The Eighth Month: Curious and Tempermental

by Don Bower

Not only is your baby's world fascinating -- so is she! This eighth month she continues to grow, develop and change.

Baby's Development

Have you noticed that your baby understands more of what you say now? Many children at this age are beginning to associate whole ideas quite well. Because their ability to remember is also improving, some very interesting behavior can be expected this month.

Does your baby notice when something "new" appears in her room? Many 8-month-olds can now remember what an entire room looks like, so, when entering a room, your baby may go directly to a new object and start examining it.

Surprisingly, this age child is beginning to make time associations. Does your child move toward the door before Daddy comes through it at the end of the work day? Does she ever drop something and cover her ears, anticipating the sound it will make? She is developing important new thinking skills and abilities.

Watch for the Following Mental Developments:

  • Curiosity about everything
  • Imitation of you and your behavior
  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other

Your baby must learn to trust herself and her own body before she learns to crawl or stand. Many babies will begin to creep this month, and some will crawl. A few active babies may even learn to stand. Most babies will begin experimenting with standing, so here is what to expect.

Starting in a seated position, most babies will draw their knees in toward their chests and pull on a crib side or chair into a squatting type of position. They will be unsteady at this point, not quite standing or sitting. Most babies will eventually try pulling up by moving one hand over the other until they are standing at full height. This will take a while.

After standing has been accomplished, a baby must learn to sit down! This may take several weeks, and you may expect many banged heads and bottoms. You can help give your child the idea of sitting by moving her body into a sitting position as she would need to do herself.

Other Physical Developments to Expect Are:

  • Appears to dance when held in standing position. (This is the first stepping reaction.)
  • Can get into a sitting position alone and sit without support.
  • Has pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger together).

Baby's Temperament

Your baby is probably more temperamental and difficult this month than ever before. There are reasons for her behavior. Have you had difficulty getting your baby to bed and getting her to sleep through the night? Many 8-month-olds are restless. Their world is so exciting now, they simply cannot make themselves "leave" it to sleep. However, their sleep is important, so you will probably have to force the issue. These suggestions should help get your child to sleep:

  • Always put her to bed at about the same time within her routine.
  • Put her to bed in the same room and bed where she will awaken.
  • Involve her in "slow-down" (relaxation) activities such as bath time, snack time, soft music and reading.
  • Cuddle and talk with her a few minutes before sleeping time.

Routine really helps children at this stage. Many children also play a game of calling you when they don't want to sleep, whether at bedtime or after awaking in the middle of the night. Should your baby get into this habit, be firm. Even though your child may not fully understand, tell her firmly that you will not come again until morning. Lay her down, leave the room, and don't return to continue the "game." She may cry for a short time several nights, but a busy mother or father cannot afford to be up and down all night. Neither can an active baby. Be sure she is well and happy before using this routine. [Editor's note: For other methods of sleep training, see Helping Your Baby Get to Sleep.]

Does your baby cry uncontrollably when you leave her? Is she frightened and/or cold to people she has liked in the past? This can be normal now. Your baby is beginning to realize that she can be independent of you because she can now move on her own. This is a little frightening as well as exciting to her, and for the next few months she may become very dependent on you.

When she turns to you, she naturally turns away from others. When visiting with relatives, particularly grandparents, you should forewarn them that she is going through a stage of withdrawing from others. Asking them to let the baby approach them first, even if it takes several hours, may be better for all concerned. An abrupt approach can bring on a stream of tears and wails. This general rule applies from 6 months through about 3 years of age.

Your baby's dependence can be very draining on your energies at this time, but she needs to be dependent now. Soon she will be ready to become more independent, but try not to push it now.

Parent-Baby Learning Games

This is the age of imitation. Try gestures and hand movements with your baby such as pat-a-cake. If she has difficulty copying you, help her by gently moving her hands through the motions. Soon she will be able to play imitation games on her own.

Baby's Food

Most babies are now ready for strained meat and egg yolks. These foods supply protein for building and repairing muscles and other body tissue. Use the pure meats, rather than mixtures. Egg whites may cause your baby to have an allergic reaction. Delay giving egg whites until your baby is around 1 year old.

Your baby may be ready to start feeding herself. Offer foods she can pick up, like dry toast, crackers, small pieces of ripe fruit or cooked vegetables. She may even want to try using a spoon. Some foods such as nuts, whole grapes, popcorn and hot dog pieces can be a choking hazard.

Baby's Health

Do you know how to take your baby's temperature? Using a rectal thermometer, which is thicker and breaks less easily than an oral thermometer, is the safest way with babies. Other methods such as fever strips placed on the baby's forehead or ear lobe are not usually as accurate as rectal readings.

Wash off the bulb and lower part with cool, soapy water or alcohol. Shake the thermometer until the mercury falls to around 95ºF. Place your baby across your lap, face down. Gently insert the thermometer about an inch into the rectum and hold it there about three minutes. A person's temperature when they are not sick ranges from about 98.6° to 99.6°. A rectal reading is usually one degree higher than an oral (in the mouth) reading. Your baby's temperature will go up even with a slight illness, so a slight rise is nothing to worry about. However, if your baby is ill and she is running a fever, keep her comfortable, offer juice or water and call the doctor.

The rectal thermometer should be used with caution and only when necessary. Watch for other signs of fever before using the thermometer.

Safety Tips

Your baby is now experimenting with her hands. Drawers are emptied, magazines torn to shreds and everything turned topsy-turvy. Be sure those things that can harm your baby (or she can harm) are out of reach. Put baby-proof latches on those places that babies should not open. As she becomes more mobile, toy chests with lids, clothes hampers, commodes and mop buckets can become traps. Make sure any hanging cords, such as on window blinds, are tied up out of baby's reach.

Managing Time

Do you feel as though there is never enough time to get everything done? You have added a time-consuming task to an already busy schedule by having a baby. Rearing a child requires a great deal of time and energy.

Start each day by listing what needs to be done in priority order. You may need to cut down on household chores, even if it means being less particular than you used to be. Now is not the time to add challenging new activities at work or at home.

Discuss whether older children or other adults in your home can take on more responsibility for chores. Be realistic about how much you can do in one day, and don't skimp on your sleep. Before you know it, your child will be grown, so now is the time to enjoy each precious stage in her growth and development.

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