Babyhood is a marathon, not a race, but that doesn’t mean parents don’t occasionally worry about when their children will reach certain developmental milestones. It’s important to remember that the timeframes given for milestones are rough estimates, so it's possible to be a bit early or late on some without necessarily meaning anything about your baby's development. That said, there are a few things you can do to help promote her development.
Engaging with your baby is the best way to help her get excited about the world, and because so many milestones have to do with her drive to explore, excitement about the world is important.
Sometimes your baby just needs a little incentive to get moving. If she isn’t reaching out for or grasping things, it could just be that she isn’t seeing anything worth reaching for or grasping. If you place some objects she might be interested in just out of her reach, she might be more willing to reach out to try to get it. Having her reach for different objects with different shapes gives her the chance to work with different muscles and build dexterity. Similarly, you can encourage motion by giving her more of a reason to want to be, say, a few steps away by sitting nearby and calling her over to you.
Verbal milestones can follow a similar trajectory - the more you talk to her, the more incentive you give her to want to communicate right back. When you talk to her, waiting for her to respond helps to teach her about the rhythms and give-and-take of conversation, even if she isn't quite ready to talk back yet. Making eye contact when you talk to her can also help her with her growing social skills.
When it comes to communication milestones like words or gestures, you can help your baby out a lot just by being consistent with your vocabulary. If you’re calling the family dog “the dog,” one day, “doggy,” the next, “puppy,” the day after that, with the occasional “Fluffy” thrown in, your baby is definitely going to have a harder time deciding what to shout out when her fuzzy friend comes running into the room.
The same goes for gestures - your baby is more likely to start waving goodbye if that’s the gesture she sees every time somebody leaves for the day.
Sometimes literally, what your baby needs in order to reach a lot of her big milestones is the room to practice. If she has a safe space to roll, then scoot, then crawl around in, and enough time to spend there, she should start to experiment with what she can do. If she has something stable and the right height to pull up on, she is a lot more likely to move on to that stage of pre-walking than she would otherwise. And if she has a fair amount unsupervised and unscheduled time to explore, she is more likely to try new things than if she has less time to play around and experiment.
It’s good advice if you’re hitchhiking across the galaxy, and it’s a good idea if you’re raising an infant too. your baby may be focusing on learning one set of skills now, and have to play a little bit of catch-up later, but she has her own pace and her own set of priorities. Not following the established pattern for milestones may just mean that she is going to be a little bit of a maverick, and venture off the beaten path a bit - every family needs a maverick. If you have any concerns about your baby's development, don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider about it.