Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

My little boy, Ben, who is eight months old, has several teeth, which I try to clean in the morning and the evening. Sometimes he is very co-operative but on other occasions he clamps his mouth shut and won’t let me clean them. Do you have any tips on the best way to clean your child’s teeth and what to do if they are not to keen on the idea?

Ben’s response is perfectly naturally. He is at an age when he is beginning to want to try to do things himself. I suspect he probably wants to feed himself too? These first indications of independence are a very healthy part of the first year. What is important is that you persevere with regular teeth cleaning.
It is absolutely right that as soon as the first teeth appear you should attempt to clean them twice a day. Choose a toothbrush that is designed for a baby, since this will have a smaller head, and softer bristles for his little mouth. Before putting the toothpaste one, let Ben hold the brush, in order to get used to the feel of it. I am sure he will try to use it to brush his hair, or your teeth. Let Ben see you brushing your teeth with your brush to encourage him.

One tip to try is to sit Ben on your lap, looking at a mirror. If it is the brush he dislikes, some dentists suggest trying to use a clean piece of cotton cloth folded around your finger, while he gets used to the idea. Watch out for those teeth ‘though!
Use a baby or child tooth paste since these will be formulated to taste better for a baby and also contain less fluoride, which is important when most of the toothpaste is swallowed. A pea size amount is enough.

Dentists recommend that you should gently brush the tooth in a clockwise motion, directing the bristles towards where the tooth and gum meet. If you are successful in cleaning your child’s teeth, try to finish by gently brushing the surface of the tongue since this can contain bacteria, which has been linked to tooth decay.
Most children adapt quickly, and by the age of a year can help you by opening their mouth wide, and trying to brush their teeth themselves. Dental advice recommends that no matter how competent your children seem, it is important to continue to help them brush their teeth until they are six years old.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

How do I get my 10mth old son to stop screaming? It is affecting our whole life

My son has always been a very happy and easy baby. However, there is one major problem that has caused endless tension and countless arguments between my husband and me. Basically, he likes to scream (a very high pitched horror film style scream). He seems to do it when he is excited, tired, hungry, dirty, bored, frustrated or in need of attention.

It started when he was about 4 1/2 mths old and I was adamant it was just a phase that he would soon grow out of. I have always been able to largely ignore it, and my two year old daughter soon got used to it. However my husband has a real issue with it and really can’t stand the noise. He finds it incredibly frustrating and stressful and is becoming increasingly angry with our son for doing it. I persuaded him initially that he was too young to be ‘told off’ for doing it and that we wouldn’t be able to ‘discipline’ such a small baby. However, this argument is now wearing a bit thin.

I know that this sounds like a small problem, but it has caused such awful problems in our family life and has ruined what should have been such a special few months with out two young children. My husband is continually stressed and angry and I am resenting him more and more for not having the patience to deal with it. We used to have such a strong relationship and enjoyed our children immensely, but now we can’t get through a day together without major tension or a row.

I know this isn’t the normal sort of question you answer, but I haven’t been able to get any helpful advice from my health visitors and thought you might have experienced this before with one of the babies you have cared for.

I basically would really appreciate your opinion on whether, at 10 months, he is too young to be trained out of the habit, and if not, how would you go about it? I’ve tried endless distraction which is sometimes effective, but not always possible when I’m caring for them both on my own or long lasting. I’ve also tried just saying a very firm ‘no’, but it seems to make no difference, although he understands the word and usually obeys it when I’m telling him not to touch something he shouldn’t.

A problem such as this which is causing so much upset in your house does need to be addressed now. Your son probably realizes by now that he can draw some kind of attention to himself by making this noise. It is very sad indeed that you have all been deprived of spending these past few months together as a happy, united family

Now your son is old enough to understand “No”, it needs to be reinforced each and every time he starts to make the noise. Go to him as soon as he begins; hold his arms firmly by his side and look at him in the eyes. Say to him in a very firm voice, “No, you may not make that noise” and keep hold of him until he stops. It will take time as this has now become a way he has used to attract attention for over five months.

