9-Month-Old Baby: Life’s a Party With Finger Food!
Your baby is getting more and more mobile, perhaps even crawling by now — and you couldn’t be more proud of the progress she is making. There are so many things happening this month, including improvements in your baby’s ability to eat solids and the way she can use her fingers. Read on to find out more about the development milestones to look out for when it comes to your 9-month-old baby, and the kinds of eating and sleeping habits you might experience at this stage.
Baby Development Milestones
By this stage you know exactly how much your baby enjoys playtime – especially if it’s with you! And you’ll have seen how much she’s growing and changing. There is no hard and fast rule about what a 9-month-old baby should be doing at this stage, but these are some of the development milestones you might notice around this time:
Growth and Physical Development: Does Your Baby’s Belly Stick Out?
All babies grow at their own rate. At your next healthcare visit, your baby’s provider will track your 9-month-old baby’s weight, length, and head circumference using the baby growth charts to make sure her growth is on track. Read more about how baby growth charts are used.
When your baby begins standing (whether it’s now or in the next few months), you might notice that her belly and bottom both stick out a little. This posture might look a little odd, but it's perfectly normal for this stage of development. Her alignment will correct itself when she’s more confident at balancing — probably during her second year.
Senses: Let Your Baby Follow Her Nose
At this stage, all of your baby's senses help her learn about her world. To help your baby explore her sense of smell, introduce her to many new and different scents. For example, go outside and let her smell flowers or fresh-cut grass. Let her take in the odors of various types of foods, objects, and materials you find indoors, too. Just make sure whatever you introduce is safe for her to smell.
Movement: Picking Up New Experiences!
Around this time your baby might figure out how to roll onto her tummy from a seated position and get back up again. All of these motions are strengthening her muscles in preparation for eventually being able to walk. Your baby may now be crawling or doing something similar like scooting on her bottom or slithering on her tummy. Keep in mind: some babies skip crawling altogether, while others master it a little later on.
Your baby’s hand and finger skills are also coming along. For example, she will probably have mastered the raking grasp, meaning she's able to reach out and pull objects toward her. Now, she’s working on developing what’s called the pincer movement or the pincer grasp — the ability to pick up and hold things between her thumb and forefinger. She probably isn’t quite there yet, but she’s gaining better control of her fingers and hands as she plays with objects and begins to feed herself. She’ll pick things up, shake them, bang them, and throw them, delighting in the noise she’s making as items crash to the floor. For this reason, too, make sure what she has to play with is safe and unbreakable.
Cognitive Development: Life’s Simple Pleasures
Your baby has a very short attention span and may only be interested in playing with a toy for two or three minutes before wanting the next fascinating object. You don’t need to buy brand-new toys for your 9-month-old baby, though. She’s just as happy with basic household items like a cereal box or a plastic tub. The key may be this: Your baby will enjoy playing with things that are just a little different from what she already knows and is familiar with. In fact, if something is too new and different she might feel frightened or overwhelmed by it. So, as an example, if your little one loves playing with a cereal box you could put a ball in it or add a string to it so that she can pull the box along.
Another of life’s simple pleasures for your baby could be the humble mirror. While in past months she may not have been able to recognize her own reflection (perhaps she perceived it to be another baby or simply a magic show) now she might be reacting to her own reflection in a way that indicates she knows that it’s her. For example, while looking in the mirror she may grab a strand of hair or try to rub something off her chin. Reinforce this “self-image” by playing with her in front of the mirror: Touch different parts of her body and name them or make different facial expressions and tell her what kind of face you’re making.
Have you noticed how perceptive she is? At 9 months old your baby can read the emotions on your face. That being the case, try to keep strong negative emotions at bay; instead, provide her with consistent and warm contact, so that she feels secure and loved, not overwhelmed and upset.
How to Support Your Baby’s Development
Here are some tips and strategies for promoting your baby's healthy growth and development at this stage:
Spend time on the floor playing with your baby. If your baby is already crawling, one fun idea is to create an obstacle course with pillows, boxes, and cushions for her to crawl over and between. Dangle an enticing object just beyond her reach to coax her into crawling toward it.
Wait before offering help. Knowing when to help your child and when to let her figure out how to do something for herself is a tricky balance. Say she’s playing with a toy, but it rolls under a pillow, do you help her get it out or let her try? If you can tell she’s frustrated, then perhaps help her, but if she sees it as a challenge and is still working on retrieving it, then let her keep trying.
Help your baby improve her finger skills by giving her safe toys with moving parts that change as she handles them. Ideas include toys that stack like building blocks, floating, squeezable bath toys like a rubber duck, or push-pull toys like a little wooden train.
Give your baby the chance to meet other babies and their parents, but also be aware that she may feel uncomfortable around new people. Give her time to warm up to new people and situations.
Feeding Your 9-Month-Old Baby
Around this time, around half of your baby’s daily calories might come from baby food, with about the other half coming from breast milk or formula.
When your baby is about 9 months old, she may be able to help herself to finger food. Good options include small pieces of steamed vegetables or soft banana. You could also offer her a small spoon with a little yogurt on it so that she can try to move it toward her mouth. Much of the food will end up on the table or floor, so don’t expect her to be able to feed herself a complete meal just yet. Always supervise your baby when she’s trying to eat and don’t give her big chunks of food, or any small hard foods; at this stage, she may swallow without chewing and bigger pieces can be a choking hazard.
