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.


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.