Healthy Growth and Development - Baby's First Year

Early years are important

The first 2000 days of baby's life are extremely important to the baby's future!

There is a rapid explosion of development in baby's brain in the first 2000 days of life--even before your child starts grade school! How parents and caregivers relate to a child in these early years affects the development of their brain structure, which sets the stage for their entire lifetime of growth, learning, health, behaviour and more.

Positive experiences in these early years are linked to better social, educational, economic and health outcomes for your child's future.

See a short video on the importance of the early years:

For videos that show how parents and caregivers can support baby's brain development, visit:

Developmental milestones

As children grow, we expect them to learn new things at various ages. For example, by 18 months of age, a child is usually able to say five or more words clearly. This is called a "developmental milestone".

One very simple way to check that your child is meeting his or her developmental milestones is by using a series of questionnaires called "Nipissing District Developmental Screen" or "Nipissing Screen" for short.

The Nipissing Screen set of checklists is easy to use. It looks at 13 key developmental stages between infancy and six years of age.

The stages are: one and two months, four months, six months, nine months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, two years, 30 months, three years, four years, five years and six years.

The Screen explores a child's skills in the following areas:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Speech
  • Language
  • Communication
  • Gross Motor
  • Fine Motor
  • Cognitive
  • Social/Emotional
  • Self-Help

A parent simply answers "Yes" or "No" to questions about their child's abilities at a certain age.

The Nipissing Screen is available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese. It is free of charge at Nipissing District Developmental Screen.  If your child has not developed certain skills by the typical age, talk to your doctor or public health nurse.

At Child Health Fairs held in communities throughout Waterloo Region, families can meet with an early child development professional to check their child's progress in areas of learning, social, emotional, language and muscle development.

The Nipissing Screens also have a list of activities that parents and caregivers can do with their children that are appropriate for the age of their child.

During baby's first year

Families who agree to participate in the Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program will receive a set of Nipissing Screens for their baby's first year.

Families may also obtain a Nipissing Screen during their baby's first year by calling Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400.

Baby's weight gain and growth

Children grow faster during their first year of life than at any other time. A baby's growth depends on:

  • Family traits (parents' heights and weights, cultural background)
  • Environment
  • Nutrition


Most newborns are known to:

  • Lose up to ten per cent of their birth weight in the first three to four days after birth.
  • Regain their birth weight by two to three weeks of age.
  • Have growth spurts around three weeks and six weeks after birth.

The first year

Most babies:

  • Continue to grow steadily.
  • Have growth spurts at about three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months of age.
  • Double their birth weight within four to five months.
  • Triple their birth weight by the end of the first year.

Growth spurts

Growth spurts are times when a baby will grow faster than normal and will probably be hungrier and will need to be fed more than usual. Typically, they last only a few days.

For the breastfed baby, a growth spurt means you will need to feed your baby more often. More frequent feedings will increase your milk supply and help to satisfy your baby. For information about breastfeeding your baby, visit the Breastfeeding page.

Babies receiving artificial baby milk (formula) may need to drink more at each feeding, and/or may need to be fed more frequently. For information about feeding your baby artificial baby milk (formula), visit the Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) page.

After a growth spurt your baby will continue to grow, but at a slower pace.

Questions about weight gain/growth

Q: Is there a difference in growth between breastfed babies and babies given artificial baby milk (formula)?

A: Breastfed babies often grow differently than babies given artificial baby milk (formula). Healthy breastfed babies tend to gain weight quickly in the first few months after birth. However, at 5-6 months of age their growth slows down and they tend to weigh less than babies given artificial baby milk (formula).

Q: How do I know if my baby is growing normally?

A:Every baby grows at a different rate. Weight gain is one way to tell if your baby is growing well. Your health care provider may keep track of your baby's growth by taking the following measurements:

  • Length (measured with the baby lying down)
  • Weight (using an infant scale)
  • Head circumference (taken with a measuring tape, it is an indicator of brain growth)

During the first year, your child should be weighed and measured in length within 1-2 weeks of birth, and at one, two, four, six, nine and 12 months of age as part of well-baby visits to a health care provider.

These measurements should be recorded on a growth chart to determine if your child is following a normal growth pattern.

Note: Growth over time is more important than a single measurement.

If you have any concerns about your child's growth, contact your health care provider or call Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400.

Growth charts

If you have any questions about your child's growth, check the information on the Growth Charts page.

More Information

For more information, please call Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400.