As you get to know your baby, it’s not unusual to find some things challenging about him or her. Browse the information and links below to see what your little one is experiencing and learning this month.
What It’s Like for You
Maybe you have a baby who doesn’t like to be held by anyone but you, has a hard time calming down, has trouble with changes, or can’t handle lots of sounds or stimulation (like playgroups). One mother of two children—a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son—shares:
We visited my husband’s family when my son was 7 months and my daughter was 3 ½. My son was crawling all around, laughing and making friends with everyone in the room—all virtual strangers to him. My husband’s aunt pulled me aside and reminded me of the first time my daughter had to come to visit, also at 6 or 7 months. She spent the entire time in my lap, and would not go to anyone but her father or me. We marveled at how two children in the same family could be so different.
These characteristics are part of your child’s temperament, his or her individual approach to the world. How you “fit” with your child—how you are alike and different, and how well you are able to adapt to her individual needs—is important to be aware of. For example, an outgoing parent might find it hard to deal with a baby who is slow-to-warm-up to new people.
So it’s important to take some time to tune in to both your baby’s and your own temperament. Appreciating what you have in common, and how you are different, can help you separate your needs from your child’s needs. It can also help you understand why you might feel more frustrated or more satisfied with different aspects of parenting your child.
What It’s Like for Baby
My babysitter, Dawn, brought me somewhere new today. It had all kinds of bright colors and there were lots of other babies sitting with their grown-ups. Dawn called it a “gym” and there were lots of toys and things to crawl on. It looked interesting, but I was a little scared. I didn’t want to leave Dawn’s arms. She held me tight and told me, I’ll hold you ‘til you are ready to explore. All of a sudden, everybody started singing and shaking these noisy little instruments! It was too loud! I got scared and started to cry, so Dawn took me to another room where it was quiet. She told me, I know you don’t like it when it’s so loud. We’ll stay here until you’re ready to join the group. She held me and sang my favorite song. Then she took me back into the room. Everyone was in a circle making noises with their instruments. We stayed in the back where it wasn’t so loud. I noticed the shakers they were holding. I pointed at them and made some sounds. Dawn looked over: They’re shakers, honey. They make music. She reached over to pick one up and showed it to me. It looked interesting. I made my happy sounds to tell her I liked the shape and colors. I reached for it, and Dawn handed it to me. I shook it and started making my own music! It was great. I may want to come back to this place.
What Your Baby Is Learning
- To build a loving and trusting relationship with adults outside the family
- To accept comfort from someone he is attached to, his babysitter Dawn
- That he is an important person whose feelings matter, building his self-esteem
- That he can overcome his fears, building his confidence
Language and Thinking Skills:
- That he is a good communicator when Dawn reads and responds to his signals
- How to use language (sounds) and body movements (reaching) to show * * Dawn he is interested in the shaker. This is an important milestone that happens around 7 months—the ability to coordinate actions to communicate a need or desire. Babies may reach for and grasp at an object, for example, which encourages the person they’re with to hand them the object (so baby can explore it) or to talk about the object (which helps them learn language). This back-and-forth interaction helps babies learn the function and process of using language. Over the next few months, at about 12 months, babies learn that they can simply point at an object to get another person to see what they see—a very important social and communication skill.
- New words for his feelings and experiences when Dawn talks with him about his fears
- Cause-and-effect as he learns that shaking the instrument makes a sound
What to Expect From Your Baby’s Development
As you review the chart, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.
Your Toddler’s Development From 6 to 9 Months
|What Your Baby Can Do||What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby|
I am learning to think and solve problems.
I can control my body.
When I’m closer to 9 months, I start to understand that people and things are still there even when I can’t see them.
I am working hard to communicate with you.
I may start to be afraid of people I don’t know.
My personality is starting to show.
Did You Know…
That your baby can already show you the difference between feeling a little annoyed and being really angry? Babies show feelings like happiness and anger as early as 4 months. But by 7 months, they are becoming more specific when it comes to sharing their feelings. For example, they now direct anger at certain people and their anger can range from mild to intense. So your baby’s annoyance when he drops a favorite toy might not be as strong as when his older sister takes his favorite stuffed animal and dangles it just out of his reach. That’s when you’ll really hear him scream!
Reference: Berger, K. S. (2001). The Developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth Publishers.
What the Research Means for You
As your baby grows, his signals—sounds, facial expressions and actions— grow and change too. When you respond to your baby’s feelings (of anger, fear, shyness, etc.) with acceptance and respect (It’s okay to feel angry at me, but I do need to change this yucky diaper), your child learns to express and deal with intense feelings in a healthy way. Your baby is also watching you to learn how to show anger, happiness, love, frustration, etc. So when you are able to share your own feelings in a healthy and constructive way, your baby is learning an important skill.
Spotlight On: Reading With Your Baby
Now that your baby is more interested in the world around him, it is the perfect time to make books a regular part of your day together. The first—and best—tip for sharing books with babies is to have fun together. When book reading is a positive experience, it makes children want to keep exploring books as they grow.
Here are ideas for reading with your baby:
A Few Minutes at a Time is OK. And don’t worry if you don’t finish the story. Babies and even toddlers may only sit for a few minutes for a story. As they grow, they will be able to sit and listen longer. Let your child decide how much (or how little) time you spend reading. If your child starts to wiggle or fuss, it may be that she is ready to take a break. Or, you may find that your child has a favorite page or even a favorite picture. She may want to linger there for a while and then switch books or activities.
Get Mouthy. For now, your baby might just want to gum and mouth the book. That’s okay. Let her chew on chunky board books or soft fabric or rubber books to her heart’s content. When you let your child explore books in the ways that interest her, you make reading a positive experience. Plus, at this age, your baby simply doesn’t understand that books are for reading, not mouthing. For a 7-month-old, books are for mouthing.
Talk or Sing About the Pictures. You don’t have to read the words to tell a story. Just tell your own story using the pictures. Hearing you talk helps your baby learn words. When your child is a toddler, you can even ask him to “read” the pictures to you.
Let Children Turn the Pages. Babies can’t yet turn pages on their own, but they might like to grab and swat at them. That’s okay—your baby is figuring out how a book “works.” When your child is older, encourage her to turn the pages. Page turning calls for coordinating the muscles in her fingers, the very same muscles that she will use to write later on.
Make the Story Come Alive. Create different voices for the characters in the story. Act out the story, too. If you are reading about a train chugging down the track, move your knees up and down so your baby feels the “clickety clack” movement. You can also use puppets—bought or homemade—to tell a story from a book or one that you have made up.
Make It Personal. Talk about your own family, pets, or community when you are reading a story. After you read Wheels on the Bus, you can show your baby the city bus as it zooms by.
Talk Together About the Story. Use the story to have a back-and-forth conversation with your child. Even for babies who aren’t yet talking, you can ask: Where is the moon? Do you see it up there in the sky? Then you can point to the moon in the picture. Through interactions like these, babies learn new words and ideas.
Make Your Own Books. Make photo books of family members. Cut pictures from magazines or catalogs to make word books.
Use Books in Your Daily Routines.
When books are part of your everyday lives, your baby will see reading as a pleasure and a gift. Try reading together during:
- Meal Times: Sing or read a story as you nurse your baby. Or gather all the kids, from babies on up, to enjoy a story around the breakfast table.
- Child Care Drop-Off: Calm a crying child with a favorite story or lullaby. Leave a photo book with pictures of loved ones at child care so your child can flip through it when she is missing you.
- Grocery Shopping: Clip a cloth or rubber book to the shopping cart so your baby can look at it or mouth it while you shop. When your baby is older, make a “shopping list book” with pictures of common foods (milk, eggs, orange juice, apples, etc.) that your toddler can look at and match with the items in the aisles.
- Nap Time and Bedtime: Familiar routines always help babies calm down. Use books and stories to quietly ease your baby to sleep.
- Bath Time: Rubber bath time books are great fun and may help a fussy baby enjoy the tub a little more. There are even bath time books that play a song when you press a button.
Let’s Play: Activities That Nurture Bonding and Learning
Slip finger puppets onto two of your fingers. (They can be store bought or homemade with newborn-sized socks.) Make the puppets sing and dance or talk with your baby. How does he respond? Does he reach out to touch them, or interact with them? Follow his lead. Let him touch the puppets, or slip one over a few of his fingers. (Supervise closely. If baby seems upset by this activity, put the puppets away and try a different toy.)
Peek-a-Boo Peeking Through
Gather together several different pieces of fabric in different textures, such as lace, gauzey polyester, and felt. Hold the first piece over your face, and say, Where am I? Then drop the fabric and say, Here I am! Offer your baby the chance to touch the fabric, if she’d like.
What’s on Your Mind
1. Sometimes my baby now seems more interested in his toys than me! Is this something to worry about?
Your baby’s interest in exploring objects is a major developmental milestone. By 7 months of age, babies are now capable of more focused attention on objects than ever before. Up to this point, parents are often a baby’s preferred “toy.” However, it is very common at this age to see your baby beginning to shift attention toward an interesting toy or object, like a board book. He will grasp and touch it with his hands, mouth it, and examine it with his eyes. It’s not even unusual for babies to even turn away from parents in order to focus more attention on their toy. At this stage, your “job” is to “get” what your baby is trying to explore, and join in and support his exploration.
However, if your child seems to be totally uninterested in social play and interaction and prefers to exclusively explore objects on his own, then it is important to seek the consultation of a child development specialist to be sure your baby can enjoy both exploration of objects and building relationships with loved ones.
2. How can we help my 7-month-old develop a relationship with her grandparents who live 500 miles away?
The birth of a grandchild is a joyous time for most grandparents (and everyone else, too!), but is sometimes tempered with a degree of sadness if they live far away—as is so common now. Just by asking this question you are taking the first step to building a strong bridge across the generations, to nurture the very special relationship that can develop between grandparent and grandchild.