Sit down with your husband and talk together about how this is affecting both of you. Ask him that he too adopts this firm manner with your son when your he begins to scream. Your husband may need to take a few breaths before he does so as it is obviously something which irritates him severely. Tell him he must remain calm but firm. If he begins to get annoyed by the noise it would be better if he left the room and let you deal with it. By beginning to do something about the situation each and every time, your husband should begin to realize how much this affects you too even though you have tried other techniques, such as ignoring and distraction, in the past.

One of the most important lessons in parenting is to provide a united front towards your children. They realize at quite an early age that it is possible to play parents one against the other if there is a difference of opinion between you. By both dealing with this situation in the same calm but firm way your son should stop. Within a few weeks, if he should begin to scream, all it may take is a look and perhaps a call to him of his name in a firm voice for him to immediately stop the noise. Now your son is 10 months old maybe your husband can begin to enjoy some one-to-one time with him. They could take a bath or shower together or perhaps enjoy some rough and tumble play which boys and men are usually much better at than girls and Mums. If your husband begins to see that your son is, on the whole, a happy little boy who is growing into a real character he may be able to not let the screaming wind him up quite so much.

Your son can be encouraged to make other sounds such as animal noises. Find a book with pictures of farmyard or zoo animals in it and get him to join in with you and your daughter in making the noises. Use this at times of the day when he is most likely to start screaming. Sing to him as much as you can to give him other ways to use his vocal chords, and use easy actions for him to copy. Your daughter can be encouraged to sing along with him.

As with most childhood problems this is a phase but one which has gone on too long now, and caused more upset than it should. You need to do everything you can to reinforce to your son that this kind of screaming is not going to happen any more.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

At 11mths my daughter is able to use spouted beakers for both milk and water. Lately she has started to drop or throw her cup after taking a small amount at milk feeds having previously taken these well. How do I deal with this behaviour?

We introduced beakers to my daughter, who is now 11mths following the guidelines. She took to them well, and is now only having a bottle once a day at bedtime. She uses non-spill Tommee Tippee cups both with and without handles. She has always been inclined to drop her water beaker at mealtimes, and recently she has also started to drop her cup whilst it still contains milk. Before now she would fairly consistently finish the milk before dropping her cup. However, she will drink greedily if we hold the cup up for her, so I do not feel she is dropping the cup because she is not hungry.

We are travelling to Australia for two months and it is 40 degrees there so we do not want to have to keep removing the cup to solve the problem as it may mean that she ends up not drinking enough fluids. But how else do I deal with this behaviour.

My daughter takes 7ozs of formula at 7am, 1/3rd of this is used to mix her cereal. She eats 1 weetabix or a sachet of ready brek followed by toast/ French toast/ cheese on toast /chopped fruit.

11.45am, 3-4 heaped tablespoons lamb hotpot/chicken with roasted vegetables, slice of bread with butter/cream cheese, 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt with 2 cubes chopped fruit

2.30pm 6ozs formula

5.00pm, 3-4heaped tablespoons of protein or vegetarian meal, chopped pasta etc, dessert on alternate days, finger food.

6.30pm 6 ozs formula

By 12 months your daughter will need a minimum daily allowance of 12ozs milk. This includes milk used in cereal and cooking. She may well be showing the signs that she is ready to cut down on her intake a little but also she has reached a stage in her development where she has discovered dropping and throwing.

Handling this problem in a sensible way should not interfere with your daughter’s daily fluid intake but will encourage her to learn that throwing or dropping her beaker is not acceptable.

At this age your daughter does not fully understand the word, “No” but she will understand by your tone of voice that her actions are causing your disproval. The word “No” is meaningless to a baby if not said with a firm, low voice. It will take persistence and consistency, using the same phrase and tone of voice each time she drops or throws her beaker, until she fully understands that she should not throw her beaker.

Decide on a short phrase such as, “We put our cup down, we don’t throw it” and use it each and every time the problem occurs. Watch for the signs that your daughter is about to drop her cup. If you say her name using a lower tone of voice than your normal speech, it will sound both firm and warning; by then speaking the above phrase you may be able to prevent some of the episodes. Back up your words by helping her to put her cup down beside her bowl or plate. A short explanation is more effective if spoken in a tone of voice which shows you mean what you say.

