Preparing for Parenthood

Preparing for Parenthood > Babies Social & Emotional Development > Social and Emotional Milestones: what to expect at different stages of your baby’s development

Preparing for Parenthood

Social and Emotional Milestones: what to expect at different stages of your baby’s development


What are Developmental Milestones?

As your baby grows they will develop new skills.  Most babies develop particular skills at around about the same time.  When your baby develops these skills they are said to have met their developmental milestones.  Developmental milestones are broken into different categories; physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communication skills.

What are Social and Emotional Milestones?

Social development is how your baby is learning to interacting with you and other people.  Emotional development is how they are learning to manage their emotions.  As your baby grows they will start to interact with you in different ways.  They will also start to learn how to manage their emotions, or calm themselves.  This is called self soothing.  The social and emotional milestones baby is expected to reach in the first 12 months are:

Between 0-3 months, baby will:
  • Start to smile and look directly at you
  • Cry to get their needs met, for example when they are hungry, tired or have wind
  • May occasionally self sooth.  This means that baby will calm themselves by sucking on their fingers or hands.
Between the ages of 3-6 months, baby will:
  • Give warm smiles and laughs
  • Respond to you talking, looking or smiling at them by smiling, crying or laughing back
  • Will start to copy faces you make
  • Show excitement by waving arms and legs
  • Enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror.
Between the ages of 6-9 months, baby will:
  • Start to have favourite toys
  • Respond to you when you talk to or make gestures to them
  • Start to understand your different emotions
  • Show more comfort around familiar people, and anxiety around strangers.
Between the ages of 9 – 12 months, baby will:
  • Hold out arms and legs to be lifted up
  • Copy simple actions
  • Repeat sounds or movements that make you laugh
  • Seek comfort when upset
  • Show many emotions, such as being sad, happy, mad, scared, hurt, or uncomfortable
  • Gets comfort from being able to see or hear the person who is taking care of them
  • Show their affection with hugs, kisses, pats, and smiles.


For an overview of baby’s developmental milestones from 0-3 years and more helpful advice on your babies social and emotional development please follow the links below:

HSE Guide to Baby and Toddler Development

Every Developmental Milestones Stages of Development 0-12