YOUR BABY AT EIGHT MONTHS
Your baby is likely to become more sociable from this month and love seeing other babies, although it will be a long time yet before he can share or empathise with them. Just having playmates alongside him might bring him pleasure.
Other developments might include:
• Stringing two or more syllables together, including softer consonants as well as the harder ones. Around now you might hear 'Mamama'! You might even hear sounds beginning with vowels starting to emerge now. Encourage him by repeating the sounds back to him and introducing new ones.
• Your baby may have really taken off with crawling, and it's amazing how much speed he'll pick up once he's off and running! Make sure there's nothing dangerous in his path: the best way to do this is to crawl from room-to-room yourself, getting a baby's-eye perspective on things!
• Your baby is likely to bury his head in your neck, cuddle you closely and try to kiss you from this month - how endearing is that! Say things like "Aaah. You love Mummy! Mummy loves you too!"
• By now he'll understand (even if he doesn't appreciate!) the difference between 'yes' and 'no', especially if you make your tone of voice clear. Use the word 'No' sparingly, but make it clear what you mean. For instance, if you need to stop your baby doing something, say 'No' sharply, rather than stringing too many words together. He won't understand as clearly if you say "You mustn't do that, it's hurting Mummy".
• He'll be able to pick up smaller and smaller objects, so don't leave him with anything that could choke him or that he could push up his nose. Dried peas, pen tops, small parts of an older child's toys are all potentially dangerous.
• He might start to choose what to play with and get you involved by bringing things to you. Try to join in with him, even if it means stopping what you're doing for five minutes, and show your delight at being included.
WAYS TO ENTERTAIN YOUR EIGHT-MONTH-OLD BABY
Your baby will enjoy ever more challenging games and toys from this month.
The sorts of things to choose include:
• Activity tables that encourage your baby to pull herself up to standing. Help her to her feet so she can see what activities are on offer, then watch her take the initiative next time.
• More complex tower-building and stacking toys. Show her how to steady one part of the tower before adding another: you could steady it yourself if she's too involved with picking up the next piece. Applaud or cheer with every piece she adds successfully.
• Musical toys like baby maracas; a plastic tambourine; a small drum; a plastic whistle are all great for encouraging rhythm as well as hand-eye coordination and cause and effect.
You don't have to provide toy musical instruments, thougH: you could make your own shaker by filling a sealable pot with uncooked rice (making sure it can't split open), or give her a wooden spoon and a sturdy plastic bowl to hit. Clap along as she makes her own first 'music'.
• Your baby might well enjoy a mother-and-baby music and movement class now, too. Check out what's on offer at your local leisure centre or look out for notices in your GP's surgery or in the local newspaper.
• How about getting hold of an illustrated book of nursery rhymes? If you can get a fabric or board nursery rhyme book, so much the better. Sing to your baby and encourage her to join in any of the sounds she can manage.
Action songs are brilliant for this age group, too, especially to accompany the activity you're doing at the time:'This is the way we clap our hands' can be adapted to 'brush our teeth', 'eat our tea' and so on.
• Play pat-a-cake with your baby, encouraging her to bring her hands up to meet yours. This will help fine-tune her hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills.
• She'll probably really enjoy 'This little piggy' as you play with her toes!
Because your baby is now aware of her separateness from you, he may be reluctant to be put down to sleep at night. This can be a very challenging time for parents, especially if he's previously been sleeping well.
Just to compound things further, he might also try to resist daytime naps, too, in order to avoid being separated from you.
There are things you can do to help:
• If your baby is resisting his naps, try taking him out in the car around the time he would normally sleep: the steady motion of the car plus the hum of the engine and the continuous road noise might just get him off to sleep.
You might want to make the drive a longish one, because experts advise against leaving babies in their car seats unsupervised so it's best you don't bring him in and leave him to sleep. This is in case their heads loll forward cutting off their air supply.
In any case, don't expect him to go off for more than an hour or so - and bear in mind that if he does, he's even less likely to sleep at bedtime.
• Introducing a few drops of essential lavender oil to his evening bath might help induce sleep, as it has soporific qualities. You could warm a little lavender oil in a dish on the radiator in his room, too, as long as it's well out of his reach should he push his arms through his cot bars.
• If necessary, reintroduce a sleep training technique, but go gently: you don't want bedtime to become traumatic for either of you.
The return and check method might work well, where you go back to your baby each time he cries, pat him gently on his chest and just say 'Sleep time now' in a calm, boring and even voice, but don't pick him up or he'll learn that crying will get him a cuddle.
Next time you go in, do the same thing. Five minutes later, go and stand by his cot and say 'Sleep time' but don't pat him. Repeat this, leaving a minute or so longer between each return, until he falls asleep.
You may have to keep this up for a week or more - and you'll have to have a will of iron and remain consistent - but sleep training usually works in the end with most babies.