If your daughter begins to repeat the performance, then remove her beaker whilst she continues with her meal. Using distraction at this age will help her forget about her new found skill of dropping and her attention will be focused on something new. Offer her the beaker again after a short interval or at the end of the meal, so you are not depriving her of either water or milk if she needs the fluid. Until she is fully capable of tipping her cup herself you may need to assist her to help take the amount of fluid she wants. Providing you always encourage her to take her drinks on her own before offering her help she will gradually learn all the skills needed to tip her cup back.

Your daughter’s inborn need to explore, experiment and try to understand the world around her will mean at times her actions are inappropriate. She will learn that throwing her cup is unacceptable but throwing a ball is a skill you will encourage. She will learn this by listening to your voice. If she does take a drink from her cup and set it back down beside her bowl then be sure to comment about this, thanking her for not throwing her cup. Your daughter will want to earn your approval so, by using different levels and tones of voice for approval and disapproval, you will help her to behave in an appropriate way.

At 11 months your daughter may well be losing interest in her 2.30pm milk. Many babies of this age will have given this feed up by now. As you do not have the distraction of having a meal at this time it may be a great game to your daughter to throw her cup at this feed. Offer her a smaller feed, 2-3ozs of milk, and see if she is able to feed herself without losing interest. Providing she is taking her daily minimum requirements of milk you could replace this feed with a drink of water and piece of fruit.

At your daughter’s age she has learnt to drop and throw – both quite complex, manipulative skills. Once a baby has learnt how to let something go, opening and releasing it from her hands, she will want to practise this skill over and over again. If you watch your daughter you will notice she will probably follow the passage of the falling cup with her eyes. She is testing the fact that when released from her hand things will usually fall towards the ground.

Finding ways for her to practise and use this skill at other times of day, rather than with her cup at mealtimes, may help the problem fade away. Tie a toy to a piece of ribbon secured to her high chair. See if she is able to work out how to retrieve her toy as well as drop it. Play with balls of a size she is able to hold easily and encourage her to throw them to you.

You are right to be aware of your daughter’s need for water whilst you are travelling. If you offer her water mid way between her meal times as well as at lunch and tea she should take enough for her needs. If you are consistent in the approach to her dropping her cup, but also continue to help her drink from it should she need to, she should receive enough fluids to cope with the increase in temperature.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

My nine-month-old twins have become extremely vocal in the last couple of weeks. My little girl makes most of the noise but my son is beginning to copy her. She has developed an ear splitting scream and continually blows raspberries. The twins are clearly enjoying communicating in this way, although it does contribute to rather messy mealtimes. It is hard not be amused by my daughter’s animation, and I assume it is just a phase but at what age should I begin to be “responsible” for my babies’ behaviour?

They’re such happy babies that I don’t want to stop them from expressing themselves and being lively, but equally I don’t want to find that in a year’s time their vocalizing has escalated, and I have a real problem with which to contend.

Babyhood lasts a very short time. Before long you realize that one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is guiding your babies’ social and emotional development. It is exciting watching your babies begin to demonstrate their individuality but the responsibility of nurturing acceptable emotional and social responses is one of the major challenges of parenthood.

Your nine-month-old twins are showing a healthy desire to communicate with each other and with you. Some over-animated vocalizing is not unusual at this stage, but it is sensible to encourage her to communicate in a more effective manner.

Babies quickly learn to repeat actions that gain them attention. Your daughter has discovered her vocal chords and also an effective way to make the adults around her laugh. Her brother’s response will also encourage her. You need to ensure that you are not responding in a way that reinforces her behaviour.

A little mess at mealtimes is unavoidable. Your twins should be learning to feed themselves finger food and to use a spoon where possible. Raspberry blowing at mealtimes is definitely to be discouraged!

The most effective way to nurture a child’s social and emotional development is to give generous praise and attention for good behaviour and ignore less appropriate responses.

Another option is to try to distract your daughter when she begins to screech or blow raspberries. Talk to her about the food she is eating, encouraging and praising her attempts at using a spoon.

