You'll probably notice a few more physical developments in your seven-month-old, as well as some intellectual firsts.
This month, your baby may:
• Demonstrate much finer motor skills, reaching out to grab her toys with her fingers, rather than more clumsily in the palm of her hand as before. Encourage her by handing her different shaped objects and letting her pass them from hand to hand. The greater the range of shapes, patterns and textures you can provide her with, the more enjoyment and interest she'll show.
• Sit strongly unsupported now her spine is so much stronger, lunging forwards if you place things of interest just out of her reach. Set aside some time each day to play with her in this way. If you have any pull-along toys, drag them slowly away from her and see if she'll lean forward to stop them.
• Start to propel herself forwards, if she hasn't done so already, probably using the 'commando crawl', pulling herself along on her forearms. You can encourage her to do this by moving toys away from her a bit quicker than when she was just leaning foward from sitting.
• Bear her weight on her legs briefly when you stand her up. Stand and bounce her in your lap to help her limber up her legs and build muscle strength. She'll probably start to bend her knees in anticipation when she realises what you're going to do.
• Respond to subtle sounds near her and turn to the sound of your voice when you walk into a room. Try whispering when her head is turned away, or playing your mobile phone ringtone on a low volume.
• Show excitement with loud babbling when you introduce her to a new toy or get out her favourite things. Talk back to her in excited tones yourself, then wait to see if she responds as if in conversation.
• Show increasing interest in new solid foods as you include them in her diet. (See baby weaning advice in your baby at six months.) By now your baby can share in your family meals, as long as you don't add salt to her portion. You'll probably need to mash things up a bit, but start to offer lumpier textures and pieces of meat so she gets used to a range of food experiences.
ENTERTAINING YOUR SEVEN-MONTH-OLD
Your baby's moving on apace with his skills and enthusiasm and will enjoy a greater variety of toys again.
Here are some ideas for how to amuse him.
• Now that his fine motor skills and hearing are developing, choose shape sorters with sounds. He might pass the shapes from hand to hand, examining them. Getting the right shape into the right hole might be more by luck than judgement at first, but over time your baby may come to associate a particular shape with the sound it produces when put into the right hole, and manage to remember what goes where one shape at a time.
• Your baby might enjoy an activity play chair now that he can sit unsupported. These sometimes have play trays attached with shape sorters, spinners, sound buttons and other entertaining features for him to explore. Play along with him, pushing and pulling the various activities and seeing if he'll copy you.
• Try rolling a soft ball a short distance to your baby and encouraging him to roll it back to you. Say "Your turn, my turn" as you play, to introduce him to the idea of cooperative play. You'll also be helping him develop better hand-eye coordination, as as well as introducing him to judging distances and force.
• Hide a musical toy under a cushion when your baby's not looking, then activate the sound and see if he'll start moving towards it. Can he discover where the toy is hidden?
• Provide more cause-and-effect toys, where your baby has to perform a certain action to get a certain result: toys that require him to open a door, lift a flap or press a button will become firm favourites, and the more dramatic the result - like a jack-in-the-box bouncing out at him - the more delighted he's likely to be!
• Repeat the names of colours, shapes and objects each time you play with your baby: he's acquiring language all the time and can understand words long before he can say them himself. It won't be long before you say "find the red one" and your baby is able to do so.
At around six to seven months, your baby will become aware that she is a separate entity from you, and may seem fearful of being left.
Some babies will become upset just by being put down, even if you're in the same room, and you may feel that you're in constant demand and unable to get on with anything independently of your baby. It's important to remember it's a phase, and won't last for ever.
Here are few strategies you can try to make life easier for you and your baby while she's going through separation anxiety - which may last until her first birthday or so:
• Invest in a baby sling: they enable you to carry your baby close to you while leaving you with both hands free so you can get on with things (to an extent!). They're also invaluable for taking your baby out shopping while she's still relatively lightweight. Choose one that converts from an inward-facing to an outward-facing position. The type that clips off from the harness in the event of your baby falling asleep while you're wearing it is brilliant - as long as you can manage to put her down without waking her again.
• Play peek-a-boo games with your baby when you're together: this will reinforce the idea of 'object permanence', which means that just because something (or somebody) has disappeared from sight momentarily, it doesn't mean it's gone for good.
• Try to bear with your baby for a time: taking her from room to room with you as you move around the house might seem like a bind, but it'll probably be a lot less stressful than hearing her wailing with despair if you don't. Perhaps you could bring an activity chair, her highchair or a door bouncer with you to keep her amused.
• If you do have to leave your baby in a room alone, try turning the TV on: sometimes this will be enough to distract her for a short time.
• If you're planning to return to work and this coincides with separation anxiety, introduce your baby to her minder as early as possible and make frequent visits so she comes to know and trust them.
Even if she still sobs and cries when you leave her, at least you'll know she's in familiar hands and is likely to settle shortly after you've gone.
• Make sure you say "See you later" when you say goodbye to your baby, and don't make the goodbye long and protracted as she - and you - will only become more upset. When you return, say "Here I am!" each time so she gets used to the idea that you'll return eventually.
• Leave your baby a favourite comforter or a piece of your clothing (because it smells of you) whenever you leave her: it may help to reassure her.
• Don't be surprised if your baby bursts into floods of tears when you come back from her after being away! This is a reaction to the normal emotional response of being relieved to see you again. She'll soon settle after you've cuddled and reassured her.