Baby's First Year: Weeks 44-47
The age at which children take their first steps on their own varies widely. A few 8 month olds can stand briefly and even take a step. Many children, especially those who have developed an efficient crawl, may not feel the need to walk until they are well into their second year. Once a baby begins to walk, he becomes a toddler and life becomes more interesting and active for both of you.
When your child does begin walking, you'll want to find a pair of soft shoes with flexible rubber soles for him whenever he tries out his new skill outdoors or away from home. At home, barefoot is best for babies just learning to balance and step. Babies certainly don't need expensive shoes, as they walk better without them and outgrow them quickly.
Emotions and memory
While babies may not be able to speak for months, they understand emotions. Even very young babies are able to read voice and facial cues and respond to emotions of their parents and other caregivers. Remembering that those cues go with a particular activity takes a few more months.
For now, a frown, a shaking head, and a "no, no" may tell your baby not to pull on the lamp cord. It will take three or four more months, however, before he can remember your signal well enough to prevent the activity. Near the end of the first year of life, your baby rapidly improves her ability to analyze, store and retrieve memories.
We can all help prevent the spread of infections at home and elsewhere. As part of its Speak Up initiative, the Joint Commission, an organization that accredits doctors, recommends five precautions to prevent the spread of colds, flu and other infectious diseases:
- Clean your hands. Use soap and warm water, rubbing well for at least 15 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Clean your hands before touching or eating food and after you use the bathroom, change a diaper, are around someone sick, touch something dirty or play with a pet.
- Make sure doctors - including dental care providers - clean their hands and wear gloves. They should wear gloves any time they will touch an entry point of your body including your mouth, open wounds and private parts. Don't hesitate to ask them if they have washed their hands or if they should be wearing gloves.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Throw the tissue away and then wash your hands. Cough into the bend of your elbow or into your hands. If you use your hands to cover your mouth, wash your hands right afterward.
- If you are sick, avoid close contact. Stay away from other people, even in your doctor's waiting room if possible.
- Make sure your vaccines are up to date (be sure to get a flu vaccine each year) and that your children receive their vaccines.
The pace of development
Like most of us, babies tend to concentrate on one project at a time. A baby's drive to take his first step may absorb all his energy for a couple of weeks. During that period, his interest in talking or using his hands may lessen. Once he can walk, however, he'll set his sights on another goal and work toward it with determination.
Infant development follows a winding path, rather than a straight course. And babies travel their own paths in their own ways; most, however they get there, reach their milestones in due time.
Most babies still need two naps a day as they approach their first birthday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. While the length of a nap can vary from day to day and child to child, don't be surprised if your baby sleeps an hour or two at each nap, as well as 10 or 11 hours at night.
If your baby hasn't found a predictable rhythm of naps and nighttime sleep, you may need to build more of a routine around sleeping. A consistent series of events, such as a diaper change, a story, a rock, a nursing, or a bottle - leading up to being put in his crib to sleep - will help him connect quiet, pleasurable times with sleeping. Positive associations may make babies less likely to resist resting when they need it. (Major milestones, including pulling up and walking, often disrupt sleep patterns temporarily.)
As your baby becomes older, you may find that he naps in a stroller while out on a walk or in his car seat while you drive. As long as he is getting the sleep he needs, you can be flexible about where and when he does it.
Babies often -but not always - say their first real word between 11 and 14 months of age. Some babies wait until they're 16 months or more. Girls on average begin to talk a little earlier than boys. Overall, differences among babies for when they begin to verbalize vary greatly. A first word may not be a real word but simply a sound a baby consistently uses to mean a particular object, person or action. "Mama" and "Dada" are often a baby's first distinct words, but it could just as easily be "ba" (ball), "do" (dog) or "ca" (car). Even with a small vocabulary, babies of this age tend to communicate well, indicating their needs and desires with gestures and facial expressions.
Naturally big babies - children who are clearly going to become tall and big-boned adults - sometimes take a little longer to learn to walk. They just have that much more body to learn to operate. In addition, large babies can be a little extra flexible in their joints and ligaments. They simply need to let their muscles grow a little stronger to control their joints and limbs well enough to walk steadily.