Baby (4-9 Months)
Enjoying life through the eyes of your baby – 4-9 Months
The first 24 months of your baby’s life are the time of most rapid brain development and it can be magical to watch as your baby develops new skills and abilities. It can also sometimes be hard not to compare your own baby’s development with that of his or her peers and wonder why your baby is not behaving in the same way or developing the same skills just yet. It is natural to both be proud of your baby and, at times, anxious about their development or wellbeing. That’s part of the rich tapestry of being a parent.
The truth is, every baby is unique and, although there are some universally recognised developmental milestones most babies will simply master each new skill when they are ready. In my experience of working with young babies, I notice that some babies are very social from the get go, others are early to get on the move, some master fine motor skills like grasping and picking objects up very quickly whereas others are perhaps focusing on ‘pre-speech’ babbling. It hardly surprising to acknowledge that when a baby’s brain has so many new neural pathways to form, so many new skills to learn, it makes sense to focus on one at once.
Although there is a general pattern to development, each baby will also find their own pathway. It’s also true that, once mastered, a new skill may seem to be forgotten or even ‘lost’ for a time while baby concentrates on a gaining a new skill. This is common and nothing to worry about. However, if as a parent you do have concerns, anxieties or an ‘instinct’ that your baby’s development is not progressing along a usual path, it can be reassuring to speak to your paediatrician about your concerns. You can also come along to one of our Passage drop in groups to talk to other parents about their experience or get advice from other parents who have had to navigate the health systems here with their own family.
One of your baby’s first major physical developments is developing the muscles, strength and co-ordination to support their own head. By 4 months you baby should be confidently supporting their own head. You can help baby to develop neck and back strength by enabling them to have ‘tummy time’ – often this involves supervised play time where baby is lying on their tummy and there are interesting things nearby to encourage baby to lift their head and begin exploring. However, in some ways, any time when your baby is not lying on their back can be viewed as tummy time. As well as helping your baby to strengthen their back and neck muscles, tummy time is a useful way to guard against ‘flat head syndrome’ which is fairly common amongst young babies.
Some babies will need a bit of encouragement to spend time on their tummy and the following strategies can be helpful:
- Lying next to them and playing with them
- Placing interesting toys nearby to play and distract them with
- Placing a reflective surface near their chin so if they lift their head they can see their reflection
- Lying them on a rug with an interesting texture
- Lying on the floor and lying baby on your chest so they are encouraged to lift their head to look at you
Between around 3-5 months your baby will start reaching out for objects. As their muscles and fine motor skills develop a clumsy ‘swipe’ will gradually become a targeted reach and by about 5 months your baby may well be able to hold objects. At around 6 months they may be developing enough hand to hand co-ordination to pass an object from hand to hand. Babies at this stage often enjoy toys that they can rattle and shake and they will almost certainly enjoy putting any and every object they can hold in their mouth to test it out!
Another factor that can motivate young babies to chew is that teething usually starts around 6-9 months with many babies getting their first teeth around this time, usually at the front, top and bottom. However don’t worry if your baby is a late teether – they will come! Likewise some babies are even born with a few teeth just proving every baby develops at their own pace.
Around 6-8 months will see your baby getting stronger and he may be able to sit without support. Between 6-9 months your baby may even be starting to crawl and to pull themselves upright, using furniture for support. However, some babies are slower than others to get ‘on the move’, perhaps enjoying to focus on other aspects of their development. For more information on crawling and standing take a look at our 9-18 months article.
It’s interesting to observe how the skills of being able to sit, hold an object and bring it to your mouth and the milestone of beginning to grow new teeth all coincide with the fact that at approximately 6 months your baby is ready to start being introduced to solid food.
Social, Emotional and Intellectual Development
This period of development sees your babies social horizons expand. As your baby’s ability to focus and see further develops, this opens up new potential for social interactions too. Whereas, in the first four months or so, babies seem to delight in and prefer face to face communication. Once a baby can see all around them, new things begin to catch their eye and distract them from simple face to face communication and they show a readiness to play more complex ‘games’. Around this time body games such as “Round and round the garden“ and “This little piggy“ can become popular and baby will learn to anticipate and enjoy the punch line or climax of the game.
