Developmental Delays in Infants
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a chart that portrays what infants from birth through the age of three are “meant” to do, under optimal conditions. However, infants do not read the charts and each infant has their own developmental rhythm. As such, it is important to monitor infants’ development and determine whether delays are significant enough that they require supervision, examination, or intervention (depending on their severity).
Different types of developmental delays in infants
When an infant does not reach certain milestones, they can experience
● And other delays.
These delays can influence your infant’s development and lifestyle for the rest of their life, and so it is important to diagnose and treat delays as soon as possible. Developmental delays can occur in all infants and in nearly all areas of development, including: growth, speech, motor development, cognitive development and more.
Certain demographic groups, such as adopted children, children suffering from repeat ear infections, or other chronic illnesses, are more likely to experience developmental delays. Delays can be identified by parents, Tipat Chalav (well-baby checkup) nurses, pediatricians, or developmental doctors.
Let’s discuss two common examples:
Developmental delays in crawling
Infants tend to start crawling around the age of 8 months and parents need to prepare for this milestone by baby-proofing the house against various dangers that crawling-induced independence brings. Your infant will want to discover the world around them, stuff their hands into every possible location, pull items out of reach and bring them to their mouth. Some infants never crawl, and this does not necessarily indicate a developmental problem. As long as your infant is developing well, pulling themself to standing, walking holding onto objects (cruising), sitting stably and more - there should be no negative influence on the rest of their development due to a lack or delay in crawling.
Infants learn to speak by imitating others. As such, correct hearing is necessary for correct speech to develop. We expect infants to start saying their first words around their first birthdays, but their understanding of language develops even earlier. An infant who does not speak, especially those who suffer from repeat ear infections (one of the most common illnesses and more common reason for antibiotic treatment before the age of one) should take a hearing test to ensure there’s no significant hearing loss impairing their ability to acquire speech. Other reasons for speech delays include: various learning disabilities, neglect, intellectual handicaps, prematurity, auditory delays, neurological issues, autism, cleft palate/lip and more.
There is no conclusive definition of a developmental delay, but for research purposes, a decrease of one standard deviation suffices.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the normative range for crawling is between 5-13 months (4.3% of participants never crawled at all). Again, when infants develop normally in all other areas - sitting stably without support, standing holding onto objects, or cruising, chances are there’s no delay in crawling - or cause for concern.
Treating developmental delays
In the event that an infant exhibits a severe developmental delay, parents should turn to a pediatrician, developmental doctor, or physical therapist, seek a diagnosis and start appropriate treatment. Seeking medical help is always the right thing to do when there is a cause for concern. Even if at the end of the appointment, the only solution is to calm the parents and let them know there’s nothing to worry about. Doctors are equipped with several ways for diagnosing developmental delays. Most of the time, they perform a physical examination and match results to dedicated charts. Sometimes, additional testing is required, such as hearing, vision, neurological, ENT and other tests.
It is recommended to try and prevent any delays to the best of your abilities. For example, to try and prevent speech delays, make sure to speak to your infant - even before they are born, and read lots of stories aloud. This is because speech is acquired via imitation. It is also recommended to enable your infant to experiment with sounds and speech and shower them with lots of love and warmth, and of course, make sure they receive proper care when sick with ear infections and other illnesses.
It is recommended to use an iron supplement, as it contributes to proper brain development. As breastmilk does not contain enough iron to satisfy your infant’s needs, it is important to give your infant an iron supplement - 7.5 mg a day from the age of 4 months, and 15 mg a da from 6-18 months.
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