Tot Life: 6-9 month development
At this stage your baby is getting his first taste of independence – he might be experimenting with solid food, sitting up, holding a cup or utensils; he may even be creeping or crawling!
Babies at the 6-9 month phase love to play, engage with others and explore the world – it can be scary for them too as they begin to understand the concept of “object permanence” and develop separation anxiety. “Object permanence” is a fancy way of saying your baby has begun to understand that objects still exist when he can’t see them. So when you leave the room he knows you are still somewhere, just not with him. As babies venture away from mom for the first time by themselves – crawling or exploring – it’s important to them that they know where you are and can come back to you.
Your baby is starting to experiment with language and conversation. You will start to hear your baby make “puh puh” or “buh buh” sounds – your baby may even say “mama” or “dada”. You can help your baby be engaging in conversation – chat to your baby and pause for your baby to say something, or suggest something when your baby says something. Even though your baby can’t respond with real words he is listening when you name objects, people or point out things, and his brain is putting together the building blocks for speech and grammar by listening to you. If you haven’t done so already, now is also a good time to introduce your baby to books.
Your baby could be rolling around, commando-crawling, crawling, scooting or even standing up – there is a huge range of movement at this age and your baby will get there in his own time and in his own way.
Whatever the method, as your baby starts getting around the place there are a few things all parents need to be aware of: you need to cover your electrical outlets and make sure cords and electrical items are tied away as your baby will pull on them. One way of baby proofing is to get down and crawl around yourself so you can see exactly what your baby is seeing. Be aware that once your baby starts moving he will start exploring – pulling open low cupboards, tipping things off coffee tables and just generally causing chaos! The peaceful days of watching your baby wriggle on a blanket while you enjoy a cup of coffee are officially over!! You’ll also notice that your baby will gradually venture further, he’ll conquer your living room or the spot where his toys are located first and then start venturing further afield. So don’t limit your baby proofing efforts to the spaces where he has played as an infant.
At this age your baby will have mastered his pincer grip – this is the ability to pick up a pea or something very small – so you need to be really careful what you leave around the house, especially if you have older children who play with toys that have small pieces.
He will be able to grab and hold things and will enjoy making loud noises with pots and pans, seeing how things behave when he bangs things together or when he shakes a rattle. He will also enjoy using his hands to knock over a tower of blocks, or lifting up cups to see what’s underneath.
Sleeping and settling
If you have been working on establishing a routine for your baby it will probably be well entrenched by now. If not, try gently waking your baby at the same time each morning (open the curtains, make a little bit of noise) and then monitor your baby’s sleep and feed times during the day – you might find he’s established a routine of his own! In general, even if you aren’t setting a routine for your baby, best practice is: sleep, feed, play in that order. The idea being that when your baby wakes up you give him a feed/meal, then you play and he gets tired again.
Most babies at this age still need at least 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Some babies will still have two naps a day at this age, though many babies will have dropped a sleep. If your baby seems resistant to having a sleep in his crib but you feel he is getting over-tired in the afternoon, he might still enjoy some quiet time by taking a walk in the stroller.
Feeding and eating
At this age babies who are breastfeeding don’t typically self-wean, but they can become very distracted by the world around them! You might find that you have to throw a wrap over your shoulder to keep your baby focused on a feed or move to a dimly lit, quiet room. This can make feeding when you are out in public a challenge as well.
Babies can also temporarily lose interest in feeding if they are teething, unwell (e.g. an ear infection or blocked nose can make it uncomfortable for baby to breastfeed) or your milk changes (for example due to hormonal changes). Be patient, keep trying, don’t lose heart or feel rejected and see your doctor or lactation consultant if you are worried. Remember you can always ring the volunteers at the La Leche league for any breastfeeding concerns or questions.
Your baby will have started solids by now and will begin by eating about a teaspoon per meal. Your baby can try a variety of pureed fruits, vegetables, meat, legumes and iron fortified cereals. You can also give your baby natural yogurt (unsweetened).
In terms of drinks, your baby only needs to drink breastmilk, formula and water – there is no nutritional benefit to juice or other flavored drinks. Try a new food every few days to ensure your baby doesn’t have an allergy.
You might find that when you introduce solids your baby experiences constipation. Constipation may be caused by cereals and foods like carrot and banana. Pureed pears, apricots or prunes can help with constipation.
When your baby starts solids you should also start looking after their teeth. For tips on starting off on the right food dentally, click here.
The following list isn’t exhaustive. If you think something “isn’t right” with your baby, don’t ignore it – go see your family physician. The following are signs you should be mindful of at this age:
- doesn’t respond to sounds and visual stimulation
- doesn’t reach for objects, place objects in mouth, show interest in toys
- doesn’t “talk” to you – making noises, imitating sounds
- doesn’t roll or sit up without support