Your Baby: Months 9-12


  • At this stage of development, parenting is about setting limits and keeping your increasingly mobile baby safe without hindering healthy exploration and learning. It’s a delicate balance. Begin setting limits by using distractions, removing the object from the baby’s sight or removing the baby from the object. Say “no” firmly, but don’t yell.
  • Never use spanking as a form of discipline. Even a “little” smack on the hand can send the wrong message, making your baby question your love for him or his safety. If you get frustrated or angry with your baby, put him in his crib or playpen for a couple of minutes until you calm down. Your baby will realize he has done something wrong. 
  • Consistent guidance is very important. The more consistent you are, the faster your baby will learn the limits you set to keep him safe.
  • Keep up a constant chatter with your 9-month-old child. Talking to him while dressing, bathing, feeding, playing, walking and driving encourages speech and language development.
  • Encourage play with age-appropriate toys. Babies like bouncing, swinging, reaching for you, picking up and dropping objects, and banging things together. Plastic measuring cups, large wooden spoons, pots, pans and plastic containers make great toys.
  • Separation anxiety may make it more difficult – and heartbreaking – for you to leave your 9-month-old with grandparents or a babysitter, but it really is important for you and your partner to have time away from the baby. You need a breather, and your baby needs the opportunity to learn that sometimes you do go away, but you always come back.

Woman consoling baby

Begin setting limits by focusing on safety

There’s a pretty simple way to know when it’s time to start setting limits. Your baby will let you know. Does your baby look to see if you are watching him? If so, he is telling you he needs to know what is okay and what isn’t. It doesn’t mean he won’t do it anyway, but he just wants to know.

  • Introduce the word “no” only for safety issues. If your child hears “no” too often, the word will not have any meaning for him. Let him know that what he is about to do (or is doing) is unsafe.
  • Distract or redirect your child from unsafe objects or activities and childproof your home.
  • Use nonverbal communication. A stern look or a “thumbs-up” can communicate a lot to your child.
  • Don’t set your child up to fail. Taking an overtired or fussy baby to the grocery store or shopping mall is asking for trouble. Plan outings for times you know your baby will be at his best, maybe mid-morning or right after nap time.
  • Create consequences that relate to the bad behavior. For example, if your child is screaming for attention, remove him from the situation until he is able to calm down. Then take him back and try it again.
  • Make consequences immediate. Threatening or delaying consequences until a later time confuses babies and young children. When too much time lapses between a behavior and its consequence, children may not know which behavior they are being punished for or what they should do next time.


Early learning

Words, sounds, storybooks, songs and nursery rhymes are the building blocks of literacy that help children learn to read and write. Even if children don’t understand what words mean, there is great value in hearing them spoken. 

  • Read or tell stories together every day, starting at birth.
  • Teach new words anytime you can. Talking to your child about what you see around you and what you are doing encourages him to speak too.
  • Add songs and rhymes into all of your routines.
  • Ask questions and watch for your child’s responses. From day one, ask your child “where” and “what” questions whenever you can.
  • Use play to introduce language. Give your child books, musical instruments and other toys. Interacting with your child in a playful way makes learning fun.



By the end of 9 months, your baby should be able to:

  • Baby standing up in cribInch, crawl and otherwise get around the room. 
  • Pull up on the bed or on furniture and begin “cruising” around the room.
  • Respond to his own name.
  • Understand a few words such as “no-no” and “bye-bye.”
  • Understand certain concepts – for example, your child will retrieve a toy after he watches you put it under a blanket.
  • Sit independently.
  • Bang two toys together.
  • Play interactive games well such as peekaboo and pat-a-cake.
  • Use fingers and thumb to poke and pick up smaller and smaller objects.
  • Sleep through the night except for an occasional night wakening.

If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s doctor. 

As a parent, you know your child best. If your child is not meeting the milestones for his age, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks or acts, talk to your child’s doctor and share your concerns. Don’t wait.


Eating right 

You will be adding more solid foods to your baby’s diet throughout this period. Nutrition will always be a critical factor in your baby’s growth and development.

