Baby's First Year: Weeks 28-31
Your baby is becoming aware of comings and goings of the people he loves and knows who is familiar. Over the next few months, he may start to be uncomfortable with strangers and get upset when you separate from him. Expect that leaving him at childcare or with a sitter may make him unhappy during this phase.
Alert friends and family (especially grandparents) that they may need to interact with your baby more gradually than before. They shouldn't feel hurt if he refuses to be held by anyone except Mom, your partner or his regular babysitter for a while. This stage, like all others, will pass.
What a character!
A child's temperament - the emotional and social style in which she responds to people and events - is present from birth. By age 7 months, a baby may have reached several milestones - sitting up, grasping and vocalizing - that allow her to explore and interact with more people and objects. As she does more, you can see your baby's temperament emerge.
When she reaches for a new toy, does she keep trying until she grasps it? Or can she be satisfied by something within her reach? When you take her to new places, does she explore or does she watch? Does she try to get the attention of new people, or does she become quieter? Your observations will help you understand what is normal for her and how to help her through new experiences as she grows.
What a mess!
Does your baby enjoy squishing and smearing his food as much as eating it? Does the food that makes it to his mouth seem to come out as quickly as it goes in? Messy meals are a necessary part of learning to eat.
Babies must practice their new skills of reaching and grabbing, and food is an irresistible target. He might stick some mashed banana in his mouth and try to feed himself. Let him participate in mealtime in his own way, even if that means wiping down the baby, his high chair, the floor and even yourself afterward. Neatness is a lesson for another day.
In the seventh month, many babies work hard at being able to sit upright. For the last couple of months, she may have managed it by leaning forward on one or both arms. The next stage is to sit up with a straight back, without toppling. This is exciting because it frees her hands to pick up and play with toys (and put things in her mouth), rather than holding herself up. Her ability to explore her world grows dramatically.
Be sure to give her lots of safe objects to explore: rattles, balls, blocks, wooden spoons, board books and other unbreakable items too large to swallow, yet small and light enough to grasp and pick up. She may not be a steady sitter for a few more weeks yet, so place a few small pillows around her in case she falls over.
Bounce to the beat
Bouncing your 7 month old on your knee while singing a song or nursery rhyme is a sure way to elicit giggles and grins. It also happens to be how babies learn to dance to the beat for the rest of their lives. Researchers have found that musical rhythm awareness - the ability to hear a beat and move in time with it-develops during the first year of life. One study of a group of 7 month old babies focused on how movement affects this type of development. The babies chose to listen longer to songs with rhythms that matched the beats they had been bounced to in the past. This and other studies show there is a connection between our ability to hear rhythms and to move our bodies in time to them. In the first year of life, learning to use both senses together is a key lesson. As with other forms of play, a baby's delight and glee in being gently bounced to a song or rhyme tells us that it's healthy for his development.
When is it safe for a baby to sleep on his stomach?
While the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is higher among younger infants (ages 2 to 6 months), it is wise to continue placing your baby to sleep on her back through her first birthday. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommends, however, that parents of babies older than 6 months do not keep checking to make sure that their baby is sleeping on his back throughout the night. But if the child is able to roll over, do not place objects (wedges, etc.) to try to prevent the roll over. The risk of SIDS at this age is too small to disrupt everyone's sleep. And remember to provide enough "tummy time" each day when your baby is awake. Playing on her tummy allows a baby to practice the gross motor skills that soon lead to crawling and exploring her world.
An annual flu vaccine is now recommended for all children 6 months and older. The first year your baby gets the shot, he will need a booster shot one month later. Check with your pediatrician to find out when the best time is for immunizing your baby against this year's strain of the flu.
Soon after babies can reach out and grasp fist-sized objects, they discover how to use their thumbs and index fingers to pick up much smaller things. By now your baby may be able to pick up small items by pinching them between two fingers. If so, she may move them directly from the floor to her mouth for a closer look.
Now is the time to scan the floor and every place within your baby's reach for lint, pebbles, coins and other small and risky objects. Let her practice her pincer grasp at dinner time by feeding herself pieces of cheese, dried cereal, cut-up bananas and other toddler foods.
Where did it go?
Sometime in the seventh month, full-term babies learn that when an object is out of sight, it isn't gone. This is known as "object permanence" and signals other leaps in understanding now taking place.
Try this game with your baby: hide a toy or object she is interested in under a cloth. Pause, then pull off the cloth to reveal the toy! After a few times (or perhaps the very first time), your baby may wish to peek under the cloth or pull it off herself. A simple game and yet thrilling for your baby to play and for you to watch.
Now your baby can remember, desire and hunt for toys that may be out of sight. She can act on her thoughts as well as her sense of sight. That is an enormous milestone.
Where did you go?
Along with "object permanence," babies develop a sense of "person permanence." Peek a boo is a favorite game of this age, as it satisfies a baby's urge to master the skill of knowing you will still be there when she uncovers her eyes. (She may still believe, however, that she has disappeared from your sight when she covers her eyes.) Stranger awareness may go along with this development.
Unlike a 4-month-old, a 7-month-old may not enjoy being smiled at or picked up by a stranger, or even by a less familiar family member. You may find that drop-offs at childcare or the arrival of a new babysitter produce tears and protests now, when they once went smoothly. Her brief unhappiness is a sign of her new types of awareness.