This will be a busy time for you and your baby as she starts to explore the world of solid food and perhaps start teething.
During the ages of six to nine months, your baby will make great strides in their development. At this stage, your baby will probably:
- Start sitting up.
- Become more mobile – some babies can propel themselves very effectively by rolling around.
- Use their hands more effectively – they will enjoy reaching out and grasping things.
- Make sounds like “da-da” or “ba-ba”.
- Babble in a way that mimics adult intonation but without using real words.
- Cut their first teeth.
They may also start to develop separation anxiety and cry if you leave the room. This is just a demonstration of their strong attachment to you. The main things to remember are that separation anxiety is very common (and completely normal) and that, for the vast majority of babies, it will go away in time.
Six months is the recommended age to start weaning and introduce your baby to solid food. While some parents take the traditional route of weaning their baby by offering spoonfuls of puréed food; others choose finger foods, such as cooked carrot, chunks of banana or unsalted breadsticks and rice cakes, which is known as ‘baby-led weaning’. Whichever option you take; be guided by your baby and never force food on them if they're not interested.
While breast milk or formula milk will still be your baby’s main source of nutrients at the beginning, as they eat more solids, they will probably start to take less milk. Babies do, however, need to be fed either breast milk or formula milk until they are one year old. You can introduce water to your baby’s diet but avoid fruit juices or sugary drinks . These can fill your baby up so she doesn’t get hungry for more nutritious foods.
Some women choose to stop breastfeeding when their baby starts on solid food, but there are plenty of benefits to continuing with breastfeeding.
Weaning is also a great time for dads and other family members to get more involved with feeding baby if they want to. Mealtimes need not be stressful for you if there are plenty of hands to help out.
Your baby will probably have a development check between seven and nine months. This may take place at home or in a clinic, and is an opportunity for you to discuss any issues or concerns you might have about your baby’s health, growth, development, behaviour, or parenting in general.
By nine months, some, though by no means all, babies will be sleeping through the night. On the other hand, some babies who have previously slept well may start waking up. This may be the result of separation anxiety or it may be related to their developmental changes – they might decide to practise sitting up in their cot in the middle of the night, for instance. It is also possible that they are experiencing pain from teething (see below).
Parents have different approaches to dealing with a wakeful baby and you will need to find one that suits you. Creating comforting routines and sleep associations can help your baby to soothe themselves to sleep at bedtime and again if they wake in the night.
Some parents practice ‘controlled crying’ in order to help their baby get to sleep on their own at night. This means that, when the baby starts crying, they go to them and soothe them, but don’t pick them up. They then leave them for five minutes and go back and soothe them again. The idea is to keep doing this until they fall asleep. After a few nights, the baby will usually sleep through. Don’t attempt controlled crying before your baby is six months old, however.
Some parents are unhappy at the idea of using controlled crying as a technique and prefer to stay with their baby until they fall asleep again. Scientific concerns have also been raised about possible effects of controlled crying on babies' emotional development.
Teething usually starts at around six to nine months old, beginning with the bottom front teeth, followed by the top front teeth and then the top and bottom incisors either side. While some babies don’t have any problems with teething others can experience pain and distress. The following can help:
Teething gels, which contain a mild local anaesthetic to numb the pain.
Teething rings that your baby can chew on and help soothe their sore gums.
Pieces of apple or carrot that your baby can chew on.
Baby paracetamol if your baby is clearly in pain or has a raised temperature.
At this age, your baby is really beginning to enjoy the world around them and will want to explore it more. They might enjoy the following:
- Listening to nursery rhymes or songs.
- Clapping or being bounced along to rhymes.
- Shaking rattles or tambourines, or other toys that make a noise.
- Banging a wooden spoon on an upturned pan.
- Looking at picture books, or being read to. Babies often like looking at pictures of other babies.
This is a good time to get out and about with your baby so why not join a Bumps and Babies group in your local area and meet some new friends.
As your child starts to move around and explore, you need to be extra vigilant. As well as keeping small objects out of their way, you need to make sure that they can’t hurt themselves:
- Keep hot drinks out of their reach – it’s easy for a baby to grab at a hot drink in your hand, or bump into a coffee table and knock a mug over.
- Fit stair-gates to stop her getting up or down the stairs.
- Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects lying on the floor or within their reach.
- Keep them away from water – small children can drown in less than five centimetres of water.
- For the same reason, never leave them unattended in the bath.
- Protect any open fire with a fireguard.
- Keep kettle cords out of her reach.
- Keep domestic bleach, medication and other dangerous substances either in a high cupboard out of their reach or behind baby-proofed cupboard doors.
Taking care of yourself
If your baby is sleeping for longer, you may find life is getting a little easier. You might even be thinking about returning to work if you were employed before. Becoming a working parent is a juggling act but the more prepared you are the more confident you will feel about going back to work. This will also be the time to think about childcare so consider all your options and what suits you and your baby the most.