  • Couple eating breakfast with babyBreast milk or iron-fortified formula should continue to be part of your baby’s diet for the first year.
  • Feeding should be on a routine schedule that coincides with the family meal times.
  • Continue introducing new solid foods, starting with fruits, cooked yellow vegetables, cooked green vegetables and then meats. Your baby will let you know how much he wants.
  • Your baby may begin showing preferences for some foods. 
  • Encourage your baby to use a cup. Be prepared for messes. 
  • Avoid giving foods that can cause choking, such as peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs or sausages, carrot sticks, celery sticks, whole grapes, raisins, corn, whole beans, hard candy, large pieces of raw vegetables, fruit or tough meat. Learn the proper emergency procedures for choking.
  • If there is a strong family history of food allergies, limit or avoid highly allergic foods such as eggs, strawberries, chocolate and seafood until later.
  • If you are breastfeeding, continue giving supplemental Vitamin D if recommended by your baby’s doctor and fluoride supplements if your water supply is not fluoridated.


Food safety

Food-borne infectious diseases can be a concern as you add solid foods to your baby’s diet. 

Do not feed your baby:

  • Unpasteurized milk or milk products such as cheese.
  • Unpasteurized juices.
  • Raw or undercooked meat or eggs.
  • Raw shelled nuts. 
  • Seed sprouts.
  • Honey.

Weaning your baby from breast to bottle 

Because breast milk has the right balance of nutrients and boosts your baby’s immune system, experts recommend breastfeeding through the first year. You’ll have to make the decision about weaning from breast to bottle based on what’s best for you and your baby.

Weaning often happens naturally at 6 months of age when children begin gradually turning away from breast milk in favor of a wider variety of solid foods. Other children may not show that they are ready for weaning until they are too active to sit still during breastfeeding.

You may decide when it’s time. It may be more difficult than following your child’s lead, but with a little extra love, it can be done. Remember that breastfeeding isn’t just about nutrition to your child; it’s also a source of comfort and attachment.

Woman comforting babyConsider delaying weaning if:

  • Food allergies run in the family. 
  • Your baby isn’t feeling well or is teething.
  • You’re not feeling well. You and your child are more likely to handle the transition if you’re both in good physical and emotional health.
  • There are major changes going on, such as a recent move or a change in child care. 

Getting started

The key to a successful weaning (for you and your baby) is to take it slowly. Eliminate one breastfeeding session a day for several days a week. As you taper off the number of times you breastfeed, your milk supply will gradually diminish. If you begin weaning when your child is a newborn, apply ice packs to your breasts to help slow milk production.

Children associate breastfeeding with comfort. Try to figure out when your child seems to need less comforting. If it’s midday, drop the midday breastfeeding session. You might choose to wean your baby from breast milk during the day but continue breastfeeding at night. It’s up to you and your child. 

Nutrition after weaning

If you wean your child before age 1:

  • Substitute iron-fortified formula for breast milk. 
  • Ask your child’s doctor to recommend a formula. 
  • Don’t give your child cow’s milk until after his first birthday. 

Baby’s first bottle

If you’re introducing your child to a bottle for the first time:

  • Do it when your child isn’t extremely hungry. He’ll have more patience. 
  • Ask another caregiver to introduce the bottle. Some children refuse a bottle when the breast is available. 
  • Choose a “slow-flow” bottle nipple at first. The slow flow from the bottle will be more like breastfeeding.
  • Switch later to a “fast-flow” nipple if your baby becomes frustrated with the slower flow of breastfeeding and wants the bottle instead. 
  • You can wean your child to a bottle and then a cup or, if your child seems ready, go directly to a cup.

Weaning can take days, weeks or months. Avoid the urge to rush the weaning process; it could be upsetting for your child and cause your breasts to become needlessly engorged.

