Preemie Development - a quick look

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Keeping an eye on your preemies development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary.


Preemies aren't just small...

Sometimes preterm children can develop at different rates to a child born full term. In this way it is important to know the key developmental milestones and timeline so that you are able to give your preemie any help if required.

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Gross & Fine Motor Development in the First 2 Years

Keeping an eye on your preemie's development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary. To understand preemie developmental milestones we correct for prematurity when considering when "normal" milestones are reached.

It’s amazing how quickly babies grow and develop! The tables below highlight some important general developmental milestones. Although these tables give an average age at which milestones are achieved it is important to realise that even babies born at term achieve these milestones at varying ages. For preemies, you should always correct for their prematurity.

Gross and Fine Motor Development the First 2 Years

Gross motor development refers to the major actions and muscles that help infants move around in the environment, such as crawling, standing, and walking. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, refers to small movements and muscles, such as reaching and grasping. Have a look at the following information for typical development of these skills. You should talk to your paediatrician if you have any concerns about your preemie's development.

preterm infants & early motor development milestones

Motor Skill
in the First 2 Years
Average Age
Age Range in Which 90 Percent
of Infants Achieve the Skill
When held upright, holds head erect and steady 6 weeks 3 weeks – 4 months
When on tummy:
  • pushes up on arms
  • Lifts and holds head up
2 months 3 weeks – 4 months
Rolls from side to back 2 months 3 weeks – 5 months
Grasps cube 3 months, 3weeks 2 – 7 months
Rolls from back to side 4½ months 2 – 7 months
Sits alone
While standing with support, accepts entire weight with legs
7 months 5 – 9 months
Crawls 7 months 5 – 11 months
Pulls to stand 8 months 5 – 12 months
Plays pat-a-cake 9 months, 3 weeks 7 – 15 months
Stands alone 11 months 9 -16 months
Walks alone 11 months, 3 weeks 9 – 17 months
Builds tower of two cubes 13 months, 3 weeks 10 – 19 months
Scribbles vigorously 14 months 10 – 21 months
Walks up stairs with help 16 months 12- 23 months
Jumps in place 23 months, 2 weeks 17 – 30 months
Walks on tiptoe 25 months 16 – 30 months
These milestones represent overall age trends. There are individual differences in the exact age at which each milestone is attained.(Bayley, 1969, 1993; Berk, 2008)


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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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