Baby development: 9 - 12 months

Baby development: 9 – 12 months

Paediatric occupational therapist Amy Faulkner guides us through a baby’s physical and mental milestones in the 9 to 12 months of their life.

In the first year, you are getting to know your baby and personality traits and characteristics (perhaps from one parent or both) become apparent at this time. Developing a secure attachment with your infant and becoming attuned to their needs will help them to become a content baby who is constantly growing, adapting and learning new skills.

Gross motor skills

It is important to offer your baby plenty of opportunity to lie and move down on the floor or on a flat surface. Your baby should be encouraged to move and stretch while lying on a play mat, in their moses basket, or pram. When supervised, your baby can lie on their back, tummy and in a side lying position.

Crawling: approximately nine months

Crawling is a very important milestone for babies as it sets down the foundations for bilateral integration, which is the coordination of the two sides of the body. Bilateral integration is an important skill for your child’s future coordination skills such as riding a bike, ball skills, handwriting etc. It also offers babies an opportunity to develop strength in their shoulders, pelvis and trunk, which is an essential motor skill acquisition and refinement.

Nowadays, tiled and wooden floors are commonplace in the home. These slippy surfaces can make learning to crawl that bit more challenging. Giving them opportunities to crawl on carpeted areas in the home, on a rug or put down foam play mats is important. Stripping them down so that their legs are bare from the knees down can provide extra traction to help them get moving.

Stand/Cruise/Walk: approximately 12 months for independent walking

You might remember from the early days that your baby would ‘step’ when you held them with their feet on the ground. This was a stepping reflex. This is will disappear at around one to two months and will reappear later in the first year in preparation for walking.

Encourage your baby to weight bear through feet flat on the floor at couches, between your legs from about nine months. Some babies walk from nine months while others will not walk alone until 18 months. If your baby is learning crawling skills, stepping with hands held or holding on to furniture they are developing all the necessary skills for walking, so don’t worry if they are taking a little bit longer to get there.

Avoid equipment that suspends baby from their crotch e.g door frame bouncers, baby walkers on wheels. These pieces of equipment can impact on the development of the hips, and also may cause tightness in the muscles in the backs of their legs if the baby is pushing up onto tippy toes.

Hand skills

8-12 months:

Your baby’s hand skills are more refined now. They can pick up small items using a pincer grip (between thumb and index finger), can isolate their index finger to point and poke. At around 10 months old, your baby has developed a voluntary release so they will love picking up and throwing toys on the ground.

Encourage your baby to play with toys such as shape sorters, picture books with holes and flaps, toys with buttons to press. Your baby may start to show a preference for one hand over the other by the end of their first year, however hand dominance is not fully established until five years old.

Face time

Playing Peekaboo can be a fun way to interact with your baby. As your baby’s language skills start to develop around 10 months, you can develop your baby’s body awareness by asking them ‘where is my nose?’ etc. Round and round the garden, and this little piggy are a fun way to teach your baby concepts and social interaction. As your baby approaches the end of their first year, they develop what is called ‘object permanence’. This means they no longer think ‘out of sight out of mind.’ Your baby has a mental representation of the object or person, which means they will look for it or them if they leave or hide.

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


Finger foods for babies

Here are some tips and ideas to help your little one progress onto the next stage of solid foods.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.