By now your twins will be aware of the differences in your voice. They may not understand the words you are saying but they will respond to the tone of your voice. They will love to hear you sounding soothing, amused, encouraging and they will dislike it if you are displeased. If ignoring your daughter’s rowdier behaviour has not been effective try asking her to stop, using the same few words spoken in a lower and firmer tone each time she starts. Make sure you are close to her and able to make eye contact. She won’t understand the words but your tone will tell her that you are no longer impressed or amused with her behaviour. If you respond every time in this way, this phase should begin to fade away. Praise and thank her when she does stop so she learns that it is not she you are displeased with but her behaviour. She will prefer to win your approval rather than your displeasure.

Encouraging the twins to use their newly found vocal skills in other ways is great for their development. Find a picture book of animals that you can all share together. Go through the book and make the noises of each animal. Babies love to copy so they are likely to try to make the sounds too. Get them to “moo” or “cluck” at each other. This will appeal to them much more than the screaming.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

At 10.5mths my son is very clingy, especially when we are alone together

I wonder of there is any advice you could give to help my baby form being wingey and clingy. He hangs onto my legs if I am washing up etc and wants to be picked up most of the time. He is very active and enjoys being around his older brother and he likes going to play centers. But when we are at home he just wants my constant attention, more so in the mornings whether there is anyone around or not. Have you any tips?

At this stage in your son’s development he will become very interested in you, his primary caregiver. As he has become more mobile, and can explore his surroundings, he needs you to share his discoveries and help him understand the world he sees. He is mastering new skills all the time. If you watch him as he plays you will see that he is beginning to work things out as a sequence rather than a series of random and unconnected happenings. You may observe him looking at a toy to first see how it works before trying to make it work himself. He may be aware that he must perform one action, for example picking up a shape for a posting box and looking at it, before performing the next action, trying to find the correct hole for it. A few weeks ago he may have pulled all his toys apart but now he is beginning to try to put them together again.

In their book “The Wonder Weeks- how to turn your babies 8 great fussy phases into magical leaps forward”, Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Ploof describe the last fussy phase of the first year of life as happening around 46 weeks[ 10.5mths]. It can be a time of frustration for your son as he is desperate to find out how things work but his manipulative skills may not always be as advanced and so he is unable to manage on his own all the tasks he would like to be able to do. He is able to take things apart but may still need some help in putting things together. As he is acquiring these skills his behaviour may be clingy and whiney especially towards you, whom he views as the centre of his world. You are the one who can help him progress and manage these tasks he so dearly would like to accomplish.

It is fine to know why your son is behaving in this way but what can you do to help this phase pass? You do need to accomplish other tasks around the house rather than giving your undivided attention to your son during his waking hours. It is good for him to learn how to amuse himself for short periods but the more you help him through this phase by keeping him near to you the quicker it should pass.

It may be time to go through the toy box and remove those toys which he has now grown out of. Find him simple posting boxes, tray puzzles, Duplo building bricks as well as wooden blocks. He may enjoy a toy telephone as he will begin to copy you and the things you do as part of your daily routine. Find him toys which involve several actions to gain a result. There are plenty around which need the baby to pull or push a lever, turn a key or insert a shape for the reward to pop up.

Finding toys which are within your son’s comprehension is important. Just as he will be bored with toys which are too young for him he will quickly lose interest in those which are too advanced for his skills. By the time he is able to manage them he will have seen them for too long and so not be interested any more. It is better to have just a few toys which are really suitable for his stage than buy too many and find he is uninterested in any of them. He will still prefer your company more than anything else and the more you interact with him, even if just by talking, the quicker he will be able to pass through this phase. If you are washing up, sit him up in his high chair near to you. He then can actually see what you are doing instead of just hearing the tantalizing splashing sounds coming from above his head. He may enjoy playing with some plastic utensils or containers along with some small blocks or small plastic shapes. Babies of this age love to empty and fill containers. If you really want to get on with a few chores around the kitchen set him up with a small water play area. There will be some mess and you may need to undress him down to his vest and nappy or find an all in one cover up but he will be content to sit on the floor [ suitably protected] with a small washing up bowl of water and several small items which he can use for pouring. Water play calms and soothes most children and babies. With a little thought you can provide it quite easily. As long as you stay close by let him explore and investigate for as long as he wants.

