As your baby becomes more mobile and inquisitive, infant development takes off. It might seem that your baby learns something new every day. Understand your baby's next milestones and what you can do to promote his or her growth.
What to expect
Your baby will continue to grow and develop at his or her own pace. From ages 7 to 9 months, your baby is likely to experience:
- Advancing motor skills. By this age, most babies can roll over in both directions — even in their sleep. Some babies can sit on their own, while others need a little support. You might notice your baby beginning to scoot, rock back and forth, or even crawl across the room. Some babies this age can pull themselves to a standing position. Soon your baby might cruise along the edge of the couch or coffee table.
- Improved hand-eye coordination. Most babies this age transfer objects from one hand to another or directly to their mouths. Pulling objects closer with a raking motion of the hands will give way to more-refined movements, such as picking up objects with just the thumb and forefinger. This improving dexterity will help your baby handle a spoon and soft finger foods.
- Evolving communication. Your baby will communicate with you through sounds, gestures and facial expressions. You'll probably hear plenty of laughing and squealing. Some babies might repeat the sounds they hear — or give it their best shot. Your baby's babbling is likely to include chains of sounds, such as "ba-ba-ba." You might even pick out an occasional "mama" or "dada."
- Stranger anxiety. Many babies this age become wary of strangers. Your baby might resist staying with anyone other than you. If your baby fusses when you leave, have the person staying with your child create a distraction. Then say goodbye with a hug and kiss and a reminder that you'll be back soon. Your baby will likely stop crying as soon as you're out of sight.
- Teething. You can expect the first tooth anytime. You might notice your baby drooling more than usual and chewing on just about anything. Try gently rubbing the gums with one of your fingers or offer a rubber teething ring. When your baby's first teeth appear, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean them twice a day. Until your child learns to spit — at about age 3 — use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice.
Promoting your baby's development
For babies of any age, learning and play are inseparable. To support your budding adventurer:
- Create an exploration-safe environment. Keep only safe objects within your baby's reach. Move anything that could be poisonous, pose a choking hazard or break into small pieces. Cover electrical outlets, use stairway gates, place cords from blinds or shades out of reach, and install child locks on doors and cabinets. If you have furniture with sharp edges, remove it from rooms where your baby plays. The same goes for lightweight objects your baby can use to pull himself or herself to a standing position, such as plant stands, decorative tables, potted trees and floor lamps. Anchor bookcases, televisions and their stands to the wall.
- Keep chatting. You've likely been talking to your baby all along. Keep it up! Narrate what you're doing, and give your baby time to respond. Say something to your baby and then wait for him or her to repeat the sounds. Sing simple songs. Ask your baby questions that involve more than a yes or no response. You might not be able to pick words from your baby's babble, but you can encourage a back-and-forth conversation.
- Teach cause and effect. Push the button on a musical toy and dance to the tune. Open the door on a toy barn and listen to the cow say "moo." Help your baby do the same. Self-confidence will grow as your baby realizes he or she can make things happen.
- Take time to play. By now, you and your baby might be old pros at classics, such as peekaboo, patty-cake and itsy-bitsy spider. Get creative. Arrange cushions and pillows on a carpeted floor and encourage your baby to creep or crawl over them. Stack blocks and invite your baby to knock them down. If you're up for a mess, smear applesauce on the highchair tray and let your baby "paint" with the mixture. At bath time, provide small containers and plastic utensils for pouring and mixing.
- Pull out the books. Set aside time for reading every day — even if it's only a few minutes. Reading aloud is one of the simplest ways to boost your baby's language development. Make it more interesting with facial expressions, sound effects and voices for various characters. Store books within easy reach so that your baby can explore them whenever the mood strikes.
When something's not right
Your baby might reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is normal. It's a good idea, however, to be aware of the signs or symptoms of a problem.
Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or your baby:
- Doesn't roll over in either direction or sit with help
- Doesn't bear some weight on legs
- Doesn't try to attract attention through actions
- Doesn't babble
- Shows no interest in games of peekaboo
Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Then you can set your sights on the milestones that lie ahead.