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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10 thoughts on “When Baby Doesn’t Go by the Book”

  1. Did you read the early toilet training section in “The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems”? I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts on this or to see a post on it. I’m considering starting it with my 8 month old next month. Thanks! Mollie

  2. Just wanted to say thank you for your blog! It is so well organized I was able to find all the information I needed quickly and easily. I just had my second baby a few weeks ago (must have been close to when McKenna was born) and wanted to again do a combination of BW and Baby Whisperer stuff. My mind kept blanking on the ‘how’ of getting into the eat-awake-sleep routine and your blog was just what I needed. Thanks again!

  3. so glad you mentioned this!! my daughter started STTN at 8 weeks, and was sleeping 12 hours by 10 weeks… so when my son wasn’t STTN by that point, i got frustrated!! he is now 14 weeks and has been consistantly sleeping about 10.5-11 hours for over a week now. i also get frustrated that my 23 month old isn’t interested in the potty, when it seems my friends kids starting potty training at 18months… she’ll get it… eventually.

  4. I am a new mom, I have a 7 month old girl, and I frequently babysit another little girl that was born just 8 days after her. The differences are remarkable! I appreciate this post, because I often find myself comparing “Why is Alexis rolling and rolling, and my Abby only doing it once in a blue moon…Why can’t Alexis sit up when Abby’s been doing it a month?” We’d drive ourselves crazy comparing! Thanks for the emphasis on percentages versus averages. That being said, can you point me to a spot on your blog or address an issue- how can we avoid having our children pick up the habits of other children? I.E. Screaming, whining, etc.?

  5. This is something I really had to work on with my now 8 month old twin boys. It was so exciting the first time one of them rolled over, but then I kept looking at the other one and thinking “why isn’t he doing it?” They were born about a month early, and I’ve always been worried about them developing normally. I was driving myself crazy, and finally I just had to force myself to not worry about who did what first or the most or better. Now it is actually one of the fun bonuses of having twins. I get to see two little babies grow up at the same time. They definately do things in their own ways and have their own preferences, but they also do some things just alike. It’s interesting and fun to watch. Thanks again for some great advice!

  6. Mollie,I will definitely do a post on my thoughts. I definitely don’t think it is a bad idea at all. Both Brayden and Kaitlyn had/have a hard time learning to poop on the potty. I think it is because they were used to doing it a certain way. Kaitlyn, for example, likes to stand to poop, so sitting on the potty is just weird for her. I think even just to get your child used to using the potty, it is great. As the -wise series says, potty training is not a “moral” activity, so there isn’t one right way to go about it.

  7. Julia, it is really hard to not compare 🙂 I often compare Brayden and Kaitlyn and my Mom always tells me I need to be careful because it will be something that brings bad consequences. I find it easier to not compare now that there are three for some reason.

  8. Natalie, that is a hard one. I don’t have a post on that but I will put it on my list. I don’t know if there is a whole lot you can do other than training your child in the correct behavior and being consistent. A 7 month old isn’t old enough to get the, “if everyone jumped off a cliff would you” lecture 😉

  9. Kristi, I think that would really be an interesting aspect of twins. It would give you great insight into the “nature” vs. “nurture” debate.


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