Happy birthday, baby! It's your little one's birthday soon, but you'll have a birthday of sorts too. With 12 months as a parent behind you, you're now a year-old mama, and you've come a long way. As you get ready to plan your child's first party and watch her blow out the candles on her cake, you can pat yourself on the back for a serious job well done. But before you start hanging up balloons and streamers, check out some of the stuff you can expect during the last month of true baby-hood.
Tests for Reactions. One of the major differences in temperament you'll start to notice this month is that your baby starts acting more and more like a toddler. Silliness, temper tantrums, loud noises, and preferences are all par for the course as your baby ends her first year. She'll test out noises and actions just to see how you react to them .
- Stay engaged. As your baby gets older and more independent, it's common to steal some "me time" for yourself. Still, it's critical that you give your babe plenty of face time as she practices new sounds, words, and actions. Clap, play, smile, and laugh so your baby gets the reactions she wants.
- Keep your cool when your baby misbehaves. Whether it's chucking food at the grocery store or pinching you while you play, your little one is just seeing what happens when she does certain things. Instead of getting frustrated or yelling, stop the behavior. Say "No, we don't do that" and redirect her attention for the most effective way to deal.
Uses Items Correctly. Just a few months ago, if you handed your baby a hairbrush, it probably went straight to her mouth. But now your little brainiac knows how to use different objects, so don't be surprised when she uses a brush to, you know, actually brush her hair.
- Take the opportunity to help expand your baby's vocabulary. By giving the name of the object she's playing with and then narrating the actions, you help teach her new words: "Oh, you're playing with the brush? Are you brushing your pretty hair?"
- Allow your babe to explore different uses and types of play for different objects. It's the marker of a curious tot when she turns an object over in her hands, tries to squish it, bang, it, or test out different ways it can be used. Toys with several different uses—such as simple scarves—are best when compared to a one-note plaything.
Has One to Eight Teeth. Your baby's chompers are clipping along at a fast pace, meaning you might look in her mouth and discover a couple of teeth that weren't there before. More teeth means more food options for your culinary cutie, so serve up variety.
- Offer foods that your baby can eat by herself, whether it's with her fingers or while testing out utensils for the first time. You can graduate to larger bits of soft food, but remember that chewing is still mostly for practice at this point. Don't offer sticky or hard foods just yet.
- Want your little one to master the fork and spoon? Pediatric occupational therapist Anne Zachry suggests creative play. "Practice with edible play dough using plastic or child-sized forks and knives. Work on scooping with a spoon, stabbing with a fork, and eventually cutting."
Makes Animal Sounds. By now, saying "no!" or exclaiming "uh-oh!" are phrases your chatty baby has mastered. This month, she'll start making animal sounds on request. A one-year-old knows that cows say "moo" and pigs say "oink" thanks to your example and lots of board books.
- Grab an animal book and point out the different animals. Your babe will love to tell you the sounds each one makes. If she doesn't know, it's time to test your animal sound skills instead; she'll catch on soon enough.
- Add animal sounds to the growing list of how your baby is learning to communicate on a daily basis. It might sound like simple stuff, but it proves that your little one understands the difference between human and animal communication, as well as becoming aware of different sounds in general. Plus, it's a fun party trick.
Changes to a Sippy. The breast or the bottle? Beverage choices are pretty limited in the first year of life. But as long as your doc gives the OK, you can switch to using a sippy and start to wean, if you wish. The new shape and texture of a sippy might be strange at first, but soon your little one will love to tote around her drink. Just be sure that she only sips when she's sitting or lying down, as tumbling while sucking on a sippy can equal a serious mouth injury.
- Fill a sippy with something familiar. It's fine to switch to whole milk after the first year of life, but the taste and texture paired with the newness of a cup could throw your little one off. Instead, offer formula or breast milk in the cup until she gets comfy with the change. After a couple of weeks, you can dilute the formula or breast milk with cow's milk until your little one gets used to the new flavor.
- Continue to monitor your child for food sensitivities. Some children will have adverse reactions to dairy, like an upset tummy or diarrhea. If you notice digestion issues, talk to your pediatrician about possible allergies and switching to a soy product instead.
Takes Her First Steps. If your tiny dancer hasn't already taken a few unassisted steps, she will within the next month or so. Have the camera ready and lock up your valuables, because soon, she'll be into every nook and cranny of your home.
- Continue to play with push-along toys that assist your baby in getting her sea legs. Stroll together as you hold her hands; it's a great way to help build up the muscles that will eventually help her with walking.
- Don't worry about a few bumps and bruises along the way. It's common for babies to take a couple steps before tumbling to the ground. Walking on carpet and blocking off dangerous areas, like the stairs, ensures that small falls don't become huge problems.
- Allow your baby to go barefoot when first learning to walk. Thick shoes and socks can throw off her balance and make it harder for her to conquer.
Changes Sleeping Patterns. The good news? You should be reclaiming your bed by now, thanks to the 10 to 12 hours of sleep that your baby gets uninterrupted each night. Unfortunately, daytime is a different story; your little one might be getting ready to drop a nap.
- Don't be hard and fast when it comes to naps during the day. Cate McKee, a pediatric sleep therapist, notes that each day is different. "When attempting to eliminate one of the two naps, toddlers occasionally have days when two naps are needed." Instead of going by schedule, follow your little one's cues and put her down when she starts to get sleepy. After a while, you should be able to detect a pattern to help form a new routine for your almost-toddler.
When you're busy planning for that momentous first birthday, do us a favor to sit back and absorb everything that has happened in the past year. Yes, your babe is a year older, but so are you; a year of sleep deprivation, a year of frustration, but also a year of tackling your most rewarding job ever. Ready or not, here comes toddlerhood!