As your son is with you so much he is bound to want to copy what you do. The grown up world is fascinating to a baby. They do not distinguish between their toys and the things their parents use on a daily basis. At this age it may help if you designate one low drawer in the kitchen as his. Fill it with small plastic containers, wooden spoons and other utensils, providing they have no sharp bits. There can be items which will have a shorter shelf life, such as the inner tubes from loo rolls, but are equally fascinating to him. If you are cooking and he wants to be with you encourage him to explore in his drawer as you stand beside him.

It can take longer to get things done around the house when you have a baby in tow but take him with you wherever you go and talk to him about what you are doing. He is interested in your world and wants to understand it more. He needs your help to do this.

Getting your son to play for short periods alone is possible. The best way to get him to do this is to play alongside him for a short while. Let him take the lead and find out for himself how his toys work but be there to encourage and give him a helping hand if he needs it. Once you have been beside him for a while move to a chair or sofa near to him. This way you are still in sight but are getting him used to playing on his own for a little while. Don’t expect him to be happy for long periods of time. He is just not capable of that at this stage. Work on getting him to play alone for slightly longer periods, every day or so. If he manages five minutes the first day then try to increase it to seven or eight on the second or third day. Asking him to wait for a “few moments” before he gets your attention is fine, and should be encouraged but be realistic as to how long at this age he is able to wait. He lives in the here and now and has no concept of time.

If your son does not like you to disappear from sight for any length of time always invite him to join you by waiting for him to follow you. Or if he just sits and cries when you leave a room, scoop him up and take him with you. Playing lots of games of peek-a-boo and simple hide-and-seek can help if your baby does have separation anxiety. As with most childhood problems this is a phase which in time will pass. Pushing him to play alone or not interacting with him whilst he is clinging to your legs will probably only prolong the phase. Finding ways to involve him as much as you can with what you are doing will help him get through this phase and move on to the next.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

We have emigrated and my baby’s development is regressing

Please help… we emigrated to Australia four weeks ago with our 9 month old son, and despite seeming to be happy he does seem to have gone backwards in his development. He was finger feeding quite confidently before we left, and now he refuses to put any food in his mouth at all, although he will put an empty spoon in his mouth, and in my mouth. He is happy to eat finger foods, i.e. toast, fruit etc and is eating quite lumpy food, but I have to feed it to him.

When we first arrived here we put him straight into the 6-9 month routine and although he slept, he refused to eat for three days and since then, although his appetite has returned with a vengeance and he is eating really well, he won’t feed himself. He was also almost crawling before we left: he was able to push himself along on his tummy with his feet ‘commando’ style, but since coming here he has gone back to flailing around on the floor like he did when he was four months old. He has also started to suck his bottom lip when he is tired. The doctor has told me that he is probably anxious and has reverted to ‘being a baby’ because he has been so unsettled and that once he feels settled he will catch up.

I just wondered if you had any tips to speed up the catching up process. Is there anything I can do to get him back on track?

He has been on Gina’s routines since he was 4 weeks old for both sleeping and feeding. At 7.20am he has 7oz of follow-on formula milk at breakfast, still out of bottle because despite taking a beaker for water from 4 months old he began refusing to even have it in his mouth at 7 months. We have just found one he likes but have not yet introduced it for milk. He then has either porridge or baby muesli with fruit made with 3oz of formula at about 8.15am. He takes a mouthful of very diluted juice out of a beaker at about 1030am. He has lunch at about 11.40am and typically eats about 10 cubes of (usually) homemade food. He is a vegetarian baby who eats fish, so lunch is either a fishy something or a lentil and rice something. He has been fed on homemade food almost exclusively until we emigrated at which point he went for a couple of days on jars while we were settling. He has a good amount of juice and a good amount of fruit after his savoury course. His fruit is chopped and I always put some on his high chair tray for him to feed himself. He’ll pick it up and squidge it around, but won’t put it in his mouth.

