Developing Baby (9-18 Months)
Enjoying your developing baby – 9-18 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 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.
Between the ages of 9-18 months is an exciting time with most babies becoming increasingly mobile as they master, crawling, cruising and eventually toddling. However, not all babies develop in exactly the same way. Every baby is unique and, although there are some universally recognised developmental milestones, babies are creative and will find their own route through the development road map. For example, some parents report their baby never really crawls but progresses straight to toddling whilst other babies (including the writer’s youngest son) don’t like crawling on all fours and much prefer shuffling along in a crab like fashion on their bottom, sometimes fondly called ‘bottom shuffling’.
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.
Your babies physical development will probably seem to make a huge leap forward during this period. Perhaps starting with a focus on fine motor skills in terms of handling objects and progressing to the gross motor milestones of crawling and eventually walking or ‘toddling’ as it is often fondly called giving rise to the term ‘toddler’.
Perhaps one of the first exciting developments at this stage is learning to let go. Interestingly when babies first learn to hold an object they can’t let go. At around 9-11 months they will have developed the coordination to hand an object to someone, or to drop it! They may also find the most fun part of letting go is that when you drop an object it gets a reaction and someone usually picks it up and passes it back to you. Many babies find this an excellent game and it’s one that most parents tire of before their little one does.
9-18 months is also commonly the period when babies will, in their own time, progress from crawling and pulling themselves upright on furniture to ‘cruising’ and eventually ‘toddling’ or walking. It’s inevitable that as your baby learns to walk they will be a bit unsteady on their feet at first but creating plenty of opportunities for them to practice in a safe environment will soon help them master their new found mobility. When the weather allows, outdoor play has the added benefit of ensuring you both get some fresh air and hopefully boost your vitamin D levels. Luxembourg has some beautiful parks and countryside to explore as a family.
Social, Emotional and Intellectual Development
This is an exciting period and a key social milestone is that babies begin to recognise an interconnectedness between their own experience and other people’s. This can be recognised in a range of behaviours such as:
- Baby being able to direct the attention of others to something that interests them by pointing and looking
- Baby being able to follow suggestions from others to do or try things
- Baby enjoying ‘being silly’ or ‘showing off’ to get a reaction
- Being helpful and trying to join
- Baby checking other people’s reactions before responding in uncertain situations e.g. checking with their carer whether to be scared or not in a new situation
By around 9 months your baby will recognise their main carers and it is at this age you may start to notice your baby suddenly becoming upset when you hand her to others for a cuddle. This can be disconcerting if it is a familiar friend or relative but it is a very normal stage – reassuring your baby that everything is okay and acknowledging this is a common phase can be helpful. Likewise around this age ‘separation anxiety’ can begin, characterised by your baby becoming upset or anxious if you try and put them down or leave the room. Again this is very common and trying to empathise with and reassure your baby whilst recognising it is a phase they will grow through can help
By 15-18 months babies social development can evolve to a whole new level as they start to develop a new insight in to understanding others. This has been neatly demonstrated in an experiment sometimes called ‘biscuits and broccoli’. A baby is given the option to choose between 2 foods (1 the baby likes, for example biscuits and one the baby dislikes, in the original experiment this was broccoli) when encouraged to give someone else a piece of food most babies will offer the food they themselves like. However, by around 18 months, if the other person has demonstrated a food preference (for example trying broccoli and saying ‘yum’ and trying biscuits and saying ‘yuk’ then older babies are often able to make a more obective or empathtic decision and offer the other person the food choice they have shown a preference for even if this differs from the baby’s personal preference.
This ability to connect with the feelings of others and begin empathise with others can also be supported through activities like pretend play and reading story books together – taking the opportunity to talk about the characters in a story and to explore why people do the things they do or how they may be feeling.
Other ways that your baby’s intellectual maturity is developing may include:
- Being able to recognise herself in a mirror
- Being able to play a joke or ‘tease’ another person
- A growing awareness of what is ‘naughty’
- Being able to distinguish between what is real and pretend
- A growing sense of what it is to be cooperative and a desire to join in a ‘help’ with everyday tasks
Your baby may be very motivated to be cooperative and ‘help’. Trying to include them in simple everyday tasks such as clearing the table or sorting the washing can give your baby the pleasure of ‘joining in’ whilst beginning to teach them about sharing household chores. As a parent it can sometimes be frustrating to include a little helper, particularly if you are in a rush and know you could do it quicker yourself. Some parents find it helps to view it as a game or acknowledge it as an investment for future willingness to help.
Language (Communication) Development
In tandem with an increased sociability, between 12 to 18 months your baby will also start to use language in a more recognisable way. Your baby will be able to communicate his wants and needs by a combination of gestures and sounds and by 18 months you may well recognise you baby demonstrating some or all of the language skills below:
- Understand familiar words like drink, car, eat, dou dou
- Be able to follow simple instructions such as ‘arms up’ when getting dressed for example
- Gesture to what they want
- Point to familiar objects when asked, for example, ‘where’s your drink?’
