Baby development at 8-9 months: what’s happening
Babbling, clapping hands, crawling, pulling up to stand – there’s a lot happening for your baby.
At this age, your baby is having a growth spurt in their brain. This increases your baby’s memory, and you might notice your baby forming stronger attachments to their favourite people, toys and books.
Your baby might even prefer a particular person – this could be you, your partner, or another close family member or carer. Separation anxiety and fear of strangers is pretty common at this age. It might help to know that these are typical parts of child development.
Your baby’s emotions are maturing. For example, your baby can express fear and also read and respond to your facial expressions.
Your baby is starting to link words with their meanings and understand your body language. For example, if you point at a dog and say ‘dog’, your baby might look towards it. Or your baby might stop what they’re doing when they hear you say no.
Your baby’s babbling is louder now, and you might hear words being repeated – for example, ‘mama’ or ‘dada’.
At this age your baby might also:
- copy sounds
- make noises to get your attention
- explore everything around them – for example, they might ring bells, bang blocks and find hidden objects
- practise their eating skills by holding, biting and chewing food
- start feeding themselves with their fingers or a small spoon.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can move, so always watch your baby and never leave them unattended on a change table, sofa or bed. Now might be a good time to think about making your home safe so your baby can move around without getting hurt.
Helping baby development at 8-9 months
Here are simple things you can do to help your baby’s development at this age:
- Talk to your baby: you can help your baby understand what words mean by chatting as you do everyday activities like bathing your baby or changing nappies. Your baby is interested in conversation, so the more talk the better!
- Listen and respond to your baby’s babbling: this builds language, communication and literacy skills and helps your baby feel ‘heard’, loved and valued. It’s important to respond by talking or making sounds in your own warm and loving way. Your baby enjoys hearing your voice go up and down and loves watching your facial expressions as you talk.
- Play together: sing songs, play peekaboo, ring bells, hide toys and make funny sounds or animal noises together. At this age, your baby especially enjoys playing with you and copying what you do. Playing together also helps your baby feel loved and secure.
- Read together: you can develop your baby’s imagination by reading, talking about the pictures in books and telling stories. These activities also help your baby to understand language and learn to read as they get older.
- Encourage moving: moving and exploring builds your baby’s muscle strength for more complex movements like pulling to stand and walking. If your baby is crawling, you can try getting down on the floor and crawling around with them or playing a game of crawling chasey.
- Spend time playing outdoors: being out and about with you gives your baby many different experiences – there’s so much to see, smell, hear and touch. When you’re outside, remember to be safe in the sun.
- Give your baby solid foods: you could give your baby homemade foods like ground-up meats, whole rice or soft bread. Just make sure the solids are small and mushy enough to prevent choking. You could also give cereal softened with water, expressed breastmilk, formula or a little bit of full-cream pasteurised cow’s milk. But at this age breastmilk or formula should still be baby’s main source of nutrition.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, they might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use baby cues to let you know when they’ve had enough and what they need.
Parenting a 9-month-old
As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your baby. When you’re well, you can give your baby the loving attention they need to grow and thrive.
And remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your baby, including your partner, friends, relatives, child and family health nurse and GP.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage. If you feel like you can’t cope, it’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Gently put your baby in a safe place like a cot. Go to another room to breathe deeply, or call your state or territory parenting helpline.
When to be concerned about baby development
You know your baby best. So it’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 9-month-old is having any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communicating
- isn’t making eye contact with you
- isn’t following moving objects with their eyes
- has an eye that’s turned in or out most of the time
- isn’t babbling
- isn’t turning their head towards sounds or voices.
Your baby doesn’t show whether they’re happy or sad or shows little or no affection for carers – for example, your baby doesn’t smile at you.
- isn’t rolling
- can’t sit up on their own
- uses one hand a lot more than the other.
See a health professional if you notice that your baby has lost skills that they had before.
It’s also a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in birthing mothers or postnatal depression in non-birthing parents. Signs of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Development usually happens in the same order in most children, but skills might develop at different ages or times. If you’re wondering whether your child’s development is on track, or if you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s best to get help early. See your child and family health nurse or GP.