Your eight-month-old will certainly be keeping you busy as she explores and becomes increasingly mobile, engaging in more advanced exchanges and interactive play.
There is a lot to look forward to and enjoy this month!
Feeding and sleeping
At eight months old, babies need on average around 14-15 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, including two naps per day – usually a shorter one in the morning and a longer one in the afternoon. While some babies may sleep for 8-12 hours straight without waking during the night, there is no need to be concerned if your baby does not. Aside from being exhausting for you, all babies are different and many still wake in the night when teething, hungry or uncomfortable. More than one in four babies do not sleep through regularly until they are over a year old. A good habit to get into is laying your baby down in her cot when she is drowsy but still awake, then leaving the room. If you need to return to settle her, try patting, returning her dummy if she has one, or singing soothing lullabies without picking her up.
Your baby will still need around three milk feeds per day, and this will be supplemented by solid foods, ideally those rich in iron and vitamins. Continue to introduce her to new things, varying the texture of the foods she has already tried and enjoyed, and encouraging her to feed herself wherever possible. Try offering the foods she does not seem to like more than once, as she may take several exposures to a particular food before deciding she quite likes it. Sitting down and eating with her will encourage healthy eating habits and positive associations around mealtimes, supporting her social development.
At this age, your little one will likely often enjoy throwing food on the floor instead of eating it, delighting in seeing you pick it up again. Frustrating as it is, your baby’s brain is working a few things out – cause and effect (I drop the carrot stick and mum picks it up) and object permanence (I cannot see the carrot stick but there it is again). These are all part of your baby’s brain development and are fascinating really!
Your GP or health visitor will also be able to advise if you are worried about your baby’s feeding pattern and weight gain.
Your baby’s communicative skills will be expanding by the day and she will likely use a range of sounds, facial expressions, and hand signals to let you know what she wants. Sounds resembling real words such as ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ may also make an appearance this month if they have not already. Babies vary hugely in what they can do at this age though, so do not worry if your little one is still babbling, and you cannot distinguish any ‘words’. Keep talking to her and she will talk back in her own time.
Around this age, it is common for babies to become a little shy around unfamiliar people and clingy with parents – this is a normal part of your baby’s social development. She may also become increasingly attached to a comforter or cuddly toy to help soothe and settle her, particularly when you are not around.
Senses and physical development
Your baby’s vision is now pretty much as good as it will get. She will likely be able to follow a small moving object and gesture towards it, even attempting to pick it up.
She will be working hard on her motor skills, perhaps crawling this month, and bearing weight on her legs with more confidence. Her ability to pick up small objects using her thumb and forefinger – the pincer grip – will be also improving. Your baby may be able to hold a cup to drink and might let go of a toy intentionally to hand it to somebody. Again, all babies are different, and some will not crawl just yet or may go straight to walking.
Playing with your eight-month-old
At eight-months-old, there are a lot of fun games you can play together to encourage and support your baby’s development. Games such as turn-taking and passing a toy backwards and forwards to each other, trying out the baby swings in your local park, and placing different sized items in front of your baby to encourage her to reach forward, crawl forward and pick them up are all excellent for this purpose.
When playing peek-a-boo games, ask your little one where certain items are in the room to encourage her to seek them out and gesture towards them. For example, ‘where is daddy?’ or ‘where is the dog?’
Continue to support your baby’s social and communication skills using lots of ‘chat’ – narrate your day, describe the workings of objects to your little one, and explain the differences between items. For example, ‘this block is blue, and that block is red’ or ‘the sheep says “baa”, the cow says “moo”. Spending time together singing songs, dancing, and reading books will also be very enjoyable for you both.
While the above indicates what you can expect to see your baby going this month, it is important to keep in mind that all babies are unique and will develop at their own pace. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, talk to your doctor or health visitor.
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett