Your 39 Week Old Baby
Your 39 week old baby (or nine month old if you prefer) has now spent as long outside the womb as in it, and those days of enclosure are far from her current experience of an ever-expanding environment.
In the final quarter of her first year, she will strive for upright mobility: standing and walking. Language and communication are also increasingly important.
Your 39 week old baby understands a lot more than you would expect, so chat with her as you go through your day. Tell her what you are doing and where you are going; you are laying down a vocabulary she will recognise and begin to use in her second year.
Bath, bed, food, drink … these are simple building blocks which structure your baby’s day. She will begin to enjoy simple picture books showing familiar items and she’ll listen as you name them. But mostly, for now, gross motor development is her priority – sitting, crawling, and learning to stand and cruise along furniture, are all favourites at this stage.
Feeding Your 39 Week Old Baby
Breastfeeding a nine-month old baby can be hard work. You might find your baby is distracted and fussy at the breast during the day, with an increasing number of breastfeeds during the night. Some babies at this age refuse, or show aversion to the breast, often related to a sore mouth from erupting upper teeth.
Your baby might be practising her pincer-grip, by pinching the skin of your breast, chest or neck while feeding – sometimes leaving you with red blotches! A breastfeeding necklace can be a useful distraction for busy hands at this stage. Hair pulling, nose poking and other interaction can leave you craving a bit of personal space, and feed times can sometimes seem like hard work.
Nipple twiddling can begin to appear at this stage – something you’ll want to discourage from the start.
It can help to understand these are all developmentally related behaviours, and bottle-fed babies often display them too. Babies at this age are so active, they can’t easily lie still and simply feed. You might find your baby is also distracted during meal times, and less interested in actually eating, than in playing with the food or utensils. You might even be worried your baby isn’t eating enough.
Think back to how you looked at feeding in the early days: it is the daily intake that matters, not how often or how long each feed lasts. Your very efficient older baby can swallow large mouthfuls of milk now, very quickly, and to a surprising volume. Long, leisurely feeds at night help make up for any shortfall, and increased night waking is a great way to catch up.
In terms of solids, it is important to keep in mind that milk is still the primary source of nutrition, and only small amounts of additional food are needed. Continuing the approach of “Parents Provide and Babies Decide” will be reassuring, going into the toddler years, when all children go through highs and lows of eating.
Sleep And Settling
If your 39 week old baby sleeps in a cot, yet another disruption to night sleep might soon present itself: many babies are better at pulling themselves up to standing than they are at sitting down again. Your baby might decide to practise standing in her cot when she wakes at night but will call out for your help when she feels ‘stuck’. There is nothing you can do to prevent this, so you can expect to help your baby through this stage until she can sit herself down again. Games and activities in waking hours to help her practise can shorten this frustrating stage.
It is important that any sleeping bags or other bedding allow your baby to stand safely. Once she becomes upright, she will stand in her cot before and after she sleeps and, once she moves to ‘cruising’ around sideways, holding onto the cot railing, she needs to be able to do so without her feet getting tangled in bedding.
Bed-sharing babies, and those who sleep in a side-car cot alongside the parents’ bed, seem less likely to get into this situation, possibly because their parents are able to intervene before they stand, or because they are distracted by the breast being immediately available. These babies are more likely to pull themselves up on – or crawl over – their parents in the night, if they decide it’s playtime!
Discouraging night-time play can be a challenge, especially if your baby becomes fully awake before you do. Keeping lights low, and using soft voices and white noise, perhaps as you did in the early days, can remind your baby that night-time is not playtime. A rhythmic story or lullaby might help your active baby to wind down to a sleep state again.
Play And Development
Around nine months, you will start to see your baby develop new control in her upper body and her shoulders. Until now, her arm movements have been mostly hinge-like, up and down motions. You will notice her new skill of rotating her shoulders as she moves her arms into just the right position to drop her food or toys from the side of her high-chair. She will also enjoy swiping the tray clear of everything with a side-to-side sweeping motion. While these games are frustrating for you, as your baby discards carefully prepared food and clean utensils, she is not intentionally throwing them aside, rather she is practising her newest mobility skill.
Less frustratingly, she might start to greet you with arms raised when she wants to be picked up, and show early comprehension of raising her arms as you dress her. If you are putting your baby into a baby carrier, you might find she now prefers arms out, rather than tucked in.
You might also be seeing the early signs of your baby agreeing or disagreeing: head shaking and nodding are natural movements that she will gradually associate with ‘yes’ and ‘no’. You can play games to encourage this connection – including baby sign language, if you are teaching this as well. Communication becomes easier as concepts and movements like these come together – although you might not always like the answers you are given!
With separation anxiety coming to a peak at around this age, games like peek-a-boo can help your baby remember you are still there, even when she can’t see you. It takes a while for some babies to grasp the concept of object permanence, and learning through play will help her understand it better. If you get stuck for play ideas, here is one variation on peek-a-boo to play with your 39 week old baby.
Many adults find reading to babies and toddlers awkward; and some even feel silly. Can a baby really comprehend what is going on? The answer is YES. Reading to babies is also an important beginning for literacy, and it is never too early to start. Find out more here: Reading To Your Kids Impacts Brain Function, Study Finds.