The Growing Years
Reviews by Kristy Meisner Ouellete, assistant Extension professor; and Kate Yerxa, assistant Extension professor.
Special thanks to Sue Hill, home visitor, Parents are Teachers, Too, for her reviews.
How baby is changing
Is your baby saying any real words yet? A child just learning to talk often uses one word to mean several different things. “Real” words are words that mean only one thing.
Even if baby says “no” and shakes her head back and forth, she may not know what the word means. She may even say “no” when she really means “yes.” Don’t take it seriously every time she says “no.”
If your baby began to pull up to stand last month, she will probably learn how to get down by herself soon. She may be fascinated by stairs. With a gate on the second or third step, she can practice climbing. You still need to be there to catch her.
Watch baby’s hand. She may pick up things with just a first finger and a thumb. Remember when she had to use her whole hand to smear food into her mouth? She has come a long way.
Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t seem to do things on schedule. Your baby is unique and will develop on her own timetable. As long as your baby is making progress, just enjoy watching her grow.
Activity: teach baby the “ahhh” game
It’s smart to teach your child to say, “ahhh,” to open his mouth wide, and to stick out his tongue. This trick will make going to the doctor easier. It is also helpful when you want to see what he put into his mouth.
To teach baby, just say, “ahhh” yourself. Open your mouth very wide and stick out your tongue. He will learn by copying you.
No matter how well you baby-proof your home, baby will find something to put into his mouth when you’re not looking. Don’t panic! You might startle him and cause him to swallow the object.
Instead, act as if you are playing the “ahhh” game. If baby knows the game, he will imitate you, and you can inspect his mouth in no time.
Child guidance: is baby teasing?
Does your baby ever tease you on purpose? Has she ever headed straight for a wastebasket, making sure that you notice? Your child is testing her emotions and yours. She is experimenting to see where the limits are.
Teaching children to behave has always been a challenge for parents. It’s not as much a matter of keeping your baby from doing the wrong thing as it is of making it easy to do the right thing.
How can you make good behavior easy? First, make sure that baby gets plenty of your attention when she is doing things right, not just when she is doing things wrong. She loves your attention and will do anything to get it.
Give your baby safe toys and safe places to play in. Pick her up and take her away from dangerous things. Be a teacher.
Give her explanations like “hot” and “tastes bad” instead of just saying “no” all the time.
Be patient and gentle. But keep showing her what you want. If you recognize and accept some behavior as part of babyhood, then you’re using good judgment, and you will enjoy your baby more.
Baby starts conversations
Baby may not be talking yet, but he is already starting conversations. Watch to see if baby looks back and forth from an object to you. This is his way of saying, “Talk about this object.” Without words, baby is getting you to talk about what he’s interested in. This helps him learn language.
Does your baby point to something, like the juice pitcher, while making a noise? He probably wants some juice. Or maybe he raises his arms and grunts, clearly asking to be picked up. Baby is using gestures and sounds to communicate his wishes. What a clever baby!
Some babies say their first real word now, but most babies are about one year old when they start talking.
Your baby wants you to know:
How I grow
How I talk
How I respond
How I understand
How I feel
How you can help me learn
Getting ready to walk
Most babies pull themselves to a standing position for the first time between 6 and 10 months. They hold on to furniture or on to you as you sit on the floor.
The next step is called cruising. Baby holds on to furniture and slides his feet. As she gets better, she will stand farther away from the furniture, using it only for balance.
After baby is confident about cruising, she may be ready to take steps while holding your hands. This can be scary for her. So hold her hands and go just a few steps, unless she wants to go on.
Your baby’s first steps are cause for celebration. But the process of learning to walk takes many months as she gains control over her legs and arms. Some babies take their first steps by 11 months; others wait as long as 15 or 16 months.
Give her lots of practice, but don’t hurry her. Learning to walk takes real courage! You can help her along by putting chairs together so that she can go farther.
Remember to make sure that your home is baby-proofed for your child to cruise around in. Watch for safety hazards such as dangling tablecloths, cords, or sharp corners.
Keep her in bare feet or slipper socks and provide a soft surface to ease falls. Above all, provide praise and love when she gets frightened or discouraged.
Your baby will learn to walk even without your help. But you may enjoy taking time to help her learn and practice, and she will enjoy your interest.
Are men good with babies?
In the United States, women traditionally have done more of the child care. Does that mean men have fewer parenting instincts?
