Friday, October 23, 2009

12 months: Celebration and Independence, Frustration and Experimentation

By Jennifer Banuelos

Time flies when you are having fun, especially when you're sleep deprived! It probably seems like just yesterday that you brought your tiny baby home, but a whole year has gone by. While you are busy baking a birthday cake and wrapping presents, your 12-month-old is busy too! Here is a little of what you can expect from your toddler.

Social and Cognitive Development
While celebrating your baby's first birthday might make you feel sentimental, your baby is probably feeling confused. The need for independence intensifies at this age, but even though your baby wants to do things on his own, his ambitions are often far beyond his abilities. While his body is telling him to try new things, his brain is telling him to stick to what (and who) he knows best. Your baby's continued separation anxiety, can be very frustrating. Although you may be able to take some deep breaths to relieve the frustration, your baby's frustration can quickly mount into a tantrum. The key to handling these confusing times is patience, and since your baby is not yet capable of being patient, it is the perfect time for you to show her how it's done! When you notice your baby becoming frustrated, take a few deep breaths and assess the situation. Does she want some help, or is she determined to do something on her own? Either way, you will be more likely to best support her if you identify what she needs. Don't get me wrong, both of you will still get frustrated at times, but staying calm and showing your baby that you understand her frustration will help her feel safe and supported.I realize that it may seem like life with a 12-month-old is all about inner struggles and tantrums, but there's so much more! As babies transition into toddlers, they begin to see things from a new perspective, literally and figuratively. They become little scientists, exploring and testing the world around them. I remember giving my daughter a new toy in the car one day. It was an orange block with different textures on each side. She spent the entire trip turning it around, carefully inspecting each of the sides. I was amazed that she was entertained for so long by this block, which, in my opinion, was a pretty boring toy. For the next 2 weeks, she inspected that block every time we got in the car. Then, she discovered that it could be dropped. Even though it can be annoying to parents, dropping things is just another way babies test the world around them. Don't worry, the novelty wears off eventually! It is important to note that at this age, babies' memories are improving. If your baby does something that makes you laugh today, there's a good chance she'll do it again tomorrow, even if it is something that you don't want her to do again (like rubbing beans in her hair). Keep that in mind when you react to some of your baby's new behaviors. I should note that I am extremely bad at hiding my amusement with my own child.

When it comes to moving, 12-month-olds often have a one track mind. It is common for babies this age to focus all of their energy on moving around (whether they are walking or crawling), leaving little time for eating, sleeping, or getting a diaper changed. I had Olivia in the office one day, right before her first birthday. She was tired, so I laid a little blanket on the floor and rocked her to sleep. She fell asleep quickly (which was unusual). As soon as I placed her on the blanket, she sprung up into a sitting position. At first I was frustrated, but Jane was sitting next to me and she laughed. She reminded me that Olivia's motor drives were in full force! Within just a few days, Olivia pulled up on the couch for the first time. Although babies' sleep can be interrupted by the need to move, 80% of 12-month-olds sleep through the night (at least 6 straight hours.

We hope that you've found our posts on developmental stages useful. Remember, we've shared the research about what many babies do at each stage, but every baby is unique and they all grow and develop on their own schedule, not ours!

Next Time: We'll share a few more stories about our own experiences when our children were babies.

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