The fact that your baby can also reach out for objects (see physical development section of this article) can also change to way your baby plays, meaning they can reach out for things that grab their attention. Suddenly simple toys become attractive, bright colours, textures and noises often proving popular. Interestingly, studies of babies brain activity have shown that when a baby looks at something that his parent or carer has signalled is of interest baby’s responses are more active and excited. Babies between 4-9 months continue to be innately social beings and that sociability is beginning to mature. As they near 9 months of age most babies can clearly communicate their likes, dislikes, what makes them excited and what makes them anxious with their carer through body language and facial expression. They tend to enjoy reciprocal play and are also beginning to show more awareness of their attachments to specific people. Around the age of 9 months babies may start showing signs of separation anxiety. For more information on this take a look at our 9-18 months article.
Language (Communication) Development
Between 4-6 months your baby will enjoy making and mastering new sounds. Babies usually start ‘babbling’, making strings of repetitive noises, at around 6 -8 months. Common phrases include: ‘ba, ba, ba’, da, da, da’ or ‘ga, ga, ga’. You may well start to recognise that your baby is trying to link sounds with particular words, objects or people. This is a special moment and you have the opportunity to support your baby’s language acquisition by what is called ‘scaffolding’. For instance if your baby chants ‘da, da, da’ when he sees Dad (babies often refer to mum as ‘da, da’ too if they’ve mastered this sound early on) then you can build on their communication by staying ‘Yes, Daddy’s just come in hasn’t he?’.
Babies love repetitive sounds and music and simple games using nursery rhymes & songs and movement can be great fun and support your babies development at the same time. Rhymes such as ‘Round and round the garden like a teddy bear’ and ‘This little piggy went to market’ which have a ‘punchline’ (in these 2 cases it’s usually a tickle) also teach baby to anticipate something and to share a joke. Action songs like ‘Wind the bobbin up’ and ‘Wheels on the bus’ are a fun way to support language acquisition and gross motor development.
The great thing about singing with your baby is they are not worried about how in tune you are. However, if you feel shy singing by yourself, can’t remember the tunes or would just like to join in a social activity with other parents and babies, there are lots of groups here in Luxembourg. Some popular choices include:
- Pipsqueaks weekly singing sessions run by volunteer parents at BLC
- Relax and Stretch with Baby classes which offer mum and baby exercise incorporating song and rhyme
- Il etait une fois… A popular intercultural lending library which runs groups in a variety of mother tongues
It’s also never too early to introduce a bedtime story. This can be a special opportunity to share some quiet time with a book together at the end of the day and can also be a helpful part of a bedtime ritual, signalling that it’s time for bed and sleep (see sleep section in this article).
At around 6 months your baby will be ready for you to begin introducing solid food. The age at which solid foods are traditionally introduced varies a bit from culture to culture. Here in Luxembourg some people begin weaning around 4 months, however the World Health Organisation and the English Department of Health recommend waiting until around 6 months.
Because your baby’s digestive system is still developing, introducing solid foods before 17 weeks (four months) is not recommended. Thinking of starting at ‘around’ 6 months can give parents the flexibility to work with their own baby’s needs and development.
The sorts of signs that signal your baby may be ready for solid food include:
- Your baby is able to sit up and support their head confidently.
- Your baby can pick up an object and raise it to their mouth.
- Your baby is able to swallow food and has lost the ‘tongue thrust reflex’ which is present in young babies to prevent them choking.
If you recognise all these signs, your baby may well be ready for you to start introducing solid foods. Some parents begin by introducing their baby to pureed foods, some prefer a Baby Led Weaning approach, where baby feeds themselves finger foods and other parents find a mix of these 2 approaches works for them and their baby. Whatever approach you decide on, vegetables and fruit make great first foods and, if you’ve waited until 6 months to begin, you can start introducing a varied and balanced diet as soon as you and baby are ready.
For advice and support on how to introduce solid foods you can attend one of the free workshops, organised in most communes by Luxembourg Health Promotion Charity Ligue Medico-Sociale. The service is predominantly offered in French and German but many of the Health Professionals also speak English.