He has 7oz of milk at 2.45pm out of a bottle. At 5pm he has tea, about 6 or 7 cubes with toast followed by a milky pudding. He then takes about 4oz of milk at 620pm. I am planning to give him less formula at 2.45pm tomorrow to try to make him take more at 6.20pm. Tristan wakes at around 6.30 am, (he was waking later, but we are not able to fully black out his room in our rented house) we leave him until 7am. He then goes back to sleep at 9am for half an hour. He goes to bed at 12.15pm until 2-2.30pm. He then goes down to bed at 6.30pm. He settles himself to sleep. If he wakes and whimpers a bit we do nothing; if he really cries for longer than 5 minutes I go and check him. If he’s really crying it’s usually because he has a dirty nappy so I change it and put him back down. If he doesn’t have a dirty nappy I rub his tummy to calm him and then he goes back to sleep by himself. I am always the person that dresses him after his bath, feeds him and puts him down to sleep. He is rarely (almost never) unsettled at bedtime and doesn’t wake in the night.

I hope you can help,

Helen

The big change in your life has really had an effect on Tristan. In a few months I feel sure he will be much more settled, enjoying his new life and will have caught up again. Meanwhile I would continue to follow your daily routine as this will give Tristan the security he needs. At his age he is very aware of the big changes in his life, but if the day-to-day details remain the same he is likely to settle down quicker to his new life.

Continue to provide plenty of finger foods at mealtimes but don’t push Tristan to feed himself. Keep on feeding him yourself, but every few meals hand him a spoon and ask “Tristan do it?”. If he refuses just continue to feed him without fuss. Find colourful finger foods to offer, present it in a fun way, cutting fancy shapes or making simple faces with the pieces to try to tempt Tristan to pick up his food.

Sometimes presenting his usual food in a novel way may tempt him to using his spoon again. Disguise a half jacket potato as a hedgehog, using small sticks of cheese as the spines, and peas as the grass around him.

I am sure once his anxiety has gone and he feels more secure in his new home he will just begin to feed himself again. Be patient and let him do it in his own time.

The same principle applies to his regression in crawling. Give him plenty of floor time and get down with him. Play games with balls or cars, something he may begin to chase. Encourage him to roll from side to side and stand up whilst holding onto sturdy furniture or your hands. As Tristan’s anxiety about his new surroundings diminishes he will become more adventurous physically. You may have to “baby” Tristan for a while, give him plenty of reassuring cuddles and a simple routine to help him adjust.

I wish the very best of luck in your new home and life.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

How can I get my nine-month daughter Kate to be less wary of people?

How can I get my nine-month daughter Kate to be less wary of people? We live in a small village, which is a close and friendly community. Until about a month ago, Kate would smile happily at everyone, but now she turns her head away when people speak to her. My neighbour, whom Kate has known since birth, would love to look after her occasionally, but Kate just wants to be beside me the whole time. I tried leaving Kate last week for an hour, but it was a disaster and in the end I brought her home as she was crying so much. How can I get her to be more relaxed with friends and neighbours?

Living in a close-knit community makes it difficult to understand Kate’s growing wariness of strangers. But this is all part of her emotional development. She is beginning to be aware of new situations and unfamiliar people. A few months ago she would respond to any smiling face, but now she is more discerning. This wariness of strangers is connected with a growing anxiety about being separated from you. She is appreciating that you are a separate being, not just an extension of her. This period of anxiety and wariness often coincides with the time a baby learns to crawl. She now has the means to leave you, and has realised that you can also leave her.

Coping with this milestone needs gentle handling. It will usually peak between ten and eighteen months. These months can feel overwhelming as she clings to your side, and you may feel that you will never have a life of your own. But it is a phase and it will pass. Be aware and sympathetic, but also help her to overcome some of her anxiety.

When out in the village, greet people yourself, talk to Kate about who you are meeting and let Kate respond with a smile if she wishes. Explain to others that Kate is feeling a bit shy today. Some adults have forgotten or don’t understand this period in a baby’s life and may try to get to close to her. Put yourself in her position. Being approached by an unfamiliar person who wants to touch you straight away is a most disconcerting feeling.

Some babies become very clingy even in their own homes. They cannot bear if you so much as leave the room. Overwhelming as it is, try to keep Kate in view, scooping her up as you move around the house, rather than trying to slip upstairs quickly. Playing games of peek-a-boo will help her to understand that, even if she can’t see something, it is still there. If Kate is crawling, play simple games of hide and seek behind the furniture.

