When Baby Doesn’t Go by the Book

How to react when baby doesn’t go by the book. What you should do and what you should not do to help baby get on track. 

Father holding baby silhouette

“…I don’t want my readers to enter into what I call the ‘developmental Olympics,’ comparing one child’s progress or problems with another child’s, or to become anxious if their little boy or girl doesn’t fit a particular age profile” (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, page 12).

Hogg is urging readers to not compare their babies to the babies of others and to also not freak out when baby doesn’t reach a particular milestone that is listed in a book. This is an excellent topic for us all to be mindful of. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten a question similar to this:

“My baby is [8-11] weeks old and still not sleeping through the night. What am I doing wrong?”

First, Babywise points out that 15% of babies don’t STTN until 12 weeks of age. Second, from my interactions with parents, the numbers and ages of the STTN milestone are typically a lot older than those listed in the book.

When Baby Doesn’t Go by the Book

As soon as baby doesn’t go by the book, parents start to worry what is wrong with themselves and/or their baby. Remember that the ages listed in books are “typical” or “averages,” not absolutes. Analyze your baby and do what is best for your baby. Compare your baby to his own abilities.

Neither of my first two children slept through the night by 12 weeks, not even perfect-sleeper Kaitlyn. She wasn’t long after 12 weeks, but she had definite reflux issues that warranted no messing with what was happening at night.

Read: Babywise and Reflux

We started implementing Babywise late with Brayden, so his late sleeping through the night is understandable there. But even if we had started from birth, who knows what would have happened? He needed food at night for a long time. He had, and has, a fast metabolism and eats a lot. 

Father holding baby with text overlay that reads "Tips for when baby does not go by the book"

How to Avoid Developmental Olympics

Avoiding “developmental Olympics” applies both to Babywise milestones as well as those physical milestones like walking, talking, etc. This doesn’t mean you don’t ever evaluate the reasons for these “lates.” It is wise to wonder if there is something you should change in the schedule or change about your approach to things. 

But first understand what an average is. Very few babies fall into the “average.” The fact that a number is an average means there were a lot who were doing the milestone earlier and a lot doing it later. Percentages can be more helpful in evaluating where your baby is.

If your baby isn’t reaching a milestone when he “should,” think through reasons for it. If it is a Babywise milestone, have you been consistent with the Babywise method? Are there medical reasons your baby hasn’t met the milestone yet? Is your baby just hungry? If there is a reason you can fix, attend to it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

If ever you are worrying, come to this blog and look at the poll results. You will see that there are babies who did things later, some earlier, and some at “normal” times. Then you will know your baby is not alone 🙂

The same applies to physical milestones. Gross motor skills are often recognized more than the fine motor skills and even verbal skills (until baby is about 18 months). If your baby isn’t sitting up at 6 months, is she extra attentive to her fine motor skills or verbal skills? You can’t compare a 6 month old baby focusing on gross motor skills to a 6 month old baby focusing on fine motor skills and stress out that things are different.

What to do when your baby doesn't go by the book with a picture of a father holding a baby.

Brayden was always very focused on his gross motor skills. Verbal skills were also high. Fine motor skills were low on his priority list. Once Kaitlyn reached 5 months old, she was more interested in fine motor skills and her verbal skills for quite some time. They did different things at different times.

If you are stressed, ask yourself if you providing her with the opportunity to practice? A baby who is strapped in and confined all day isn’t going to reach gross motor skills as early as a baby who is moving about freely. This principle applies as the child gets older. A child who is never taught the names of colors isn’t going to just know them. You must teach your child the things you want her to know and provide opportunities for practice.

If there is anything you are concerned about, always bring it to the attention of your pediatrician. There are times a child is behind and will benefit from some early intervention. 


Please, try to remain calm and patient as you parent your little one. There will be things your child meets earlier than others. There will be things your baby reaches later than others do. There will be things your baby reaches earlier than others do. Don’t stress, don’t brag. 

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