From Baby to Big Kid: Month 8
As you read the chart below, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.
Development from 6 to 9 Months
What Your Baby Can Do
What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby
I am learning to think and solve problems.
I can control my body.
When I’m closer to 9 months I start to understand that people and things are still there even when I can’t see them.
I am working hard to communicate with you.
I may start to be afraid of people I don’t know.
My personality is starting to show.
Over the next month to 6 weeks, your baby may start to experience separation anxiety—showing distress at being away from you and other adults she loves and trusts. This is because 9-month-olds are beginning to grasp an idea called object permanence—the understanding that things and people still exist even when you can’t see them. This is a major milestone for babies. But for you, separation anxiety means that it may be even harder to say good-bye than it was before. Your baby may be more clingy, or cry and protest more to tell you that she is not at all happy about you leaving. It can feel very upsetting to leave your baby crying, especially when it is so clear she is crying for you. The mother of 9-month-old Teresa shares her experience:
When Teresa was a baby, she cried a lot. Sometimes she was hungry, or tired, or wanted to play. Usually I could figure out what she needed and make it better. But now, she is crying for me and I can’t make it better because I have to go to work. It breaks my heart.
This is one of the hardest parts of parenting during the first year. Separations from your baby are really hard, and the pain you feel if your baby cries at your departure is probably unlike anything you’ve experienced. That’s why it’s so important to tune in to how you are feeling in these moments so you can manage those emotions in a healthy way. If you are signaling to your baby that you are upset, guilty, or worried when you say good-bye, it can increase your baby’s distress. So try your best to stay positive and upbeat when you leave (as hard as that may be) and always say good-bye. Avoid sneaking out, which sends the message that you think you are doing something wrong by leaving. It also puts your baby on guard, not knowing when you are coming and going, which can affect her trust in you. Over time, your baby will learn that, while you may leave sometimes, you always come back.
My mommy is feeding me some cereal. I look at the spoon. I try to grab it. Mommy notices what I’m doing and she gives me the spoon to hold. I try to put it in my mouth. Oops! Oatmeal all over my pajamas! Mommy reaches over to take the spoon from me, but then stops and smiles. You are trying so hard to feed yourself. It’s not easy to get the spoon right into your mouth. I keep lifting the spoon up to my face, and trying to get it in my mouth. Mommy helps me get the spoon closer. Then she has a great idea—she gets another spoon out of the drawer and says, Keep at it, kiddo. You are doing a pretty good job with that spoon. But how ‘bout if I feed you some oatmeal on my spoon too? We can work together. Yum it’s fun eating and talking with Mommy.
What Your Baby Is Learning
- Confidence that he is skilled and capable of doing things for himself
- Self-esteem as he experiences that he is a fun person to be with and that his mother believes in his abilities
- Persistence to keep working at a challenge
- To accept help
Language and Thinking Skills:
- That he can communicate using his body and gestures
- How a spoon “works” how to hold it, what it does, and where it goes
- How to use the muscles in his hands and fingers to lift and get the spoon to his mouth. These small muscles will help him learn to write later on.
That “baby talk” can help your little one learn language? One research study found that 8-month-old babies learned words faster when they were pronounced using the high-pitched pronunciation we often describe as “baby talk.” When adults spoke in monotones, babies didn’t learn as well.
Reference: Carnegie Mellon University (2005, March 31). Carnegie Mellon Study: Adults' baby talk helps infants learn to speak. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 11, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050329143741.htm
What the Research Means for You
Talking to babies helps them learn new words. It also makes them feel loved and comforted when they hear the voices of the people who care for them. So it’s no surprise that you may find yourself talking slower and in a higher voice than usual, or if you seem to use shorter, simpler sentences when you are with your baby. Adults often do this automatically and, based on the research, it seems to help babies learn.
By 8 months, most babies are really starting to move. At first your little one might get up on all fours and rock back and forth—like a rocket at countdown, waiting to take off. But unlike a rocket ship, little ones might stay in “countdown” mode for a few weeks until they are ready to start moving. The process of learning to crawl is actually pretty complex. Babies need to coordinate the movement and develop the muscle strength in their arms, legs, and shoulders to support their weight.
Steps Toward Crawling
Your baby’s first jump forward might actually be a scoot backward. As babies figure out how to do that arm-leg-arm-leg crawling movement, they sometimes go backward first, and then learn how to crawl forward. So, for a while, your baby might cry in frustration as she somehow finds herself scooting away from the very object or person she is so determined to reach.
Crawling is how your baby begins to move “to” and “through” the world. The process of learning to crawl may look different for different babies as they work out a way to move that is unique to them. That said, there are four main styles of crawling that you might see your child use:
- “I’ll Have the Usual”: This is the classic crawling style—alternating hand on one side and knee on the other to go, go, go.
- “Crab”: Just like at the beach, the “crab” bends one knee and extends the opposite leg to scoot forward.
- “Commando”—Look out, this crawler lies flat on her belly and drags herself forward using her arms.
- “Rolling Thunder”—Who needs to crawl when rolling gets him where he needs to go?
- “Take It in Stride”—Some children skip crawling and go right to walking. Watch out, world, here she comes!
There’s no right or wrong way to crawl. As long as your baby is making forward progress in her ability to use her body to get around, that’s what is important. Progress, when it comes to crawling, means that your baby’s coordination is improving, her movements are becoming more efficient, and she is able to get where she wants to go. If you’re seeing these benchmarks, then your little mover-and-shaker is doing just fine.
How to Support Your Baby’s Crawling Skills
- Give your baby plenty of tummy time starting from birth. By playing on their bellies, babies develop the muscle strength in their shoulders, arms, back and trunk (torso) that helps them learn to crawl.