If you haven’t already joined a mother and toddler group, try to find one locally. This will help both you and her to socialise in a safe setting. She may sit near you for the first few sessions, but once her confidence grows she will begin to crawl away fascinated by the other babies and children. Also, getting her used to staying for short periods with someone other than immediate family is a good idea. Even if you are not intending to return to work, it is good for both of you to have short breaks from each other. Have a cup of coffee and a chat with your neighbour and let Kate become familiar with the surroundings. Once you feel she is used to the house, and your neighbour seems to be getting on well with her, try leaving her there for a short time. Take one or two favourite toys and go inside the house to settle her in. Give her ten minutes warning that you are leaving, but will be back soon. Don’t sneak out, even if she appears content. That will only make her more anxious about you leaving her. She may cry as you leave, and you will probably feel unhappy yourself, but keep smiling and tell her you will see her later. Make the first separation a short one. Twenty minutes to half and hour is long enough. Build up the time very slowly, unless she appears quite happy with the arrangement. You are building up her trust in you to return, so she copes with separations more easily.

This period in a baby’s life can be difficult for you as it may feel as if you have no life of your own. Although you feel frustrated by her attachment, you may also feel guilty at wanting time to yourself. Don’t worry – this is all part of motherhood. And spending a short time on your own will benefit everyone.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

My 6 month old is not properly sitting yet and is unable to amuse herself for long

My daughter who is just over 6 months old does not sit well alone. She seems bored and frustrated within minutes of being put down on her play mat. Often she will hold a toy for a few minutes, suck it and then look for something else as though she is bored with everything she has. It isn’t long before she is grizzling and wants to be picked up. What sort of toys should she now be having and what can I do to help her be more independent?

Getting your daughter to play alone for increasing amounts of time does not happen straight away, especially if she has become used to you picking her up when she is grizzly. Until she is more mobile, able to sit alone and begin to move around on her tummy she is relying on you to provide her with a stimulating environment.

Place your daughter near to where you are and talk to her from time to time, telling her what you are doing. Provide her with one or two toys at a time as more will just overwhelm her. Look for toys which will encourage her to use the skills she now is developing. Her finger movements will be more dexterous so she will be able to turn, push and pull on knobs and wheels. An activity centre can be placed within her reach and she can be encouraged to turn towards it. Don’t feel you always have to be interacting with her but when she begins to grizzle sit beside her and encourage her with a cheerful voice. Distract her with something rather than always swooping in and picking her up once she becomes grizzly. This will help to prolong the amount of time she is able to play alone. At this age she will probably be content for about 15-20 minutes at a time before wanting a change of scene or position. She is becoming aware of the fact that you can disappear from view and as yet she is unable to follow you. If you want to leave the room for any length of time it is probably better to take her with you and set her down somewhere close by. If you are just popping out for a minute or two then use your voice to reassure her that you are not far away and will be back soon.

When you do have time to play with her, games of peek a boo from behind chairs or doors will help to understand that when you are not in sight you do not disappear altogether and you will come back again.

Encourage her sitting skills by setting her within a ring of cushions and placing one or two toys just within her reach. She will get frustrated and cry as she is not yet able to physically lean forward without toppling over when reaching for a toy. By placing them just within her reach but to the side as well as in front, you will help her to develop her upper body movements with turning, stretching, grabbing and putting down. Again don’t always rescue her straight away but use an encouraging voice so she learns to do things for herself.
Give her plenty of time on her tummy as well as on her back. For a baby who ho is has been used to being on her front from birth she will already be able to push herself up on her forearms and begin to move herself around using her tummy. For a baby who is not so used to this position use a rolled up towel under her chest to help support her and encourage her to push herself up on her forearms.

Encouraging your daughter to play alone will take time and patience. Make sure you do spend some times of the day really engaging with her: looking at a book, playing peek a boo, practising rolling from side to side and then at other times keep her near but with a toy of her own to occupy her. Go through her toy box and remove all the things which she is now beyond. She will become bored if offered toys which do not encourage her growing skills and dexterity. You may want to buy one or two new things such as stacking cups and wooden blocks but she will also be just as amused with a wooden spoon and a plastic lid from the kitchen cupboard. As long as everything you provide can safely be mouthed there are many everyday items she can be offered to help amuse her for short periods.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

My son, who is almost eight months old, is making no attempt to crawl yet. Should I be concerned about this and is there anything I can do to encourage him? He sits quite well on his own, but has never really enjoyed being on his tummy.

