Your 38 Week Old Baby
Your 38 week old baby (who is now nine months old) is a charming bundle of excitement, who’s enjoying life with enthusiasm for everything – as long as you aren’t far away!
He loves to play with his voice and the sounds he can create, so don’t be startled if he growls like a bear or squeals like a pig – he will feel quite proud.
He will enjoy having simple stories read to him; board books that feature different animals and sounds will be a big favourite.
Sleep might not seem high on his list of priorities right now and sometimes this leaves him tired and grumpy.
His interest in breastfeeds might vary, depending on what else is of interest, and if he isn’t crawling out of sight, keeping you on your toes, he is firmly stuck in your arms, refusing to go anywhere else. Your contrary 38 week old baby is developing faster than he can keep up with sometimes, and he can’t always decide between adventure and security.
Feeding Your 38 Week Old Baby
You might be wondering whether you should still be offering milk feeds before solids, or whether it’s time to swap around.
The answer depends on how you have approached introducing solids – whether your baby is mostly formula or breastfed – and what your plans for weaning are.
Babies who are introduced to solids around six months, as recommended in The Australian Dietary Guidelines, are usually still in the learning phase at nine months. If these babies have followed the baby-led weaning approach, they have been trying a wide variety of foods and are experiencing different tastes and textures. Breastfed babies who are being cue-fed with both milk and solids will gradually increase their interest in food and you can continue to follow their lead.
If you were advised to introduce solids prematurely, perhaps with rice cereal and purees, from four months, your baby should have transitioned to finger foods and lumpier meals by 8 months. Your goal now will be to have your baby eating family meals, with a little modification, by 12 months.
If you plan to breastfeed only to 12 months, then over the next three months, you will gradually cut down on breastfeeds and replace them with water from a cup, and food at meal times. Milk from a cup can replace some breastfeeds, but avoid introducing a bottle at this time; bottles are not recommended beyond 12 months. As you replace a breastfeed, you can simply offer a meal and water instead. Once you have successfully transitioned from meal time feeds, breastfeeds associated with waking or sleep-times are usually the last to go.
Bottle fed babies should also be weaned gradually from both bottles and formula by 12 months, so nine months is a good stage to offer solids before milk. Your baby will probably be having three meals and three snacks each day, and bottle feeds tend to be given about the same times of day, so simply let him eat his fill of solids before giving his usual bottle. You can gradually make the transition, feed by feed, over a few days, to help him adjust. Avoid pushing your baby to empty the bottle; let his appetite guide you.
From 12 months, 4 to 6 serves of dairy per day are recommended. One serve = 1/2 cup or 125ml of milk or custard OR 100g tub of yoghurt OR 20g of cheese or cheese slice. Toddler formula is not necessary or recommended.
Families who plan to breastfeed into the second year or beyond can take a more relaxed approach and simply allow their baby to decide whether he wants a breastfeed before or after a meal. Breastmilk continues to meet a significant part of a baby’s nutritional requirements, and following a “Parents Provide, Babies Decide” approach will allow a relaxed transition to family foods as baby grows.
After 12 months, 500mls of breastmilk will still provide 29% of his daily energy needs, 43% of his protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements, 75% of Vitamin A requirements and 60% of Vitamin C requirements.
Sleep And Settling
You are probably finding this a very demanding stage. Your 38 week old baby is at a peak of separation anxiety and is unlikely to want to go to others to give you some space. Quite literally, he needs to be in your arms or in the baby carrier all day. If you are apart during the working day, your ‘Velcro baby’ will want to be close to you whenever you are together, even if he is happy to spend time in the arms of his preferred carer when you are apart. (She is probably experiencing the same ‘cling-on’ baby as you are!)
When you combine the disrupted sleep pattern common to babies at this age with what appear to be the ‘baby mood swings’ that seem to be part of Leap 6, you might be wondering what has happened to your confident little baby. For some babies at this age, nights can also be disturbed by what seem to be nightmares or night terrors, which makes it harder to resettle your baby both day and night.
All of these behaviours are normal, and related to physical, emotional and mental development. The stress they create for parents is also normal, although many parents fear talking about it; they worry that they have somehow caused the behaviour, or that the only support offered will be sleep training or criticism of their parenting choices.
It helps to remember that the majority of babies at this age are waking during the night, and studies have confirmed what parents know: 78% of babies aged 6 – 12 months still regularly wake at least once in the night, and 61% have at least one milk feed during the night. However, social pressure to have babies who ‘sleep through the night’ leads as many as one third of parents to lie about their infants’ real sleep behaviour.
What is sometimes referred to as the ‘9 month sleep regression’ is really just a natural change in the cyclical pattern of infant sleep, which rises and falls throughout the early years. At times of rapid growth and development, babies and toddlers wake more during the night and need parental support to resume sleep. What parents need during these stages is support and understanding from family, friends and the wider community.
Play And Development
As your 38 week old baby’s mobility increases, so does his access to things he can explore. In the world of a nine-month old baby, exploring mostly means putting everything into his mouth! And the precision he is gaining with the ‘pincer grip’ of his thumb and forefinger means even the tiniest treasures can find their way in.
This leads to a period of scrupulous supervision and monitoring of what might be on your floor. Of particular fascination is anything made of paper; your baby will quite contentedly chew on pieces of it, creating a wad of material he could choke on. Quickly scooping out, and removing with your finger, anything stored in his cheeks or stuck to the roof of his mouth will become part of your day. At the playground, watch out for pieces of bark, small stones or seed-pods and other tempting items.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to take a first aid course, which will teach you how to handle a choking situation. You simply cannot watch your baby every minute of the day or avoid all situations where he might pick up small items. Safe-guarding and supervision of play spaces will be your primary defence but knowing what to do in an emergency is just as important.
Most children out-grow the mouthing stage by 2-3 years of age, older children will often be tempted by curiosity, and people of all ages can accidentally choke on food. By being prepared, you will know how to act.
As your baby’s first teeth steadily make their appearance around this time, you might wonder what effect – if any – breastfeeding might have on his future health. Do you need to worry about continuing to breastfeed to sleep? Find out everything you need to know in our article Breastfeeding And Cavities – 5 Facts Worth Knowing.