Here’s an example of a daily menu for your 9-month-old including both baby food and breast milk or formula. It also gives you an idea of approximately how much baby food to give your 9-month-old.
How Much Sleep Does a 9-Month-Old Baby Need?
Nine-month-old babies typically sleep about 10 to 12 hours at night, and take about two naps during the day, usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon. By this stage your baby probably won’t be needing a middle-of-the-night feed, but may wake up at night if she feels anxious about where you are. She might suck her thumb to cope or snuggle with a comfort item such as a small blanket. But, if you hear her cry, go to her and reassure her that all is well. Of course, you should always check that your baby is comfortable and not sick, but if everything seems OK, resist taking her to your bed or turning on the light. The key is to calmly and consistently reassure her that you’ll be there if she needs you, and slowly teach her that she can sleep peacefully without worrying that you’re not there.
A Day in the Life of Your Baby
A typical 9-month-old baby’s daily schedule could include sleeping, feeding, bathing, and playing. Here’s just one example of what a day in your baby’s life might look like:
Your Baby’s Health: Tips for Fun in the Sun
Sun protection is crucial for your baby’s skin. In the warmer months it’s natural to want to go outside with your baby, but too much time in the sun can damage skin. In fact, harmful UV rays can cause damage even in the cooler months, so these sun protection tips are important to follow year-round:
Aim to keep your baby out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it’s at its strongest.
Dress your baby in lightweight cotton clothes that cover much of the skin. Think long sleeves and long pants.
Use a beach umbrella as shade when playing outside and pull the shade cover down on the stroller during walks.
Pop a wide-brimmed hat on your baby.
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on your baby's skin about half an hour before you head outside. Reapply it at least every two hours.
If your baby does get sunburned, help ease the discomfort by placing a cool washcloth on the affected area and then by moisturizing the skin. Burns that blister may need medical attention, so ask your healthcare provider for advice. Read more about treating sunburn here.
Along with sun protection and skin care, other common health concerns you might want to know about now or in the future include whooping cough and middle ear infections.
Whooping cough. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a bacterial infection that results in inflamed airways. It causes severe coughing that may have a “whooping” sound, particularly in older children. Babies in their first year are at the greatest risk of whooping cough developing into something more severe, so prompt medical care is required. Contact your baby’s healthcare provider right away if your baby develops a cough that becomes more severe or if he becomes exhausted after coughing. Also contact your provider ASAP if your baby is short of breath, if he has bluish lips or fingertips, or if he drools or vomits from coughing. Follow the healthcare provider’s treatment plan, keeping in mind it may be a few weeks or even months before the cough clears.
Middle ear infections. Two-thirds of all children come down with an ear infection by the time they are 2 years old. At 9 months old your baby can’t tell you with words that his ear hurts, but he might show you in other ways. For example, he may cry during feedings because sucking and swallowing causes pain in his middle ear. He may also have trouble sleeping or develop a fever. You might see blood-tinged fluid or pus come from the infected ear. Or you might notice he doesn’t seem to hear as well. Middle ear infections are most common during the cooler months. Contact your baby’s healthcare provider if you suspect a problem. The provider will suggest a treatment plan, which may include antibiotics. If your baby is prescribed antibiotics, ensure he takes the whole course and don’t stop giving the medication even if your baby seems better.
FAQs at a Glance
What can I give my 9-month-old to eat? About half of your baby's daily calories should come from breast milk or formula, and the rest might come from solids. Nine-month-old babies can eat things like:
pureed fruits and vegetables
small pieces of steamed veggies
small pieces of soft fruits such as banana
well-cooked whole-grain pasta
small pieces of whole-grain bread
small pieces of chicken
whole grain cereals
What are good finger foods for a 9-month-old? Nine-month-old babies may start trying to eat with their fingers, an important step in the journey toward self-feeding. Good finger food ideas include steamed veggies, soft fruits, pasta, chicken, and bits of scrambled egg. Babies at this age may try to swallow food whole, so make sure the food is soft and cut into small pieces so that it doesn't present a choking hazard.
Can babies start walking at 9 months old? Many babies typically take their first few steps when they are about 1 year old. But some babies learn to walk a little earlier or later.
How many naps does a 9-month-old baby need? Nine-month-old babies typically have two naps a day. One mid-morning, another mid-afternoon.
Your Life as a Parent: How to Plan a Baby-Friendly Vacation
Are you thinking about a family trip? You might feel anxious about traveling with a baby in tow, but this is completely doable — and lots of fun! Here are some tips to make your trip a success:
Choose a destination that's relaxing and safe, so you feel less overwhelmed. It may help to go somewhere you’ve been before and feel comfortable with.
Don’t create a jam-packed itinerary. Instead, add lots of down time and rest to your vacation plans.
Think about where your baby will sleep. Will you use a portable bed? If so, it may help to let him have a few naps in it before you head off so he has a chance to get used to it.
Try to mimic home in the ways you can. For example, perhaps follow a similar daily routine or take your baby’s favorite toy to give him comfort.
Pack lots of baby wipes. They’re useful for cleaning hands and cheeks, as well as cleaning public places where you may want to change your baby.
Take a look at this guide about what to pack in your diaper bag. Have extras of things like clothes, diapers, snacks, and water.
If you’re going on a plane, read this article on flying with a baby for great ideas on tackling this with your baby.
Even though it’s easier said than done, try to stay calm. If you take on an easygoing attitude and you’re having a good time, your baby will be more likely to do the same.