The Tenth Month: Budding Independence

by Don Bower

In the 10th month it may seem your baby's development is slowing down, but really it's just that she is developing in more subtle areas and improving those things already learned. If you look closely, you'll actually see many changes this month.

Baby's Development

Your baby will probably make more progress toward walking this month. Most babies creep or crawl by this time, and many are learning to stand. After learning to stand, many (but not all) babies learn to "side step" by holding on to an object such as the couch. The step is really more of a shuffle, but can be done speedily by some.

Expect Some of These Other Physical Developments:

  • May take a few steps holding two hands
  • Climbs up and down from furniture
  • Sits down from standing position
  • Carries more than one object in one hand
  • Cuts central and lateral incisor teeth
  • Weighs between 16 to 25 pounds

Your baby is really developing socially this month, too. She is beginning to overcome her fear of strangers, but still wants both parents (and other familiar people) around. She is more independent now. She may even tell you "no" when you make a request and shake her head vigorously back and forth. She probably doesn't understand exactly what "no" means, but she does know that she wants to do things for herself. Give her the freedom to try new things. Help her understand the meaning of "no" and "yes" instead of punishing her for rebelliousness. She is still learning word meanings as her healthy independence blossoms.

Expect Some of These Social Developments:

  • Begins to label body parts
  • Imitates others
  • Begins to distinguish males from females
  • Speaks a few words with a purpose, such as "Mama" and "Dada"
  • Listens to familiar words with interest such as a song or rhyme

Baby's mental development is on the upsurge this month.

Expect to See Some of the Following:

  • Reaches behind to grasp a toy without looking.
  • Searches for a hidden object if she sees it hidden. If she can't find it quickly, she will search for it where she has seen it hidden earlier.
  • Begins to use one hand more than the other, but hand preference may not be clear until 4 or 5 years of age.

Imitation becomes an important method of learning. She will imitate you, and if she is around other babies, she will imitate them. This is a good method of teaching, but be sure not to over-do to the point that your baby becomes bored with imitation.

Baby's Food
Provide plenty of finger foods because your baby needs the experience of feeding herself to become independent. If she has older brothers and sisters, she probably wants to eat what they eat. Be sure to cut the food into bite-size pieces. Even though it may be easier for her to eat with her fingers now, begin introducing a spoon for her to try out.

If you are breast-feeding, you may be thinking about when you are going to wean your baby. If you decide to wean your baby before one year, switch to infant formula from a bottle or cup. If you wean after one year, you can switch your baby to whole milk.

Parent-Baby Learning Games

Now that baby is beginning to imitate you, try a simple version of follow-the-leader. Your baby will love crawling after you, copying your facial expressions or pointing like you point. Because imitation is an important way of learning, play can be much more than just fun for the both of you. Children will also enjoy a game of you imitating them. It is one way of telling them that they are important to you.

Baby's Temperature
Baby is more sensitive and openly responsive now and shows definite moods and emotions. She is very conscious of whether or not you approve of her actions, and at times can look terribly sad and hurt. She is also expressing more anger when frustrated. Does she have a special toy she hugs and "mothers?" This is such a nice reflection on you -- you've taught her the capacity to love. She will also imitate the ways that you and others show affection for her.

Baby may not want to "show-off" in front of others, particularly away from home. As she gains confidence, she will more readily perform in front of others. Don't push her. Limit the "show-off" performances because the baby may learn that she must show off to receive attention.

Comparing Babies

Comparing your baby's development with that of other babies may be more frustrating than helpful. Every baby has her own timetable. Your baby may surprise you with a sudden burst of development and achieve many things quickly. Your baby may sit alone one day, reach behind herself the next, crawl within a few days and stand shortly afterwards. Enjoy watching your baby grow. One day she may not do the things other children her age do, and a day later she may pass them by.

Especially for Daddies

Have you noticed that your baby is much more interested in YOU now? Does she greet you when you enter the room and find pleasure in your company? Enjoy this special time with your baby. The relationship you form now can become the foundation for a strong, loving relationship for years to come. Most babies this age enjoy a little "rough housing." Being taken for a "horsey ride," bounced on a knee, or being spun around gently are great fun for your young children. Dads seem to enjoy it, too. Just be sure to follow safe practices in activities that might be too rough.

For example, never shake an infant, in fun or anger. Brain damage or death can result. Always lift an infant under the arms. Lifting or spinning by the hands or arms can dislocate the shoulders.

Safety Tips

Your baby may have learned to climb up steps by now, and that opens a new danger, especially if she hasn't learned to climb down. Putting safety gates across the top and/or bottom of the stairway will help protect baby. You might also want to teach her to climb backwards down steps, to lessen the possibility of falls.

Toilet Teaching

Parents may wish the diaper days were over, but your baby is probably not ready to begin toileting -- physically or emotionally. Her small muscles are not developed to the point where she can consistently control bowel movements or urination. If you try to push her before her body is ready, it will frustrate both of you.

Late in her second year and into her third year is the usual time to begin toilet teaching. The muscle development of boys may take longer than girls, so don't be surprised at the difference. One of the easier ways to teach toileting is to encourage toddlers to observe siblings or parents using the bathroom. Imitation works!


It's not too early to introduce your baby to the wonderful world of books. Of course, your child won't be reading for a number of years yet. But children can learn about the process of reading. This includes turning pages, looking at words, describing pictures and hearing your voice.

You can give your baby a vinyl-covered book of her own. Little by little, she will develop the finger coordination to turn the pages. Just having books, magazines and newspapers in your home helps to teach children that reading is fun.

Source: The University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright © Don Bower. Permission to republish granted to