If you’ve ever worried about baby developmental milestones, what’s supposed to happen, when, and if your child is progressing at a normal pace…
The first few years of being a mom can be anxiety inducing and incredibly stressful. In fact, many women find it to be a stage of non-stop worrying, constantly feeling uneasy, and feeling under pressure all the time.
Anxiety about baby milestones or your infant’s development is something that really adds to the mental burden. For some women, this specific branch of anxiety even starts as early as the first weeks of pregnancy… and it can last into the toddler years. If you suspect that your anxiety about baby milestones is more than just normal mom worry, you’re in the right place. Here, I’m breaking down what anxiety about baby development is, how it shows up, what makes it worse, and where it comes from in the first place.
What does it mean to have anxiety about baby milestones?
In the first weeks, months and years of your child’s life, anxiety can be buzzing.
Your baby is learning how to do so many things independently of you. Seeing him/her sit upright, crawl, stand, walk and roll can be overwhelming for a number of reasons.
For starters, you might fear that your baby isn’t developing quickly enough. You wonder what’s supposed to happen, when, and if your child is developing at a normal pace… and whether or not they need support. That’s one of the most common ways that anxiety about infant development shows up.
There’s also the issue of perceived danger. So even if you are satisfied with the timeline of how your baby is developing (more on that later), now that she is crawling and climbing, you might notice yourself worrying that she’ll fall, put the wrong thing in her mouth, or get hurt. This looks like you assessing all potential dangers in your home, hovering too much, putting endless energy into trying to prevent accidents, or experiencing intrusive thoughts about harm coming to your child.
Why information overload and comparison don’t help
One thing that new parents should think about is the fact that information overload and comparing ourselves or our babies to others are both factors that add to our anxiety levels.
Think about all the information (parenting books, Instagram accounts, blogs, parenting professionals) that we have available in this day and age.
There’s such a thing as too much information. You can never know everything about the topic! You can’t absorb it all. In many ways, it’s great that we have more information, more knowledge and support than past generations, but the flip side of that is that we have so many more messages to parse through. That’s inherently stressful.
We also have more opportunities for self comparison. For example, a quick scroll through Instagram might have you noticing that someone else’s six-month-old baby is doing something that yours hasn’t. A look through an acquaintance’s feed might make you feel like your baby is behind because they aren’t rolling, climbing or walking like hers is.
The thing to remember here: there are no set deadlines for your baby. Allow him/her to develop in their own time and at their own pace.
Enter hustle culture
North American culture can be a competitive one. We can have a hard time unhooking from our need to hustle, do better, win, and compete. Many parents can apply that to their baby’s developmental milestones without even realizing or intending to. I say this not to bring shame or guilt, but to remind you that this school of thought is optional. And you can opt out of needing to be in the lead.
When you realize that this actually isn’t a race or contest, that can alleviate so much of the anxiety you’re struggling with.
Mothers especially are on the receiving end of so much societal pressure and double standards. You want to be the best mom, keep your baby safe, and do whatever your child needs in order for them to thrive and have the best opportunities. It’s understandable to feel that way.
At the same time, I want to give permission to unhook from these expectations if you’re hustling to the point where it’s costing you peace and time for necessary self-care.
One thing to try: simply observe your baby as she explores her surroundings. Keep an eye on her, but allow yourself to keep a distance and witness her develop rather than hustling to try to make her do anything. Remember that there’s no real deadline on crawling, standing or learning to walk and whether they do so earlier or later than other babies won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.
If you do have concerns about what’s normal, or how your child is developing, then talk to your doc, or a specialist who is trained in this area to make a proper assessment. Don’t just sit with your worries, and feel like you have to become the expert yourself.
Anxiety about baby milestones: Letting go
When supporting mothers who are struggling to let go of their anxiety about baby milestones or baby development, there’s a few things that I hear time and time again. “Is this just how it feels to be a mother?”, “Will I always worry this much?” and “What if my baby isn’t developing like all the others?” These are some of the most common concerns.
One thing to keep in mind is that no, it won’t always be like this.
The first few years of your child’s life come with an immense amount of pressure because so much is happening within such a short period of time. Think about it: your baby goes from being totally dependent on you to then growing, rolling, sitting, crawling, climbing and walking. That’s hard to keep pace with. It won’t always be this stressful. Anxieties won’t always run this high. One day, your baby will surpass all the milestones that you’re currently worrying about and you’ll almost forget about the stress this once caused.
Hey mama! If you’re here, then you might be struggling with anxiety and all the ways that it’s showing up in early motherhood. Parenting a small baby is a stressful time and you may feel like that’s on you. It’s not. As an expert in the field of perinatal mental health, it’s my intention to be honest about the difficulties of this stage in motherhood… and offer the solution. Mama Calm is my self-paced anxiety course targeted towards dealing with the most common triggers of this stage of life. One month from now, you can be feeling calm, at ease and like your old self again. Imagine that!