No, say researchers, who find that men and women are equally sensitive with newborns, equally good at getting babies to feed from bottles, and have the same physical responses to a baby’s cry.1
Women can breastfeed, which gives them more nurturing moments with baby. But beyond that, men can care for babies just as well as women.
About one million U.S. children are being raised by single fathers today. But they can tell you that it takes real effort to train yourself to be a good parent, just as with any skill.
Household items as toys
Anything that baby likes to play with is a toy. Look around your home. You probably have lots of safe objects to use as toys.
Be sure that all toys for baby are too large to swallow, have no sharp edges, and are safe for chewing.
Here are some ideas:
For stay-at-home parents
If you made the decision to stay at home with your baby, that’s terrific. You and your baby can benefit from this time together. Babies thrive on the loving, sensitive care that parents can provide.
By staying at home, you have more time to spend holding, playing with, and talking with your baby. It is important to remember to set up routines during the day.
Parents are baby’s first and most important teachers. The loving relationship that you and baby develop helps baby feel secure in exploring and learning about her world.
Some parents make a regular date to get together with other stay-at-home parents and their babies. Consider getting together once a week with two or three parents for an hour or so. Your baby will enjoy these playgroups, and you may enjoy them even more!
If you are at home all day with baby, be sure to take some time for yourself and to be with other parents and friends. Babies do best when their parents are happy.
Do yourself a favor . . .
If you’re feeling overly stressed by being a parent, you may need to give yourself a present—some time just for you. Even if you’re a single parent, you can trade baby-sitting with another parent, or trade a service such as cooking a meal in return for a few hours to yourself. You’ve earned this time, you deserve it, and you don’t need to be embarrassed to ask for it.
Here are some suggestions for spending time on yourself:
Taking time just for yourself will help you feel refreshed and ready to face parenthood again.
Practicing with a spoon
Most babies don’t learn how to eat with a spoon until long after their first birthday. But offer your baby a spoon as soon as he wants one.
The food he tries to pick up with a spoon sometimes lands on the floor. But he is learning. And he needs practice to become skillful with a spoon.
Here are some foods that will stick to the spoon when scooped up. Your baby can enjoy them while practicing spoon skills:
If you’re worried about your baby not getting enough food, try two spoons—one for you and one for him. If he will let you, give him a mouthful in between his efforts.
Remember to make mealtimes happy, not frustrating. Hungry babies want to eat. It’s up to parents and other caretakers to help babies develop a good attitude about food.
With lots of praise, a little patience, and encouragement, your baby can learn to enjoy a wide variety of tastes and textures in new foods. Good food habits start in infancy.
Eat together as a family
Baby loves to eat with the rest of the family. And it’s good for baby, too. Research shows that families who eat dinner together frequently have children who do better in school and develop more positive behavior patterns.5
Regular family mealtimes also promote more healthy eating habits for children. When families eat together rather than on the run, they tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer foods with unhealthy fats.
So try to set aside time most days for dinner together, and include baby. You might even make a family tradition where each person talks about one nice thing that happened that day, or one nice thing that he or she did for someone else. But the most important thing is spending time together as a family.5
Does my baby love the child care provider more than she loves me?
Parents who use full-time child care sometimes worry that their babies will feel more love for the child care provider. When your baby calls someone else “Mama” or “Papa,” you may feel hurt, jealous, guilty, or confused.
Research shows that infants in child care do form strong bonds of love with caregivers. Your infant uses the caregiver in much the same way that she uses you: to calm fears and to feel secure.
But research also shows that caregivers do not replace babies’ parents.6 Some of the research was done in communal towns in Israel, where babies live and sleep in special infant houses with trained caregivers and only see their parents for about three hours each evening. Even in this extreme case, babies are still more strongly attached to their parents than to their caregivers.6 babies form these same strong attachments to adoptive parents, too.
The research is clear: your child-care provider doesn’t compete with you. He or she helps you to raise your baby, but never replaces you.
From your baby’s point of view, having a strong attachment to the child-care provider is good. Baby needs to feel secure and loved in every place that she spends time—both at home and in child care.
If your baby calls the child care provider “Mama” or “Papa” by mistake, you can tell yourself, “How nice! My baby feels safe and loved by her caregiver.” But you’ll know that no one can replace you.
Introducing new foods
Introducing new foods to your baby is exciting. But it’s important not to overwhelm him with too much at once. Take it slowly, and introduce one new food at a time. Give your baby plenty of time to decide how it tastes. It may even take more than one try before he decides if the food tastes good or not. Here are some soft foods and finger foods to introduce to your baby.
