Baby's First Year: Weeks 32-39
Babies' most important job is to be curious and active, yet in doing so they can get into trouble quickly. Take measures to prevent accidents in the home. Baby proof each room in stages, before your child reaches the next stage of mobility -crawling, standing and walking.
Start by getting down on your hands and knees and looking around your home from your baby's view. As you go from room to room, try to think of your child's next move.
- Wrap dangling cords in a cord retainer so your child cannot pull an appliance or lamp down on himself. Keep babies away from electrical outlets and use plastic outlet protectors.
- Keep floors free of toys and clothing to prevent tripping. Older children should store toys with small parts out of the reach of siblings who might choke on them.
- Keep plants, large cleaning buckets and supplies, medicines, hot drinks, small toys, coins and candies out of the reach of babies.
- Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Keep children on riding toys away from stairs, porches, cars and in-ground pools.
- Lock all unopened windows. Open windows from the top and keep furniture children could climb on away from windows.
- Don't leave a baby alone on a sofa, bed or changing table while you answer the phone or doorbell. Never leave young children in the bath without supervision - take them with you if you must leave, even for an instant.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Periodically test the batteries and change them yearly.
- Develop a fire escape plan and make sure all family members know what to do in case of fire. Practice your plan.
- Use nightlights in children's rooms, hallways and the bathroom.
- Always close outer doors securely behind you, and teach your older children to do the same, so that a small child cannot get outside on his own.
- Keep playpens and children away from curtain cords, which pose a strangulation hazard.
- Pad the sharp corners of furniture or remove such pieces.
- Keep balloons out of the reach of small children who might choke on burst balloon pieces. Balloons are a major cause of choking deaths.
- Repeatedly tell children why certain situations or activities are dangerous.
- Post telephone numbers for police, fire, ambulance and poison control next to your telephone.
Fat for babies?
While the adults in your family may worry that there is too much fat in their diets, babies need healthy sources of fat for their rapid physical development. Breast milk is high in fatty acids and cholesterol (these nutrients are added to formulas), but how can you be sure your baby is getting the fat he needs once he begins solid foods? In the second half of your baby's first year, offer him soft, finger-food-sized pieces of meat, egg yolks (avoid egg whites for the first year), cheese and bread. Breast milk or formula will continue to provide basic nutrients. You can add whole milk at his first birthday. Watch your baby for signs of an allergic response with each new food. Symptoms may include any of the following: skin rashes, puffy eyelids, runny nose, excessive gas, and diarrhea.
Furthermore, if you suspect that your child may have a food allergy, discuss it with your pediatrician. Severe reactions require emergency response.
New foods and allergies
If your baby has shown signs of a food allergy, or if there is a family history of allergies, continue introducing one new food at a time to screen for allergic reactions. Citrus fruits, eggs, wheat products, nuts and chocolate are the most common allergy-producing foods. If you suspect your baby may be allergy prone, avoid these foods until after his first birthday. Do not give honey to any child under a year, and many allergists suggest avoiding peanut products for the first 4 or 5 years.
A place for baby at the table
At 8 months old, babies are beginning to join their parents and siblings in many new activities, including family dinners. As your baby heads into the toddler years, arrange the family's schedule so your baby can eat his dinner with everyone else. A growing baby learns about conversation at the dinner table and soon begins to join in.
Babies develop rich language skills when they share in family dinnertime chats. He watches and copies how food is served, shared and eaten. He may see the food that everyone else is eating and want to try a bite of something new. His relationships within the family deepen, as dinnertime may be the only time in the day when the whole family comes together.
When mealtime is as much about spending time with each other as it is about the food, eating is less likely to become a behavior issue. Eating a healthy range of foods in the right amounts happens naturally.
Now that your baby is sitting upright; be sure that the high-chair he sits in is safe. High chairs must have a waist strap and, most importantly, a strap that runs between the baby's legs. Babies have been injured by slipping down under the tray, so never use the tray itself as the main restraint.
Accidents also happen when high-chairs tip over, especially if a toddler can use his feet to push it away from the table or wall, stand up, or rock it back and forth. So be sure your high chair has a wide base and cannot be knocked over, even if the baby or an older sibling tries to climb into it.
Sign language for babies?
While your baby may not be talking yet, she probably understands a few words and perhaps can wave bye-bye. She certainly understands signals such as smiles and frowns. In fact, babies at this age are quite strong at this kind of communication. No wonder: They have been busy learning to use their large muscles but still have a way to go before they can perform the more precise small movements of the mouth and tongue required to speak clearly.