It may be hard to imagine what you can do to introduce your 7-month-old to her long-distance grandparents. The truth is that with the help of a little technology, there is a lot you can do right now to help your daughter begin bonding with her Gram and Gramps right away. Here are some ideas:
- If you and your parents have high-speed Internet access, consider installing web-cams at both houses. This allows you to begin such 21st Century traditions as grandparents reading your daughter a bedtime story while she watches and listens in real time. Your parents will also be able to see your daughter achieve milestones—like pulling up and walking—with their own eyes, even though they are far away.
- Videotape your parents reading, singing, or telling a story to your daughter and burn it to a DVD. You can play it for your daughter on a regular basis so that she becomes familiar with her grandparents’ faces and voices over time. And of course, don’t forget to send videos of your child to your parents so they can delight in her new skills and talents.
- Record (as a digital music file) your parents telling or reading stories or singing to your daughter. Load the file(s) onto your digital music player or burn to a CD. Play your daughter’s special, just-for-her CD while you’re driving or use it as part of her bedtime or nap time routine.
- Make a photo book for your daughter. Gather pictures of her grandparents and other out-of-town relatives and place them in an easy-to-hold album. “Read” the book to your daughter, showing her the pictures and telling her about each person.
- Help your daughter prepare to visit your parents by asking them to send you photos of their home, the different rooms where your daughter will spend most of her time, their car, their backyard, their neighborhood park, etc. Put these in another small album and show her the photos as your prepare for your visit.
At this age, your daughter will not fully understand all that she is seeing and hearing as you use the strategies and tools above. However, the older she gets, the more familiar the voices and pictures will become. With time, she will connect the images and voices with the people themselves. And, as your daughter grows, the ways she will be able to connect with her grandparents will grow as well. Although it seems hard to believe, soon she will begin babbling with them on the phone, sending them jibberish “emails” that she happily pounds out with your help, and scribbling special letters to her Nana and Pop-pop.
3. Now that he’s crawling, my 7-month-old has been tormenting our dog. He pulls his ears and tail and tries to crawl on top of him. The dog seems okay with it, but I’m concerned he’ll lose patience. What should I do?
Join the club. This is almost as common as 10-month-olds trying to stick their fingers into electrical outlets. Both stem from babies’ intense curiosity to learn all about their world. And for better or worse, animals offer some of the most enticing fodder. They have many different textures for your child to explore. They are furry and cuddly. They are more responsive than most toys. And they can also make children feel special and loved. This is a wonderful relationship your baby is developing that will help him one day learn to be responsible and care for another being.
Chances are that if your dog has been this tolerant so far, he will continue to be. Nonetheless, you certainly don’t want to take any chances. Therefore, it is very important that you be present and closely monitor the interaction between your baby and dog. Limit their face-to-face contact and be on the look out for any signs that your dog is getting irritated. (One of our dogs, who doesn’t bite, will, however, growl and try to mouth us when we do something he doesn’t like, such as brushing him!)
In addition, teach your baby to touch your dog gently and not to pull on his body parts. At his age, this will require direct action—taking his hand and showing him how. But in just a few months he will understand what the word “gentle” means and he will be better able to control how he interacts with the dog. This is important both for helping your baby learn empathy and how to lovingly interact with others. It will also make it much less likely that your dog will rebel.
4. My son is 7 ½ months now and has started making whining sounds when he wants something. Some days it seems he whines all day. Should we be doing something different to make him happier on days when he’s fussy?
It’s not easy being a baby. They have lots of thoughts and feelings but so few ways to communicate them. As newborns, babies simply cry to let their needs be known. Then they move on to what you call “whining,” which is actually a step forward in their communication skills: The tears have turned into sounds. That’s not to say that whining can’t be incredibly irritating. But it’s normal. And, like most aspects of children’s development, this too shall pass as your baby learns to use more sounds and gestures, and later words, to communicate.
A good deal of your son’s whining may be due to frustration. Seven-month-olds are on the verge of developing many new skills, such as getting into a sitting position by themselves and crawling. Until they master these milestones, they can get cranky and discouraged. Try to put what you think your son wants to say into words: You can’t reach the toy. That’s so frustrating! Let’s see how we can help you get it. Even though he may not understand what you’re saying, your soothing voice and actions will let him know he’s being heard, which may reduce the whining.
Another possible cause of the whining is boredom. Your baby may need more stimulation or interaction. Try introducing the next level of toys to him—such as pop-up boxes and activity centers that teach cause and effect. And play games where he can take turns with you, such as rolling a ball back and forth. When all else fails, go for a walk or take a ride in the car for a change of scenery.
As for how to handle particularly fussy days, look for patterns in your child’s behavior. Does he usually get fussy after a night of little sleep or on days when there’s too much or too little activity for him? If you think fatigue is the cause, try to reduce his activity that day and make sure he takes his naps. Whether or not you can figure out why he seems cranky, what’s most important is to try to stay calm and be patient since this will likely have a calming effect on him, too. And remember, all babies have their fussy days.
You may also want to consider teaching your baby sign language—a system of gestures for important needs, such as “bottle” or “sleep.” Some parents find this helpful in the stage before their baby can use words. They report that because their children can use gestures to communicate, they’re less fussy. You can buy a book or video, or take a class on the subject.
- Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
- Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
- Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University