Fruits and Vegetables
Dairy and Protein
Wait! Some foods can cause problems for young children
The following foods should not be given to children who are less than one year old. The
following foods may cause an allergic reaction, or could be a choking risk.
Q & A
My daughter crawls around and pulls everything out of drawers and cupboards. I want to let her explore. But I’m worried that this will become a bad habit if I don’t do something. What do you suggest?
Don’t worry about your baby developing bad habits yet. Babies this age create clutter. A healthy 10- month-old is doing what comes naturally: exploring.
Baby pulls things out of drawers, turns furniture over, drags toys all over the house, and examines anything that she can touch. But she is not doing these things just to spite you or anyone else.
Drawer and cupboard latches will keep your baby out of things that she shouldn’t have. Make the most of this fun stage—special drawers or cupboards filled with safe plastic bowls, wooden spoons, special toys, or surprises will keep her interested in staying in one place.
You are right to let her explore. Now you just have to be clever enough to guide her to explore the places that you have set aside for her.
Q & A for employed parents
“Sometimes I feel guilty. Am I a lousy parent because I have to be away at work all day?”
Of course not. In Maine, more than 60 percent of children under the age of 6 years are living with working parents.2 If you arrange good quality child care for your baby and do your best to be a sensitive parent the rest of the time, your baby will usually do fine.
For example, research on employed mothers shows that on average, mother-child relationships are somewhat better when women work part-time outside the home instead of full-time. But according to the same research, what you do with your baby when you are together is more important than the number of hours you work outside the home—quality counts more than quantity.3
Also, babies usually form their first strong attachments to both their fathers and their mothers during the same period (at about age 6 to 8 months), even when one parent works full-time and the other is home with the baby.
From your baby’s point of view, the important thing is to have quality care all day long—whether with a parent or a child-care provider.
“So it doesn’t matter how much time I spend with my infant?”
We wouldn’t say that. For example, research indicates that infants benefit from stimulation and care from their fathers.3 They need quality time and interaction and will benefit from having a close bond with more than one person. If baby has only one parent, other people—such as grandparents, siblings, and childcare providers—can be important to him.4 No parent should think that he or she must be with the baby all day, every day. This is hard on you and may not be best for you or your baby.
Alfond grant can jump-start your child’s college fund
The Harold Alfond Foundation will invest $500 in a NextGen college investing account for each Maine resident newborn born on or after January 1, 2009. A NextGen account naming the baby as beneficiary must be opened before the baby’s first birthday to receive the grant. These funds can be used for college, or any type of qualified training after high school.
In addition, families with children not eligible for the Alfond Grant may be able to take advantage of other Maine NextGen benefit programs offered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). For more information or to sign up, call 800-228-3734 or visit 500forbaby.org.
Don’t miss this opportunity! You must enroll BEFORE YOUR CHILD TURNS ONE.
1 Pruett, K. D., 1997. “How Men and Children Affect Each Other’s Development.” Zero to Three Journal 18, no. 1 (3-11).
2 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc., 2002. “Census 2000: Working parents.” Maine Today. http://www.mainetoday.com/census2000/employ.shtml (accessed June 2008).
3 Nomaguchi, Kei M., 2006. “Maternal Employment, Non-parental Care, Mother-Child Interactions, and Child Outcomes During Preschool Years.” Journal of Marriage and Family 68, no. 5: 1341–1369.
4 Zimmerman, L. and L. McDonald, 2002. “Multiple caregivers and the development of infants’ sense of self and other.” In Readings in human behavior. Vol. 2. Edited by K. Jones pp. 211–227.
5 Larson, R. W., A. R. Wiley and K. R. Branscomb, eds., 2006. Family Mealtime as a Context of Development and Socialization: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. No. 111. NY: Jossey-Bass.
6 Maital, S. L. and M. H. Bornstein, 2003. “The Ecology of Collaborative Child Rearing: A Systems Approach to Child Care on the Kibbutz.” Ethos 31, no. 2: 274–306.
|He or she, him or her? This series gives equal time to both sexes. That’s why we take turns referring to children as “he” or “she.” Keep in mind that we are talking about all children when we use “he” or “she.”|
Months 1 through 36 of The Growing Years are reproduced and adapted with permission from the Parenting the First Year series published by University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension. All rights reserved.
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