I appreciate that, once he is crawling, a few changes will have to take place around the home to prevent accidents. What things should I be aware of?

You can find ways to encourage your son to crawl, but only when he is physically ready to do so. Crawling is a milestone, which comes once sitting alone has been mastered, and usually occurs between six and ten months, although some babies may be nearer their first birthday before they learn. Each baby is different and will develop at his own rate. If you are concerned about how your son is progressing generally, do discuss your thoughts with your health visitor or doctor.

Some babies miss out the crawling stage completely, learning to pull themselves up to standing and then cruising while holding on to the furniture. Others may learn to move around in other ways, such as “bum shuffling” and a commando type crawl on their stomachs, using their arms to propel themselves forward rather than the conventional idea of crawling on all fours.

Spending time on their tummies is recommended for babies to help strengthen neck and back muscles in preparation for sitting, crawling and, eventually, walking. It is a good idea to allow your baby to spend time on his tummy on a daily basis from an early age, although some babies do not enjoy this position as much as others. A baby will not normally get into the crawling position from his tummy when first learning this skill; he is more likely to move himself from a seated position on to all fours. He will do this by placing his hands in front of him and gradually learning to take his weight on to them.

Once he has mastered how to get up on all fours, he needs to learn how to move himself forward. To begin with, once in this position, he may rock forward and back for a while until he begins to move. Sometimes frustration sets in, as he instinctively knows that if he could only figure out “how” he would be able to move and get to places he would like to explore.

Some babies may have problems with getting back out from the all fours position for a while, not knowing how to get back to sitting again. Others, much to their frustration and annoyance, may find out how to move their hands and legs only to discover they are going backwards rather than forwards. In time, all these problems do resolve themselves and your baby will eventually learn how to propel himself forward with ease and dexterity.

To encourage your son’s development, provide him with plenty of opportunities to practice and perfect his sitting skills. Place toys to one side of him and a little way in front. This will encourage him to reach out and twist from side to side, developing his balance and continuing to strengthen the muscles in his spine.

Spend a little time each day sitting in front of him and holding out a toy that interests him. Hold it just beyond his reach to encourage him in leaning forwards but still keeping his balance as he reaches out to grab it. Be ready for any topples by playing on a carpeted surface.

Once he has mastered getting on to all fours, you can encourage the next stage by placing a toy just in front of him. Ask him to reach out and get it. By moving the toy slightly out of his reach he will probably attempt to move towards it somehow. This again can be a source of frustration for some babies, but bear with it as the more practice he has, the quicker he will work out what he needs to do. Try short spells throughout the day and then move him to another activity before frustration sets in. While going through this phase your baby may need more attention and plenty of sympathy from you.

Once he has started to move, find one or two toys that will reward him by lighting up or playing a tune when he reaches them. He may also enjoy chasing after a ball rolled in front of him. If you really want to amuse him, get down on all fours and let him chase you. This game is often enjoyed by fathers and can develop into a simple hide and seek behind chairs and doors.

You will need to think carefully about any childproofing measures before your baby is fully mobile. It is sensible to provide him with space where he will be able to explore safely, yet without causing damage or coming to harm. This will mean removing any lamps with trailing wires, covering electrical sockets, removing tablecloths and any light items of furniture that he could pull over on to himself. There are many helpful products available, such as cupboard locks, video and toilet locks, door stoppers which will prevent him from shutting a door on himself and safety film for glass topped tables or glazed internal doors. You will need to consider where to fit stair gates, which can also be used between rooms such as the kitchen and his play area, to prevent accidents happening. By law you must protect any open fires with fixed fireguards. Moving books and CDs to a higher place and putting his own toys and books within reach from the floor will all help him have a safe and fun place to explore once he is crawling.

Crawling is one more stage in your baby’s development towards being independent and it will open up a new world of possibilities for him. And once mobile, your baby will be free to explore his surroundings without relying on you to provide him with playthings.