams (about 2¼ pounds), born around 25 to 27 week of age grow into unimpaired children by 18 months of age. The others have continued medical issues and varying degrees of developmental impairment.

A very small premature baby may spend months in the NICU. As problems become apparent, you will be kept informed and participate in any decisions about your baby’s care. If he is expected to have developmental delays beyond those of simple prematurity, you will know. He may have an MRI and/or an ultrasound of the brain to evaluate possible damage. In that case, his doctor will tell you what to look for and what to expect.

If your baby was born somewhat prematurely, but did not develop serious problems, assume that your pregnancy should have lasted 40 weeks to figure out her developmental stage.

If she was born at 36 weeks, about a month early, her development after birth will be delayed by about a month. Most babies smile at people by around one to two months of age. Your baby would be expected to smile by about three months of age. At this time, she might also be cooing and making other sounds.

If he was born at 34 weeks, he might smile at 7 weeks of age. By around two years of age, most otherwise normal preemies have caught up to full-term toddlers.


Other major milestones during the first year include:


Full-term Baby

36 Weeks

32 Weeks

Reaches for toys

Holds head up without support

Brings hand to mouth

Rolls over one way

4 months

5 months

6 months

Sits without support

Rolls over both ways

Begins to crawl

6 months

7 months

8 months

May be afraid of strangers

Makes sounds like “mama”

Plays peek-a-boo

Can stand while holding on to something

Pulls him or herself up to stand


9 months

10 months

11 months

Prefers certain people and toys

Follows simple directions

Says “mama” and “dada” with meaning

Pulls to sit

Stands while holding on

12 months

13 months

14 months

All babies reach developmental milestones at slightly different times. If you think your preemie is not showing improvement in the way she moves, responds to you, reacts to speech and sounds, or looks at people and objects, let her doctor know.

It is important to note that much of the available information on development of premature babies lags behind the most current treatments, especially when looking at their long-term health. For example, preemies born now may do much better in 12 years than children born prematurely 12 years ago. There also appears to be a slightly decreasing amount of premature births.

What do you think?

When Will My Preemie Hit Major Milestones?

Tell us what you think!


  1. Kenzi says:

    My son was born a month early and is matched up with the full term babies according to the chart, actually a little a head in some areas according to the dr. She says he seems like he was on time if it werent for his size at birth

  2. Kenzi says:

    Hope my son isn’t too delayed, was born at 35.6w and had no issues other than an unable to latch properly, but developed it when he would have been 37w gestationally.

  3. Rodley says:

    My baby girl was born at 30 weeks and this chart doesn’t give me any info on her. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. She rolls over and can hold her head somewhat so I’m excited!

  4. LIZ says:

    my baby came early but im so happy she developing really good

  5. Lilly says:

    My son was born 29 weeks and now just learn how to sit up by himself :))

  6. Summer says:

    My son was born at 35 week. He rolled over 2 time he 2 week old.

  7. katherine says:

    My son was born at 31 weeks!


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