- Use up to around 20 simple and familiar words (for example: mum, dad, cup, car, dog) of course these words may not be easily recognisable to strangers at first but you will soon learn what your baby means
- Enjoy copying you and playing simple pretend games like talking on the phone
Your baby will continue to enjoy music and simple games using nursery rhymes & songs. Rhythm, repetition and music really help your baby’s language acquisition and 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
If English is not your mother tongue or you speak more than one language at home it is a good idea for both parents to consistently speak their own mother tongue when talking to baby. For more information on being Bilingual and English as an additional language, check out these links.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time 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 below).
By a year your baby will be eating a variety of foods. As long as you avoid adding salt when preparing food, your baby can now eat smaller portions of your family meals and will be developing confidence in feeding themselves, either with their fingers or using a spoon.
Your baby will also be ready to progress to using a cup. There are a wide variety of cups to choose from including ‘no spill’ ‘sippy cups’ with handles and a spout and doidy cups which have a slanted base to help you baby learn to drink from an open cup. If you are using a bottle, dentists tend to encourage switching to a cup by one year old for good oral health. Under a year, water is by far the best drink apart from your baby’s normal milk. At one year you can introduce cows milk if you want to. If you are giving your youngster fruit juice it is best to ensure it is well diluted with water.
For advice and support on your baby’s health, diet and safety around the home you can attend one of the free workshops, organised in most communes by Luxembourg Health Promotion organisation Ligue Medico-Sociale. The service is predominantly offered in French and German but many of the Health Professionals also speak English.
By 18 months you may be starting to think about potty training. However, some babies may not be ready for this milestone until much later, particularly boys, so don’t be concerned if it’s another couple of years until you are contemplating this one! Every child is different and it may be better not to begin potty training until your baby shows signs that they are ready for it and you also have the time and energy to support them in developing this new skill.
Signs your baby may be ready to begin potty training include:
- Staying dry for a couple of hours each day
- Having bowel movements at regular times of the day, for example, after breakfast most mornings
- You can tell when a bowel movement is happening – your baby may squat or make a grunting sounds
- Letting you know when his nappy is wet or dirty and he wants to be changed
- Knowing when she needs to pee and telling you in advance
- Showing an interest when you or other members of the family go to the toilet
Remember, potty training is a complex skill to master and some accidents are inevitable. Preparation (always travelling with spare clothes) and patience (not getting annoyed when accidents happen) are key and as with all other skills, your baby will master it in their own time, when they are ready.
It can take a lot longer for babies to be ready to be dry through the night so many parents decide to let their baby master day time potty training and choose to continue using nappies at night time for a while to come.
Your baby may be sleeping for longer at night-time now and probably still needs 1-2 daytime naps. 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 parenting style some popular suggestions include:
- Bath time
- A bed time story
- A bed-time feed
- Dim lighting and a quiet environment
At around 9 months your baby may start to experience separation anxiety (see emotional development in this section). Many parents find it helpful to introduce a special cuddly toy, Security blanket or ‘lovey’ (here in Luxembourg popularly known as a dou dou). This special toy is sometimes called a transitional object and it can be particularly reassuring at bedtime to help your baby feel secure, safe and ready for sleep.
It is easy to underestimate the impact becoming a parent can have on your life and relationships in the early days. Many parents feel things start to get easier as their baby gets older. However, around 10% of parents will suffer from Postnatal Depression or PND and symptoms can take a while to appear or be recognised. The good news is that, once acknowledged, PND generally responds well to treatment (approaches that can help include getting extra support, exercise, relaxation techniques, talking therapies and sometimes medication). Although it can take a little while to start feeling better, acknowledging how you are feeling is the first step. 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.
As your baby grows you may also start looking to the future yourself. For example, if you’ve taken extra parental leave, you may be planning to return to work around this time. Parents who would like to have their children close together in age may also start thinking about having another baby. There are definite advantages of a smaller age gap between siblings and there are also advantages of a bigger gap – it’s about working out what’s right for you and your family.
When living as an expat parent it is also useful to continue to build & maintain your network. There are lots of social networking groups like BLC and the American Women’s Club which offer activities which give you then opportunity to meet other parents and Meetup offers a huge range of social activities including a single parents group. There are also a number of English speaking playgroups and organised activities specifically for babies and their parents. What’s on for Kids is a great online resource that summarises many of the activities on offer.
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.
It is amazing how quickly babies grow and although sometimes a day spent looking after a young child can seem endless, it’s funny how the weeks and months can whizz by. Keeping a special record of your baby’s development, whether it is a keepsake box, a photographic record or maybe even a creative endeavour such as a Blog or ever evolving family mood board can be a special way to keep your memories in a way you can share with your baby as they grow.
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.
PostpartumDepression.org: A US based community website that offers support, shared stories and comprehensive resources to those experiencing and affected by PPD. This accessible website aims to “encourage women and to educate 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.
Talking and Language Development
I Can: Children’s communication charity provides advice & resources for parents and practitioners.
Talking point: Information and advice an online ‘progress checker’ for parents to support their child’s communictation from birth – 18.
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 own 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: Wednesday 7th March, 2018