Child Development: Gross Motor Milestones

April 1, 2021

This post will review child development milestones, specifically gross motor. The ages listed for each milestone are an approximate average; of course, these are variable depending on the child.1 (I acknowledge pictoral assists here from my grandsons.)

So, how to remember all of these developmental milestones? For gross motor, the first thing I do is set a framework in my mind by thinking of 6-9-12 months — which associates with sit-crawl-walk.

6 months         Sit

9 months         Crawl

12 months       Walk

Next, to break it down further:


A newborn is a little flexed being - with arms and legs flexed, and fists clenched.

Newborns are born with a variety of reflexes: suck, root, Moro (which peaks during the first month and disappears after two months), tonic neck (also known as the fencing position), walk/step, palmar grasp (stroke the newborn’s palm and he will hold on tight to your finger) and plantar grasp.2 Here is a picture of a one-month old showing off instinctual his tonic neck reflex.

1 month          

A one-month old raises his head slightly off the floor when lying on his stomach, holds his head up momentarily when supported, still keeps his hands in closed fists, and comforts himself by sucking on a fist or fingers.

2 months

A two-month old holds his head up even higher and longer and begins to push up with his arms when lying on his stomach.

4 months        

A four-month old rolls over, often first going from tummy to back.

5 months        

A five-month old pushes up with his arms, rocks on his stomach, and kicks his legs.         

6 months        

A six-month old rolls over in both directions, sits or is working towards sitting, rocks back and forth on hands and knees, and may wiggle backwards.

9 months        

A nine-month old creeps and crawls.

12 months      

A twelve-month old gets into a sitting position without help, pulls to stand and walks holding onto furniture (called cruising), begins to stand alone, and begins to take steps or walks alone.

18 months      

An eighteen-month old walks alone, and begins to run and walk up steps.

2 years            

A two-year old kicks a ball forward, throws a ball overhand, walks up and down stairs holding on, stands on tiptoes, begins to run, and climbs on and off furniture without help.

Now, a couple of ways this relates to breastfeeding.

#1. When to start solid foods

The World Health Organization recommends that infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond.3 (Remember that this test is coming from a group that is international, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, so think international recommendations which is what the World Health Organization offers.)

Three things to look for a baby to be able to start solid foods:

  1. Ability to sit

  2. Loss of tongue thrust

  3. Interest in food when others are eating

#2 Gymnastic or gymnurstic nursing

From 7-12 months, babies may assume all kinds of physical positions when breastfeeding, called gymnastic or gymnurstic nursing.

#3 Distractible stage or "Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO)

Babies being easily distracted at the breast is seen around 4-5 months and then again at 8-10 months. This is a normal developmental stage that fades with time but it is helpful for mothers to know about it so they can be prepared to find a quiet, unexciting (to the baby) place to nurse. Fear of missing out is what we called the distractible stage in our family.


Share The Lactation College


Help Me Grow. Help Me Grow is an inter-agency initiative of the State of Minnesota (Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Human Services) partnering with all local service agencies. Help Me Grow


American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Edited by: Steven P. Shelov and Tanya Remer Altmann. Bantam Books. 2014


World Health Organization website World Health Organization