A baby’s first year of life is full of the most amazing developmental transitions. Over twelve months, your newborn baby grows from an entirely dependent little being to one who exhibits preferences and definite interests!
There’s no doubt about it – the first one to three months with your baby seem the hardest. It doesn’t take long, though, for new parents to feel more seasoned, especially as you learn the subtleties of your baby’s personality and win that first smile! Young infants quickly become more responsive, especially as they start to investigate their own body and their environments. Faces and voices of familiar loved ones result in delightful cooing and babbling. Visual coordination and tracking increases steadily, and babies love looking at bold patterns with contrasting colors. With practice, young infants gain more control over their neck muscles, and many of their primitive reflexes diminish. This paves the way for purposeful movements like reaching and grabbing for anything and everything. Don’t worry about spoiling your infant right now. The more responsive you are to his/her needs at this stage, the more reassured and secure your baby will feel, and there’s a good chance that he/she will be less demanding in the future. By two months, most babies sleep longer during the night than the day and by three months most babies are waking only once at night to feed. Your chances of long-term sleeping success will increase if you try putting your baby to sleep on his/her back in the crib slightly awake but drowsy.
By about four months, most babies have developed a daily routine for feeding, sleeping, and playing. Older infants communicate vividly with their babbles and their cries, as these are the building blocks for their social-emotional development and expression. The period between four to seven months heralds a multitude of motor milestones that generally starts with enjoyment of “tummy time” and ends with rolling and sitting with, or even without, support. This increased coordination leads to transferring objects from hand to hand, chewing on toes, crawling, and bouncing up and down when held in a standing position. One of the most exciting things about having an older infant is introducing them to various solid foods. Most infants show signs of readiness to start solids between four to six months, and our feeding guidelines can provide further information regarding this exciting transition. It’s important during these middle months to continue reading your baby’s temperament and being warm and responsive to his/her needs. There’s nothing more exciting to them than your face-to-face interactions, and this closeness encourages continued good bonding.
As your baby enters the last few months of infancy, so much is happening! Not only are most babies able to sleep through the night at this point but they also may start to nap less as they engage more with their environments. Between eight and twelve months, many babies will pull to stand and might even take their first steps, so it’s important to make sure your home is thoroughly “baby proofed” so that they can enjoy their budding independence and freedom safely! Language tends to morph from babbling to true consonant-vowel combinations like “mama” or “dada,” and many infants will say things like “uh oh” when they drop a toy. Babies at this stage are very curious. They like to shake, bang and throw things and start to mimic proper use of objects like cups, hairbrushes, or phones. They also begin wanting to self-feed a little bit, and while most of their early attempts end with food on the floor, their clothes or in their hair, it’s exciting to watch how quickly a baby’s dexterity develops. It is very normal for stranger/separation anxiety to set in during this time frame, as well. While a struggle for every parent, this phase demonstrates your baby’s healthy attachment to you and is made smoother if you remain calm and steady. The same advice goes for discipline at this early stage. The best and most effective way to keep your baby from investigating dangerous things is to capitalize on their short attention span and redirect them as much as possible to a different activity or location. Effective discipline is firm, timely, consistent and limited to things that will truly jeopardize your baby’s safety. It’s important to let them explore their world, and how you handle these early opportunities for “lessons” lays the groundwork for the future.
By the time you celebrate your baby’s first birthday, your life will have forever changed so many inexplicable and wonderful ways. Be sure to savor the small moments with your little one, because the pace only picks up as you enter toddlerhood!