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Mother and baby

Your little bundle that seemed so helpless is suddenly becoming more independent. Here’s what they might be doing and how you can help them along the way.

Your baby’s development is coming on in leaps and bounds. They usually start crawling at this age so it’s an exciting time as they start to gain some independence. They might even start taking their first steps (WHO, 2016).

Once your baby starts crawling, they will want to explore everything. That means it’s important to make sure they’re safe.

Some babies say their first words at this age. It’s usually something easy to say like ‘dad’ or ‘no’.

Your baby will also begin to recognise some words. They might even look up when you call their name.

This is just the start of it. Here’s what else they might be up to at 9-12 months and what you can do.


Your baby will probably be eating three small meals a day by now. You don’t need to mash or purée everything for them anymore. You can offer your baby easy to pick up finger foods. Some parents follow baby-led weaning, which is all about letting your baby pick up food and feed themselves.

Try to introduce variety into your baby’s diet. Soups or casseroles might go down well. You could also start offering your little one foods like cottage cheese, pasta, rice and toast (NHS Choices, 2016a). Don’t worry if your baby rejects food – you can always try again another time.

It’s important to avoid foods your baby could choke on – hard foods like boiled sweets or whole nuts are not suitable for children under five years old. You will also want to take care with items like grapes, which should always be cut lengthways. Grapes are particularly hazardous because of their shape and ability to stick in a baby’s throat (NHS Choices, 2016b).

Your baby will be taking less milk at this age, but they will still need breast milk or formula milk until they are one year old (NHS Choices, 2016a).


At this age, your little one might sleep for up to 12 hours at night (Public Health Agency, 2018). They might have one or two short daytime naps too. But they may also still be quite wakeful.

When some babies seem to sleep through the night, what’s really happening is they get themselves back to sleep quite quickly if they wake. So you might not realise your baby has woken. It’s also just as normal for babies and toddlers to need some physical contact and comfort during the night to help them settle.

Some parents try out sleep training or controlled crying methods around this age. Other parents prefer to cuddle and comfort their baby in the night.

With controlled crying, nobody really knows about the long-term effects of leaving a baby to cry. The evidence shows mixed results and no evidence to date shows that it causes harm (Crncec et al, 2010; Field, 2017). Yet because there is limited research on it currently, we cannot say for definite whether controlled crying causes harm or not.

Waking up at night at this age is normal and is often just a phase. But if broken nights are affecting you, there are ways of making it less difficult:

  • Keep night time wakings peaceful, quiet and low key if you can. This will help settle your baby more readily.
  • There’s usually no need to change your baby’s nappy unless it’s causing discomfort or it’s leaking, for instance.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, babies of this age can readily ‘help themselves’ with minimal disturbance to you. This is especially true if you are sharing your bed with your baby (read our article on safe co-sleeping). It’s normal for babies to enjoy the closeness of a breastfeed and for this to help them settle back to sleep.
  • Try not to be tempted to feed your baby large amounts of formula hoping they’ll sleep for longer between feeds. It doesn’t work and it might make them uncomfortable (South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, 2017).


Babies enjoy lots of activities at this age. This includes playing with soft bricks, looking at picture books, banging on toy drums and peek-a-boo (Public Health Agency, 2018).

You can pick up some fantastic bargains for your baby at a local NCT Nearly New Sales. Here you can find lots of high quality second-hand toys and books for a fraction of the price.

Talking with your baby is a great way to interact. Make time for nursery rhymes, reading stories and clapping games. Partners, friends and family members can all have fun playing with your baby so encourage interaction whenever you can.


If your baby is crawling, it’s now especially important to keep dangerous objects out of reach or behind cupboard doors fitted with baby locks.

As well as keeping small objects out of your baby’s way, you need to make sure that they can’t hurt themselves. Here are some pointers:

  • Make sure hot drinks are out of reach. It’s easy for a baby to grab a hot drink in your hand, or bump into a coffee table and knock a mug over.
  • Fit stair-gates to stop your baby getting up or down the stairs.
  • Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects lying on the floor or within your baby’s reach.
  • Keep your baby away from water. Small children can drown in less than 5cm of water. For the same reason, never leave your baby unattended in the bath.
  • Protect any open fire with a fireguard.
  • Keep kettle cords and other cables out of your baby’s reach.
  • Keep domestic bleach, medication and other dangerous substances either in a high cupboard out of your baby’s reach or behind baby-proofed cupboard doors.

Taking care of yourself

As your baby approaches their first birthday, they will have reached many milestones. You still have lots to look forward to and enjoy. It’s important to take good care of yourself too.

You might still be quite tired, depending on how wakeful your baby is. Do ask friends and family for support if you need it. You may also feel quite emotional as your baby turns one; it can help to talk about how you are feeling.

You might be thinking about returning to work or starting a new job. Becoming a working parent is a juggling act. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel about it. So explore all your options and discuss them with your partner.

This page was last reviewed in April 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Crncec R, Matthew S, Nemeth D. (2010) Infant sleep problems and emotional health: a review of two behavioural approaches. Journal of reproductive and infant psychology (28):44-54. Available from: [accessed 1st October 2017].

Field, T. (2017) Infant sleep problems and interventions: A review. Infant Behavior and Development (47):40-53. Available from: [accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2016a) Your baby’s first solid foods.  Available from:…? [accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2016b) Baby and toddler safety. Available from: [accessed 1st October 2017].

Public Health Agency. (2018) Birth to five. Available from: [accessed 1st October 2017].

South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (2017) Healthy feeding healthy weight. Available from:… [accessed 1st October 2017].

WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study Group. (2016) WHO Motor Development Study: Windows of achievement for six gross motor development milestones. Acta Paediatrica Supplement (450):86-95. Available from: [accessed 1st October 2017].

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