Child with sippy cup

Weaning from bottle to cup 

When you think your baby may be ready to wean from a bottle to a cup:

  • Begin skipping a bottle feeding every five to seven days.
  • Put breast milk or formula in your baby’s sippy cup.
  • Put a little more breast milk or formula in your baby’s cup and a little less in his bottle each time you feed him. 
  • Put the liquids he likes best (juice, breast milk, etc.) in the sippy cup and the ones he likes least (water) in his bottle.
  • Always offer your baby the sippy cup first, not the breast or bottle unless he rejects the cup.
  • To prevent your baby from getting too attached to his bottle, don’t let him crawl, walk around or go to bed with it. Try replacing nighttime feedings with new bonding opportunities, like reading, going for a stroll or looking at the stars together.
  • Some children naturally turn away from the bottle or breast once they’re eating three solid meals most days. So if your baby continues resisting the cup, let him get comfortable with eating solid foods before you try weaning again. 


  • Mayo Clinic
  • WebMD
  • Heading Home With Your Newborn, Jennifer Shu, M.D. and Lara Jana, M.D., 2005
  • Food Fights, Jennifer Shu, M.D. and Lara Jana, M.D., 2007

Oral health 

Baby with tooth brushMany experts say children should give up the bottle completely at around age 1 and absolutely by 18 months. Studies show that when children stay on the bottle for too long, they may be at higher risk for not getting enough iron. Solid food choices offer a variety of sources for iron, which is important for development. 

  • After a meal or snack, clean your baby’s teeth using a soft cloth, gauze or brush.
  • As long as your baby is drinking from a cup, he doesn’t need a bottle. If you must give him a bottle, just put water in it.
  • At this age, nighttime feedings are not nutritionally necessary and increase the risk of tooth decay.


Between 9 and 12 months, babies’ brains do a lot of developing while they sleep. So it’s important that your baby learns to go to sleep on his own and stay asleep. By 9 months of age, most children are sleeping through the night.   

  • Put your baby to bed while he is sleepy but still awake. This teaches him how to relax on his own and go to sleep.
  • If separation anxiety causes your baby to resist going down for a nap or at bedtime, stay in his room with him, but do not talk, and do not rock or cuddle him. Just rest your hand on him until he calms down or goes to sleep.
  • Some babies may awaken during the night for short periods. If this happens, check on your baby, but keep the visit brief. Avoid talking to him, and leave the room quickly once you feel everything is OK. Your baby needs to learn that nighttime is for sleeping.
  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.


Separation anxiety 

Between 8 and 12 months of age, children often experience a period of separation anxiety where they cry or cling to you when you leave the room. Although it is extremely frustrating for parents, it represents an IMPORTANT emotional milestone. It means your child is beginning to understand that there’s only one of you, and that you still exist even when you are out of his sight. Separation anxiety usually peaks between 10 and 18 months. Most children outgrow separation anxiety by age 2.

Time has no meaning to infants and very small children, nor do they have many memories. When you leave, your child may not know when, or if, you’ll return. To ease your child’s separation anxiety:

  • Practice goodbyes. Eventually your child will learn that he can count on you to return.
  • If possible, leave when your child is fed and rested. 
  • Say goodbye and go. Encourage the caregiver to distract your child by engaging him in a new activity right away. 
  • If you’re leaving your child in a new environment, play with him for a few minutes to ease the transition. 
  • Offer your child a special blanket, stuffed animal or other comforting object to hold while you’re gone.
  • Don’t let the tears get to you; they will stop once your child is engaged in a new activity.

Remember, we want our children to be independent. If they are going to develop a healthy sense of independence, they have to go through some degree of separation anxiety. Be patient as your child learns that it’s OK to spend time away from you.


Exercise and activity   

Play is the most valuable thing your child can do.

Social benefits of play

  • Helps children form meaningful relationships
  • Teaches children communication, negotiation, cooperation and compromise
  • Helps children learn trust, friendship and love

Emotional and intellectual benefits of play

  • Helps children express feelings, develop empathy and cope with difficult situations
  • Helps children deal with emotions and feel a sense of control
  • Helps adults understand children’s feelings
  • Allows children to develop ideas and problem-solving skills
  • Fosters curiosity and creativity
  • Prepares children for school
  • Helps children make sense of the world and function successfully within it


Your child’s safety begins with you


As your child begins crawling and walking, the risk of getting into dangerous situations increases. Accidents can happen quickly, so be alert. Download the Home Safety Checklist from Arkansas Children’s Hospital at or visit the Tennessee Department of Health at, to see how your home measures up.

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