Baby development at 9-10 months: what’s happening

Babbling, babbling, babbling – you’ll hear lots of this from your baby as he gets closer to saying his first meaningful words. He might even say ‘dada’ or ‘mama’ and know what these words mean. If he’s an early talker, he might be using 1-2 words already.

But if your baby isn’t talking yet, don’t worry – she’ll still use body language to communicate with you, make noises to get your attention, and let you know what she wants.

Your baby will also understand when you say ‘no’ or wave goodbye. And he’ll turn when he hears his name or another sound, like a doorbell. He might look for familiar objects when you name them and even respond to ‘Come here’.

Over the past few months your baby has learned to show emotions like caution and fear. You might see these emotions if she’s worried about strangers or about being apart from you.

Your baby still enjoys playing peekaboo and banging things together, looking at pictures in a book and finding hidden toys.

Around this age, your baby can crawl and stand up with support – for example, by holding your hand or the furniture. He might walk by holding on to your hands or some furniture, and might even be walking on his own.

At this age your baby might also:

  • follow a very simple instruction without you showing her what you want – for example, ‘Wave bye bye’
  • poke things using her pointer finger
  • pick up things using her thumb and pointer finger together
  • hold a bottle or drink from a cup you hold for her
  • try to hold a spoon when she’s eating by herself.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can move, so always watch your baby and never leave him unattended on a sofa, change table or bed. It doesn’t take long for a baby to unexpectedly move into or reach for something that puts him in danger.

Helping baby development at 9-10 months

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby’s development at this age:

  • Talk to your baby: your baby is interested in conversation, so talking about everyday things like what you’re doing will help her understand what words mean. The more talk, the better!
  • Listen and respond to your baby’s babbling: this will build his language, communication and literacy skills, and make him feel ‘heard’, loved and valued. It’s important to respond by talking or making sounds in your own warm and loving way. Your baby will enjoy hearing your voice go up and down and love watching your facial expressions as you talk to him.
  • Play together: sing songs, play peekaboo, ring bells, hide toys and make funny sounds or animal noises together. Surprise toys like a jack-in-the-box are fun from around 10 months. Playing together also helps your baby feel loved and secure.
  • Read together: reading, talking about the pictures in books and telling stories develop your baby’s imagination. These activities also help her to understand language and learn to read as she gets older.
  • Encourage moving: moving and exploring help your baby build muscle strength for more complex movements like pulling to stand and walking. If your baby is crawling, you could try getting down on the floor and crawling around with him, or playing a game of chasey.
  • Make your home safe so your baby can move about without getting hurt.

Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, she might be too tired or hungry. She’ll use special baby cues to let you know when she’s had enough and what she needs.

Parenting a 10-month-old

As a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.

With all the focus on looking after a baby, you might forget or run out of time to look after yourself. But looking after yourself physically and mentally will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.

Sometimes you might feel frustrated or upset. But if you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold him for a while. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.

Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.

It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your baby, call your local Parentline. You might also like to try our ideas for dealing with anger, anxiety and stress.

When to be concerned about baby development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 10-month-old is having any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • isn’t making eye contact with you, isn’t following moving objects with her eyes or has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time
  • isn’t babbling
  • isn’t turning her head towards sounds or voices
  • doesn’t respond to your voice, smile and other facial expressions.

Behaviour
Your child doesn’t smile or show whether he’s happy or sad.

Movement
Your child:

  • can’t sit on her own
  • uses one hand a lot more than the other.

You should see a child health professional if you notice that your baby has lost skills that he had before.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your child and family health nurse or GP.