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2 Month Milestones: Starting with a Smile

This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this websiteFull disclaimer here.

Making it through the first few weeks of life is a triumph. At around age 2 months, many new parents start to notice little shifts as their baby emerges from the newborn stage.

By age 2 months, there are several milestones that pediatricians note. The good news is that in order to support their child’s development, parents don’t need to do anything more spectacular than already being an attentive parent.

Today, I’ll review the milestones, what they mean, and how a parent can easily help foster this development. (For what it’s worth, a lot of this is similar to what I explain in my booklet about newborns, available here). 

Here’s a spoiler for the rest of this article: If a parent holds their baby lovingly, if they talk, sing, smile, and make eye contact with their baby: this is the perfect start to fostering healthy and typical development. 

Below, I’ll go into more detail with each of the milestones. As always, if you’re worried or have questions, please see your baby’s pediatrician. And, as a reminder, milestones just list the skills most babies have at this age. Today’s post (or another one like it) can’t diagnose any developmental delays. It’s just information to help parents observe and support their baby. 

Social-Emotional Milestones of 2 Month-Old Babies

All of these social “skills” simply need a caregiver to smile and attempt eye contact with their baby. It’s never too early to start. Beginning these actions in the newborn stage helps support the development towards these “milestones” by around age 2 months. 

1. Looks at caregiver’s face.

That’s the goal. A 2 month old baby adjusts their view to look at a parent’s face when it comes into sight. 

2. Appears happy as a loved one approaches.

As a parent gets closer to the baby, the baby seems pleased.

3. If upset, calms when spoken to or picked up.

This is one I loved to remind parents about. We cannot, as parents, always instantly pick up a baby every time they whimper. (If it were possible, it would be okay! Babies cannot be spoiled).

But Real Life makes it physically impossible. Sometimes a parent needs to use the bathroom or put on socks. So, if a parent continues to talk to their baby while they attend to needed tasks, even if the baby isn’t happy about it, the parents voice can help soothe. It’s powerful. 

As I discuss a lot more in this post, a parent simply narrating their actions is great for language development too.

4. Smiles.

This is the age by which many babies smile in response to a caregiver’s smile. 

2 Month Language Milestones

Just as social and emotional milestones need a parent to introduce the ideas of eye contact and smiling, these speech and language milestones need someone to sing and talk to a baby. As I discuss in my newborn booklet, using a slightly higher pitched sing-song voice is fine! (Babies do connect with this kind of speech, even if it’s not the same tone of voice used with older kids and adults).

1. Make a sound other than crying.

Finally, after weeks of really only communicating via crying, they can start to deliver more nuanced messages. These new noises often sound like “ooooo,” or “ooooaaaa.”

The official milestone is that a 2 month baby makes any sound that is not crying. When I used to work with resident physicians and medical students who had to memorize all the milestones, we’d talk about how “coo” rhymes with “two.” In other words, by around age two months, most babies start to coo. 

2. Reacts to loud sounds.

This can be any kind of reaction (crying is one perfect example) when something makes a loud sound. This can be a door slam, a coffee grinder, or an exuberant sibling. If this milestone is not present by age 2 months, it should be immediately brought up with the pediatrician.

Thinking Milestones of 2 Month-Olds

Cognitive milestones help us note brain development in other ways. (All of the above are also related to brain development!). These give us a window into what a baby’s considering. Because a 2 month-old can’t thoughtfully say, “You know what I’ve been thinking about? Well . . . “ parents need to observe their baby closely. More specifically, they need to observe their baby’s eye movements.

1. Follow a moving person with their eyes.

My favorite example is that of a baby laying on the floor or being held in one person’s lap, facing outward. Another person enters the room and moves around, maybe puttering, cleaning, or just talking as they walk around. The baby tracks these movements with their eyes. To me, this is such a profound moment, witnessing a baby take it all on and carefully consider the motions of another human. 

Like other milestones, this can be supported as a parent simply goes about their day while talking and making eye contact with their baby.

2. Look at another object, like a toy, for a few seconds.

People are probably the most interesting things for a baby to look at. (As a reminder, they definitely don’t need TV. Even if there might be ways to find TV benefits for older kids, a baby is better suited looking at other people in real life). That being said, if someone familiar holds a small toy near a baby’s face, this is the age where they may gaze at it for a few seconds.  

Babies are taking in the whole world, a few seconds at a time.

Physical Milestones at Age 2 Months

I’ve written before about babies simply needing some open space to wiggle and stretch. This is how they’ll work their way towards the following skills, achieved by most 2 month-olds. 

(It’s okay to swaddle babies who are not yet rolling over. It’s also okay not to swaddle them. Personal preference! However, most babies do need some waking hours unswaddled in order to move and develop their muscles). 

Many of the following movements seem very small or minor. However, if we think about what’s to come (see these posts on 9 month-olds, 18 month-olds, and 5 year-olds), these are all the beginning skills that will lead to even bigger accomplishments. 

1. Opens hands, even for a short time.

The palmar grasp newborn reflex starts to fade by two or three months of age. Now, they can start to reveal their palms and fingers a bit more. This is the first inkling of what they’ll learn as they grow. By 4 months, for example, they may be able to hold an object in their hand. This would be impossible without first learning to open their hand.

2. Lifts and holds head up when laying on their front.

While younger babies  can briefly lift their head for a second or two, by age 2 months they can hold their head in that position. There’s a lot to be said about tummy time. The general idea is to give a baby some time on their belly in order to develop the neck muscles required for lifting and controlling the head. It’s okay if this time is on a parent’s chest.

3. Moves arms and legs.

Pediatricians also note that both arms and both legs are moving, that all these muscles develop, and that a baby does not favor one side or another.

Handedness (preferring to use one hand over the other), does not show up this early. 

Summary: Two month milestones are the beginning steps in even more learning and development. 

Parents can best support young babies by comforting, talking, singing, and making eye contact. They can also make sure their baby has at least some time each day to stretch and wiggle, whether on a parent’s chest or in a safe space unswaddled. This is also a perfect age for parents to simply marvel. If parents have a moment to pause and observe their baby, they will start to learn so very much about not just motor and cognitive skills, but also their baby’s preferences and personality.

Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier. Receive periodic pediatric updates and tips via her newsletter. Subscribe here.

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