The Well Baby Clinic mum and baby groups offer a chance to discuss feeding concerns and questions with other English speaking mums and qualified Health Professionals. They also offer an Introducing Solid Food workshop on a regular basis. Support on introducing solid food to breast fed babies and advice on how this affects milk feeds is also offered, in English, by the La Leche Leaguee.
If you are breastfeeding it is best to carry on whilst you are introducing solids as research suggests that this may reduce the risk of the baby developing allergies. If you are returning to work around this time and planning to continue breastfeeding then you are legally entitled to time within the working day to feed your baby (if they are at crèche nearby) or to express milk. Speak to your employer about how you can plan this in a way that works for you. La Leche League can provide support and advice whether you want to continue breastfeeding or you need help weaning your baby off breast milk.
By four months your baby has probably learnt the difference between night and day and may well have established a pattern of shorter ‘naps’ during the day and a longer sleep at night. However, there is no ‘magic’ age at which you can expect your baby to sleep through the night. Indeed it is reassuring for some parents to hear that the definition of ‘sleeping through’ is actually only 5 hours between the hours of midnight and 5am. If you are not one of the lucky few whose baby sleeps for big chunk of the night be assured that nearly all children sleep through eventually.
It is helpful to continue any bed time routines or patterns you have already established. If you are yet to decide on the bedtime rituals that are right for your family some popular suggestions include:
- Bath time
- A bed time story (it’s never too early to start, see more info on language acquisition)
- A bed-time feed
- Dim lighting and a quiet environment
- White noise
For the first 6 months the safest place for your baby to sleep is in your bed room, in a cot, Moses basket or bed-nest beside your bed. As your baby grows and you settle in to your role as a parent you are maybe giving more thought to the parenting style that you are developing, including your attitudes to sleep. One way to look at this is as a spectrum, with a baby led approach at one end. Parents who prefer this approach often chose bedside sleeping or cosleeping. Research shows that babies used to a baby led approach tend to cry less.
At the other end of the spectrum is a parent led approach where parents encourage baby to adapt to a specific routine or the general routine of the family. Parents adopting this approach are more likely to choose for their baby to sleep in a cot. Research suggests that a parent led approach is likely to lead to less night time waking.
Of course, there is a wide range in the middle of these 2 approaches to parenting and, at the end of the day (no pun intended as we discuss sleep) most parents are trying to work out an approach that works for them whilst meeting the needs of their baby.
Looking after a baby can be fun and rewarding but it can also be exhausting, boring and relentless. Trying to find some time for yourself is important. Being able to have conversations with your partner, if they are involved, about how you share tasks and make sure you both have time to top up your batteries, both alone, and together as a couple is important. Becoming a parent is a huge transition and it is hardly surprising that it can have a big impact on your relationship with your partner too. If you are on your own think about the support you need to help you look after yourself as well as your baby.
As well as specialised mum and baby groups, like those run by Well Baby Clinic. There are lots of social networking groups like BLC and the American Women’s Club which offer activities that give you then opportunity to meet other parents. Meetup offers a huge range of social activities including a single parents group.
If you are ready to think about going out, it can be more challenging to find a baby sitter when you live away from your family. Some parents find that they can work out a babysitting swap arrangement with other friends with babies where they babysit for each other. Communes also provide lists of local babysitters or there is a Luxembourg wide website, providing English-speaking babysitters.
If you are feeling low or isolated it try and find a friend to talk to or speak with your doctor. Postnatal Depression may not surface until 6 months or later. It affects around 1 in 10 parents and can respond well to treatment once it has been recognised and acknowledged. If you think you or your partner may be affected, check out our PND article for more information on where to find help and support here in Luxembourg.
Further Information: Useful Links
Sleep & Crying
Cry-sis: UK charity offering parents support to cope with excessive crying. Offers UK based phone helpline open 9am – 10pm daily.
NCT: UK parenting charity offering a wealth of helpful information and research on babies sleep.
Lullaby Trust: Charity promoting safe sleep messages and supporting families bereaved due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Introducing Solid Food
Australian Breastfeeding Association: Australia’s leading breastfeeding organisation, providing mothers with practical mother-to-mother support and information.
