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9-12 months - Life with your baby

From that little bundle that seemed so helpless, your baby will suddenly become more independent – crawling and perhaps even saying their first words.

Your baby will usually start crawling at this age, and a few will even start walking. Once your baby crawls, she will want to explore everything so it’s important to make sure she is safe. Some babies say their first words at this point, usually something simple like “dad” or “no”. Your baby will begin to recognise some words too and even look up when you call her name.

Feeding

Your baby will probably be eating three small meals a day by now. Not everything has to be mashed or puréed any more. Try and introduce variety into her diet by offering soups or casseroles, for example. You could also start to offer things like cottage cheese, pasta, white rice and toast. Don’t worry too much if your baby rejects food – you can always try again. It is important to avoid foods she could choke on though, such as grapes. (Grapes are a particular hazard because they are soft and could stick in a baby’s throat.)

Your baby will be taking less milk but she does, however, need to be fed milk until she is one year old.

Sleeping

At this age, your baby may sleep for around 10 to 12 hours at night along with one or two short naps in the daytime. Some babies sleep through the night at this age – more accurately, if they wake in the night they can get themselves back to sleep quite quickly, so you may not even realise that your baby has woken. It’s just as normal for babies to need some contact and comfort during the night too. Surveys show night waking of this sort is very common throughout later baby and toddlerhood.

Sleep training methods, such as controlled crying, aim to stop your child needing help to settle back to sleep. Most sources agree that babies of this age are too young for this sort of intervention, and are unable to change their waking and sleeping patterns without distress. Waking up is normal – and often resolves itself, or at least becomes easier to manage.

However, if broken nights are affecting you, there are ways of making it less difficult. It will help you to settle your baby more readily if you keep night time wakings peaceful, quiet and low key.

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, especially 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. If you are not breastfeeding, then a small drink of water may help, too. Large amounts of formula during the night are not advisable, because unlike with breastfeeding, it’s easy for babies to take more than they need, nutritionally.

Playtime

There are lots of activities that babies enjoy at this age including playing with soft bricks, looking at simple picture books, banging on toy drums and peek-a-boo. You can pick up some fantastic bargains for your baby at a local NCT Nearly New sale where you can find lots of good quality second-hand toys and books for a fraction of the price.

Talking with your baby is a great way to interact so make time for nursery rhymes and clapping games whenever you can. Friends and family members can all have fun playing with your baby so encourage interaction whenever you can.

Safety

If your baby is crawling, it is 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 her way, you need to make sure that she can’t hurt herself:

  • Keep hot drinks out of her 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.
  • Cover power points.
  • Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects lying on the floor or within her reach.
  • Keep her away from water – small children can drown in less than five centimetres of water.
  • For the same reason, never leave her 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 her reach or behind baby-proofed cupboard doors.

Taking care of yourself

As your baby approaches her first birthday, she will have reached many milestones but there is still so much more to enjoy. If you have supportive friends and family around you, you can perhaps ask for more childcare and have some well-deserved time to yourself or with your partner.

If you haven’t already, now will also be the time you start 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.