Because a baby's brain is ready for language before the baby can actually speak, some child development researchers suggest parents teach babies a few words of sign language. Long before babies can talk, they can learn to touch their fingertips to their mouths to say "hungry," tap their fingers together to say "more," or bring their thumbs to their lips to say "drink," all words in American Sign Language. (You can teach your baby ASL signs, or make up your own signs.)
Parents who learn a few words in sign language say that doing so seems to erase much of the frustration of their toddlers' lives. If a baby can sign "hot" or "stop" or "help," she is likely to shed fewer tears over the course of a day. You can teach a word here or there by using the sign and saying the word at the right moment. For example, when your baby holds a book, press the palms of your hands together and then open them as you say "book."
While teaching your baby a few useful signs may help him express his needs, the main benefit is that it's fun. Your baby will adore being able to start conversations with you, as much as you take pleasure in understanding him.
Pulling up and cruising
Nine month olds love to "cruise" or pull upright and walk along a piece of furniture, clutching its edge. Learning to stand comes before learning to fall, and he'll tumble often.
Your baby's skull is still flexible in order to cushion these flops - and will remain so until he becomes a steady walker at around 18 months. Even so, keep a close eye on your small adventurer. (If a baby doesn't cry right away after falling, or seems to lose focus or even consciousness, he may have a concussion and should be seen by a pediatrician as soon as possible.) Soon, your baby will learn to sit from a standing position, preventing falls all on his own.
Learning to stand
The excitement of reaching new milestones often results in night awakenings for a few weeks. If your baby, who used to sleep soundly through the night, suddenly begins waking and wailing, consider if he has recently learned a new motor skill. Leaps in development often go with a period of lighter sleep.
In addition, the baby who learns to pull himself up before he learns to sit himself back down may stand up in the night and get stuck standing, holding onto the sides of his crib. He may need your help to lie back down again - sometimes several times a night. Lots of practice during the day will bring along the second half of the skill as soon as possible, so that you can all get back to sleep.
If your baby does wake up at this age, you may not want to start feeding him again in the middle of the night, as this will reward the waking and make the behavior last longer.
Play with me!
While toys are fun, you are still your baby's favorite plaything. Babies this age especially love a game of "button nose and puffy cheeks."
In Baby Minds: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love, authors Acredolo and Goodwyn suggest that when your baby touches your nose, you surprise him by sticking out your tongue. Expect gales of giggles as he discovers that each time he touches your nose, out pops your tongue. Vary the game by puffing out your cheeks. Invite your baby to "pop" your cheeks by pressing an index finger on each cheek. What will happen? Mommy's silly tongue pops out again, of course!
Not only does this game and others like it make babies (and parents) roar with laughter, but they teach that actions have reactions and some have amusing consequences.
As your baby becomes more mobile, you may be thinking about getting him his first pair of shoes. Learning to walk, however, comes more easily to barefoot babies who can grip the floor with their toes and balance on the soles of their feet.
Your baby's feet need to be kept warm when outdoors with socks and soft booties, but exploring indoors is safer and easier without shoes or socks. Once your baby is walking about, you can get him a pair of soft sneakers with rubber soles to protect his feet outdoors. There is no need for expensive shoes...buy baby books instead!
Weeks 38 - 39
Remember the days when your baby stayed where you put him?
No longer! Now if you leave your baby on a blanket on the floor with a few toys to amuse him, you may find him a few minutes later on the far side of the room. Babies this age are on the move, and taking care of one can be a daily marathon. Sometimes a baby's urge to explore can drive parents to their limits, which means that it's time to set limits for the baby.
Physical limits are the simplest and most effective way to allow a baby to explore an area safely. For example, use baby gates, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Removing potential dangers from his reach, such as lamp cords and breakable objects, and baby proofing your house are also first steps in setting limits.
Your baby is also able to understand the meaning of a gentle "no, no" if you see him going toward an electrical outlet or other danger. Know, however, that while he may respect that "no" in the moment, he cannot at this age remember its association with an object for more than a few minutes.
If he returns to the same electrical outlet repeatedly, he is not disobeying you on purpose; he is just being a baby. Distracting your baby from potential dangers to inviting toys and activities with you is another way of setting limits.
Your pediatrician will want to see your baby for a checkup when he is 9 months old and may screen for anemia and lead exposure at that visit.