Baby Led Weaning: Provides information, blog and recipes for baby led weaning.
HiFiveBaby: An American blog from a registered nurse that has well-written, accurate & helpful information and advice regarding baby led weaning.
Department of Health (UK) booklet ‘Introducing Solid Foods’: Booklet guiding parents through introducing solid food, step by step.
Kelly Mom: Offers a wealth of knowledge and resources about breast feeding and introducing solids.
La Leche League: Providing breast feeding support groups and advice on introducing solid food to breast fed babies.
Ligue Medico-Sociale: Luxembourg charity providing a wide range of health promotion services including feeding advice.
NCT: The UKs leading parenting charity offers evidence based information on feeding issues.
Well Baby Clinic: Also offer a range of groups to provide support to English-speaking mums through pregnancy and the early months of motherhood.
Work & Pump: Website specifically devoted to tips for breastfeeding working mums.
Antenatal and Postnatal Depression
NCT: Advice and information on parenting issues from conception to 2 years including ante and post natal depression.
NHS: The UK Health Service’s online patient information service including information on PND, symptoms and treatments.
Association for Postnatal Illness: UK based organisation offering support and helpline for those affected by postnatal illness.
Mind: UK based charity supporting those affected by mental health issues.
Postpartum Support International: International organisation supporting those affected by postnatal illness or anxiety.
PANDAS: Friendly and approachable pre and postnatal depression advice and support for families.
One plus One: Resources and an on line training module to help couples adjust to the transition from partners to parents.
The Couple Connection: Information, insights and videos to help couples communicate.
Gingerbread: UK based charity providing advice, support and online forums for single parents.
Your Baby’s Development
Birth to Five Timeline: An online resource from NHS charting babies developmental milestones from birth to 5.
The Social Baby: Information and products to support parents in understanding their baby’s earliest communications.
The Wonder Weeks: Website, book and Ap that helps parents understand their baby’s ‘mental leaps’.
Words for life: The parents section of the National Literacy Trust UK’s website offers some helpful advice and resources.
Further Information: Recommended Reading
Babycalming: Simple Solutions for a Happy Baby by Caroline Deacon (2004)
Explores how to develop understanding of your babies 3 basic needs for food, comfort and sleep.
Child Sense by Priscilla Dunstan (2010)
Dunstan focuses on the babies sensory world, suggesting all babies have a predominant preferred sense. She offers questionnaires to help parents understand their won baby.
The Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears (2001)
The Sears are husband and wife, Dr and nurse and parents of 8 children. They share their ethos of attachment parenting in the belief it can help families be calmer and connected.
The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough (2008)
Fernyhough mixes a personal account of his developing relationship with his own daughter and current theories about child development
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley (2002)
Tips and step by step techniques to encourage your baby to sleep.
The Baby Sense Secret by Megan Faure (2011)
Guidance on supporting your baby to make the transition from womb to world and establish early routines.
The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development from Birth to Two by Lynn Murray (2014)
Explores babies development in 4 key areas: social understanding; attachments; emotions and self-control; and cognitive development.
The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your Baby by Tracy Hogg (2001)
Hogg, a nanny with 20 years’ experience guides parents through her EASY routine.
The Social Baby by Lynn Murray and Liz Andrews (2000)
A beautiful photographic record of baby’s amazing communication skills from birth onwards.
What Every Parent Needs to Know, by Margot Sunderland (2006)
Sunderland, a child psychologist explores some of the psychological aspects of raising a child.
The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij (2013)
This husband and wife team explore the idea that babies encounter massive developmental leaps or milestones at predictable times and understanding this can help explain babies changing behaviour.
Article by: Kate Ensor, who is a coordinator for Passage and a postnatal group facilitator & childbirth educator at Lux Midwives (and previously the Well Baby Clinic).
For more information or to reserve a place on Kate’s “Introducing Solid Foods and Weaning your Baby” course at Lux Midwives, please click on the link provided. Alternatively see their dedicated Facebook group page for updates.
Last updated: Monday 10th July, 2017