Photos taken in collaboration with Ang Wei Ming

Parental anxiety probably begins while a child is in the womb.

Will my baby be healthy? Am I eating the right foods? Will I harm my baby by exercising?

Once the baby is born, the worries turn into: Is baby putting on enough weight? When is my infant supposed to start rolling over? Is baby supposed to say his or her first word already?

A friend of mine dreads each polyclinic visit, where babies are assessed to see if they are hitting their developmental milestones, which includes weight and height.

I’ve even seen mothers get anxious when their baby’s head circumference numbers fall below a certain percentile.

I can understand the anxiety and fears faced by parents, especially for first timers. When I had my first child, I had breastfeeding issues in the first few days and at her first visit to the pediatrician, she was found to have lost quite a bit of weight.

At seven days’ old, she had a fever and had to be warded in the hospital, undergo a procedure which sounded terrifying – a lumbar puncture – and was tubed up to antibiotics for a few days.

We constantly worried whether we would do something wrong to harm our precious child. As she grew, that anxiety turned into monitoring her milestones closely to ensure she was hitting the targets on time.

child development 

These fears are amplified for parents of children born premature. Every milestone has to be assessed by subtracting weeks of age to account for the expected development of the child at the “corrected age”.

With increased health risks faced by premature babies, it’s no wonder my friends who are parents of preemies (Infants born prematurely) are so stressed.

Do the fears decrease, the more kids you have?

In my experience of having three kids, I learnt over time to be more laid back about certain things such as the baby making a mess or children not eating as much as I expect them to.

Yet, I still watch the development of each child closely.

In some ways, my anxiety increased as I had two other specimens to examine and compare my youngest with!

After having three, I’ve learnt that every child develops at his or her own pace.

Our firstborn took her first step unaided at 11 months and our second-born walked at 15 months. Our third-born hit all of his milestones such as rolling over, first word and crawling, months later than both his siblings.

I thus thought he would be a late walker, but he caught up quickly and walked at 11.5 months old.

He was also slower in his verbal development than his two older siblings, but far more advanced in his kinesthetic ability.

At 17 months old, he was somersaulting off the couch and taught himself to ride the kick-scooter before 21 months of age.

child development 

Each and every person is on a different pace of development and growth. I’ve learnt to embrace the unique beauty of each child and their quirks, and simply enjoy the journey.

To the anxious parent, I would say, as long as you see your infant progressing day by day and learning new skills (such as discovering the joy of pulling tissue paper from the box, or pulling off their romper and diaper, and babbling non-stop), there is likely nothing wrong with your child and all you need to do is take a deep breath.

What if I notice delays?

Some parents are astute and right to notice developmental delays or issues surrounding their child. It is prudent to track the developmental checklist to see if your child is hitting their milestones.

If in doubt, consult a specialist, such as a speech or occupational therapist, to get a proper developmental assessment done. Early intervention can be key in helping your child overcome their challenges.

No matter what health or developmental issues may arise, or even if your child is found to be on the spectrum, remember that your child is a life worthy to be celebrated.

You’ve come so far to bring this child into the world. With love and patience, you can help your child overcome, and grow to their fullest potential.

So breathe, Mummy and Daddy, and enjoy the journey.

Sophia Huang is a mother of three, copy editor and children’s book author. She believes that children learn best through play and should spend as much time as possible outdoors. She is passionate about upcycling trash into toys for children and records her journey at Nature Playtime and Craftcycle For Kids on Facebook and Instagram.