Your baby is likely to experience many milestones during the final few months of her first year. Here’s an overview of what to expect as she approaches her first birthday.
Baby development: What’s new?
Your baby is bound to be gaining more confidence as she travels around the house. She is likely to be still cruising, and you can help her stay up on her two feet by holding her up as you walk behind her. Once standing, she may still be having difficulty sitting back down again so will need a little help lowering herself.
For many babies, it’s still too early for them to be walking on their own without support, but you can be sure that she is gradually gaining more confidence in her ability to walk, and she may now be able to stay upright with the support of just one hand. Regardless of whether she is walking independently, baby will still be crawling a lot, and this will include attempting to crawl up and down the stairs, so make sure you have a stairgate installed at both the top and bottom.
Her comprehension skills are developing, and she’ll be able to follow simple commands. For example, if you ask her where different body parts are, such as her nose or eyes, she may be able to point them out to you.
What about mealtimes?
During mealtimes, baby may now show a preference for feeding herself with finger foods. She might even show interest in holding the spoon herself, although without the assistance of mum, more food will end up on the floor than in her mouth. It’s unlikely she will develop the motor skills required to use the spoon properly until she is around 18 months.
If your baby has been drinking from a bottle, you should encourage her to change to a cup during these months, as prolonged sucking on a bottle may lead to tooth decay and negatively affect her speech development. But weaning from a bottle is not always an easy process. To help with the transition from bottle to cup, you could try gradually replacing bottle-feeding sessions with a cup one at a time so that the bottle is slowly phased out. A beaker may also be an effective way of transitioning from a bottle to a cup, but keep in mind that a beaker shares a lot of the same disadvantages as a bottle.
How often should baby be napping?
By now, the majority of babies will be sleeping through the night, although many still do not. Remember that having a solid bedtime routine in place, which may include a baby massage or perhaps the reading of a favourite picture book, will help settle a restless baby.
You can expect your baby to sleep for 10 to 12 hours each night with two naps during the day. However, at this age, a small number of babies can go down to just one nap during the day. But this is individual to your baby, and you’ll need to make the decision based on how tired she seems during the day. If she functions fine without the second nap, then you can go ahead and remove it from her daily routine. However, if you’re left with a baby who seems overtired and irritable, then this is a sign that she still needs two naps. If you’re having trouble settling her during the day, then you can try a routine that’s similar to her bedtime routine. Remember that it’s unlikely your baby will stop her daytime naps entirely until she is 3 years old.
How have baby’s communication skills developed?
Your baby is also finding new ways to communicate, and this includes learning new gestures. For instance, she may know that holding out her arms in your direction is a way of signalling to that she wishes to be picked up, and she may know to wave to say ‘hello and ‘good-bye’. However, she may not yet understand the meaning of these gestures; instead, she will just be imitating your actions. She may also be more sensitive to your emotions and be getting better at reading the expressions on your face – in other words, she is likely to know when you’re cross and may start crying in response.
Your baby may have spoken her first word during the 10-12 month period, but many babies don’t say their first recognisable word until after their first birthday. At this stage, it’s likely that she is continuing to experiment with different combinations of vowels and consonants – and stringing them together to create “ma-ma” and “da-da” – without understanding knowing what they mean.
How can I help my baby learn new words?
To help her further develop her speech, you should keep talking to her as much as possible. It’s a good idea to always respond to the sounds she makes and repeat any words you think she is trying to say back to her loudly and clearly. To help her develop her vocabulary, you can frequently point out different objects around the house or while you’re out for a walk and repeat what they are to her. Whereas at the moment she seems to be making random chatter, by pointing out and labelling objects, you will help her connect words with their meaning. This includes associating words with people. For instance, right now she may be saying ‘da-da’ randomly for both mum and dad. But soon she’ll be giving people their proper names.
Find out more about what to expect in the second year, in months 13-18.