The 12th month: Happy Birthday

by Don Bower

It's hard to believe that this is the 12th month and your child, now a highly individual person, was a tiny, helpless infant only one year ago. Many developments have taken place, but many more are yet to come!

Baby's Development

One small step for baby, but one BIG leap in development! Your baby may take her first steps, unsupported, this month. If not, she probably will within the next four months. From then on, her world and yours will never be the same.

Expect some of these physical developments also:

  • Needs about 12 hours sleep, but may resist it
  • Can pick up small objects
  • Can throw or roll a ball
  • Has an average of six teeth
  • May climb out of playpen or crib
  • May undress herself alone
  • Can hold a large crayon and draw on large paper
  • Does your baby delight in bringing you objects asked for? The ability to understand simple requests is an important mental development. Not only is baby's understanding improving, but so is her ability to express herself. Many babies can say up to eight different words now. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to know what baby means by a word. For example, "baby" could mean "I see another baby" or "I want you to pick me up." Helping baby use gestures as she talks will help you understand. Her uplifted arms would certainly indicate what she means by "baby."

    Limit your instructions to one at a time. A 1-year-old may not remember several directions at once, so she may do the one she likes best or the last thing you say.

    Baby's Health

    Sleeping may well be a problem for baby now, too. To help your baby relax at night, try spending a little extra time at bedtime preparing for sleep. Rocking your baby and singing or reading to her in a dimly lit room may have the needed soothing effect.

    Baby may resist her nap now, but it is certainly still important. A late morning or early afternoon nap (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is often a good solution. Late afternoon naps tend to leave babies with too much energy at bedtime. A morning nap often leaves them cranky in the afternoon. Children often nap better after a light lunch, but a mid-afternoon snack will be needed when they awaken.

    Remember that more vaccinations are due now, so check with your doctor or health department.

    Parent-Baby Learning Games

    A very simple version of hide-and-seek makes a fun game now. Baby has learned that objects are permanent and don't disappear when hidden. So take an object and show it to baby. Let baby see you hide it, then let her find it. Praise her, and hide it again. Hide it in more than one place, but, at this stage, always let baby see you hide it.

    Baby's Food

    Is your baby having feeding problems? That's not unusual now. Your baby is either walking now or mustering up the strength and courage to do so. This takes time and concentration, and eating just has to wait! Although you should always check with your doctor, many babies switch from formula to whole milk at 1 year of age (lower-fat milk is not recommended for infants). Switch from the bottle to the cup at the same time.

    Your baby will probably eat three small meals a day. She will wake up hungry and breakfast is very important. She is probably uninterested in new foods, so for now offer the standards you're sure she likes. Some babies eat less because they anticipate having a bottle at the end of the meal. Try delaying the bottle until one to two hours after the meal so your baby will not associate the two. She may eat better with this schedule. Try not to become overly concerned. Most feeding problems work themselves out with time.

    Also, your baby's growth is slowing down. You will soon notice a decrease in the amount your baby eats. She needs fewer calories. Forcing food may cause your child to eat more than she needs -- and later develop a weight problem.

    Baby's Temperament

    Baby may still be full of "no's" and resistant to your desires. But your baby probably has a good sense of humor and is more affectionate now. Your baby needs a great deal of emotional support. One-year-olds often become afraid of separation from their parents and of new faces and places. Extra comforting is needed, so baby will feel secure.

    Many parents become sensitive to criticism from their parents, friends and relatives at this time and may be tempted not to "spoil" their baby with extra attention. It is best to remember that you know your baby and her needs better than anyone else. Consider other people's comments but don't let their criticism change the nurturing you give your baby. Many experts believe that it is impossible to give an infant too much love, hugs, attention and caring. At this stage in a baby's life, she needs to know that you can always be counted on to respond to her needs.

    Babies who don't receive consistent nurturing at this age tend to have problems relating to other people later on. Do what you know is best for your child.


    Would you believe that this is a marvelous time to teach swimming? As babies learn to walk, most exhibit a swimming type of motion in the bathtub. One-year-olds are usually unafraid to dunk their heads below the water's surface, so it is usually very easy to teach them basic swimming at this age.

    However, you must continue swimming with your baby regularly, or she will "forget" how to swim. In fact, when she reaches the age of 2 or 3, she might begin to fear the water if she has not been swimming regularly. There is a risk that some babies may swallow too much water while learning, so consider enrolling in an infant swim class in your area.

    Babies should never be forced into the water if they don't find it enjoyable. Check with your baby's doctor before starting infant swimming, especially if ear infections have been a problem.

    A Final Word on Discipline

    Actually, a final TWO words: consistency and encouragement. If you are consistent in your disciplinary techniques, your child will know what to expect and can adjust herself more readily. She will learn more quickly and will feel more secure when you are consistent. Think before you set limits. When you do set limits, enforce them.

    Encouragement probably produces a better result than any other type of guidance. When your child is "good," do you tend to get all the little chores done that you can't when she's misbehaving? Maybe she is asking for some time with you. Try leaving the chores undone for awhile and encouraging your child's desirable behavior. When "bad" behavior is ignored and good behavior gets positive attention, the inappropriate behavior often ends.

    Copyright © Don Bower. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.