- Encourage your baby to reach for and move toward the toys and objects he is interested in. Lay interesting toys at just a short distance from your almost-crawler. See if he is able to move himself toward these objects. If toys are always brought to babies, there may not be much motivation to move.
- Make sure your baby has space to explore that is safe and supervised.
- Place the palms of your hands behind your child’s feet when he is on all fours. This stabilizes him and gives him something to “push off” from when he is just learning to crawl.
What to Avoid
- Baby walkers. Not only are they potentially dangerous, but they limit baby’s practice time on the floor for learning to crawl.
- Spending lots of time in baby seats and baby carriers. Babies learn how to crawl, and later pull up and walk, when they have plenty of time each day to play, move, and explore.
- Pushing your child to learn to crawl. Pushing a child to develop a skill he isn’t ready for can actually slow the learning process.
Crawling Means Child-Proofing
Now that your baby is crawling, she will soon be pulling up as she prepares to walk. This means she will be able to get her hands on objects that had previously been unreachable and are potentially dangerous.
And remember, even though babies are moving around fairly well on their own, they still aren’t able to control themselves or follow rules about what to touch or not to touch. This means it is critical to make sure your home is child-proofed so that your baby has a safe place to play and explore.
Take a walk through (or better yet, a crawl through) your home and see what potential hazards may be at your baby’s level. Some obvious things to be aware of (not an exhaustive list) include:
- Electrical outlets
- Electrical cords
- Baby gates on all stairs—top and bottom
- Toilet seat locks
- Plant stands (as well as other “tippy” tables)
- Houseplants within baby’s reach
- Poisonous home cleaning supplies within baby’s reach
- Sharp corners on coffee tables and end tables
- Fragile knick-knacks that can be grabbed or knocked over
By making your baby’s environment as safe as possible, you are creating the perfect space to support her growing skills and healthy development.
When Should I Worry?
As with most developmental milestones, it is “normal” for crawling to happen at any point across a fairly wide span of time—anywhere from 6 to 10 months of age is pretty typical. (Remember, some children skip crawling altogether.) Also, if your child is a bit bigger or heavier than is typical for his age, he may crawl later. This is because it is more challenging for babies to push up onto all fours and move their extra body weight.
In most cases, there is nothing physically wrong with babies who are slow to crawl. They may just be busy working on other skills that are more interesting to them, like learning to use their hands to figure out how objects work. Remember, babies, like adults, have different preferences and interests.
It is a good idea to contact your child’s health care provider if:
- You notice that your child is using only one side of his body to crawl (he pushes off with only one arm or drags one side of his body as he scoots across the floor); or
- Your baby is not making forward progress in using his body to get around.
- Rake It In! Give your baby a small sandbox rake and show her how to use it (she'll imitate your movements). Then put a rattle on the floor and show your child how she can use the rake to pull the toy toward her. Put the rattle on the floor again and give her the rake...what does your baby do next?
- Texture Treasure. Get five shoeboxes and put an interesting texture in each one—a big fluffy pompom, a piece of sandpaper, a ball of aluminum foil. Now that your baby really enjoys peek-a-boo, open each box and as you do, say peek-a-boo, and let him grab and touch what's inside (supervise carefully so he doesn't put the item in his mouth). Talk with him about how each item feels and looks. See which one he likes best and give him a chance to open the box, if he wants to give it a try.
What’s on Your Mind
Studies show that signing with babies who have normal hearing doesn’t appear to have a negative effect on language development. In fact, some studies show that it may boost verbal skills.
It may be that signing is helpful because parents who sign with their baby are spending more time focusing on communicating. They are actively watching their child, trying to understand her, and then responding to what she is saying. Signing may also lead parents to use more language with their child, which research shows helps children learn more words. When a baby makes a sign for more, for instance, the parent may say in response, You want more juice? I’ll put some more in your cup.
But you don’t need to use a formal signing program with your baby to have these enriching “conversations.” If you watch your baby carefully, you will see that she is communicating with you all the time using signals—her sounds, facial expressions, and actions. When you play a game of peek-a-boo and then stop, she reaches out to you and babbles to let you know she wants you to keep playing. When she wants to be picked up, she raises her arms to you. Responding to these kinds of signals builds her language skills as well as her emotional and social development.
Since my 8-month-old was a tiny baby, I have had a regular bedtime routine: bath, quiet play, books, bed. It worked like a charm. But now, after we've read our story, my son starts fussing and crying as I carry him to his room. What's going on?
The same thing that is probably going on in thousands of other homes where there is an 8-month-old. At this stage of development, babies are figuring out what comes next. You have done such a good job with your bedtime routine that your son now knows that after the story is over, he has to separate from you—the person he loves and wants to be with the most. Why in the world would he want to do that?
Most 8-month-olds are also developing an understanding of object permanence—the concept that things exist even though they can't see them. So now, when you put your son to sleep and leave the room, he may know that you are still out there somewhere. He is also starting to understand that he can make things happen. He's well aware that if he fusses and cries, he just might be able to stall his bedtime and get to spend more time with you.
One strategy that can be helpful is to do the bedtime routine in your son’s room. This can make the transition to bed easier and will help him think of his room as a place of comfort and security. If he is still fussing when you put him in his crib, leave the room and see if he calms down on his own. If he doesn't, go in every few minutes for a second or two just to let him know you're still there. Don't turn the lights on or pick him up as that will only get him more aroused and make it harder for him to soothe himself to sleep. If you are consistent and stick with the routine, after a few nights he will likely stop fussing and soothe himself to sleep on his own.
Rebecca Parlakian, Senior Parenting Resources Writer and
Claire Lerner, LCSW, Director of Parenting Resources, ZERO TO THREE
Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory,
Arizona State University