For many parents, the 9-month mark seems like a monumental time. While your little one is still an infant, they are getting much closer to the toddler years. This can be both exhilarating and stressful as your baby's skills improve—and their sense of independence expands. At this age, your baby is becoming increasingly mobile, mastering solid foods, improving their language skills, and honing their fine motor skills like the pincer grasp.
"Babies this age should be able to move around more," says Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Einstein Pediatrics near the Washington, DC area. "They can push with their legs, pull up to stand, cruise around furniture, and some will even stand momentarily without support."
As you prepare for your baby's 9-month well-visit with your pediatrician, you may be wondering if your baby is on track and meeting the appropriate milestones. Read on to discover what most babies might be accomplishing at this age as well as gather some useful tips on sleep, nutrition, care, and safety.
At This Age
- Development: At 9 months, your baby is developing a number of skills like crawling, cruising, and the pincer grasp. They also are expanding their language and communication skills and can make a variety of noises as well as shake their head no and point to things.
- Sleep: On average, babies this age are sleeping a total of 14 hours a day with about 11 hours of sleep occurring at night and three hours split between two naps during the day.
- Food: While your baby is still nursing or taking a bottle, they are likely reducing the amount of formula or breastmilk they are consuming in favor of more solids. Most babies this age are eating about three meals a day and possibly having snacks too.
9-Month-Old Baby Development
This month, your baby will experience some exciting new developments and changes—so much so that you will feel like something new is happening every day. Whether they are crawling around, engaging with toys, or waving "bye-bye" to grandma, there are becoming more and more active.
"By 9 months most babies are getting the hang of crawling," says Lyndsey Garbi, MD, board-certified in pediatrics and neonatology and chief pediatrician at Blueberry Pediatrics, a pediatric telehealth platform.
But she says not to worry too much if they are not crawling. Each baby develops in their own time and at their own pace. In fact, your baby may find other ways to get around your house, or they simply are focusing on perfecting a different skill instead.
"At this age, I would be concerned if they do not sit independently or if they drag one side of their body while crawling or slithering," Dr. Segura says. "I would want to make sure their motor and nervous system is working properly."
Another thing you may notice this month is how active your baby is with their hands and their voice. They are getting better at picking things up and will make a variety of noises, including expressing emotions.
"A 9-month-old will typically bang two toys together and be able to feed themselves," says Dr. Segura. "They also can imitate sounds somewhat and some will even imitate gestures like shaking their head no."
If your 9-month-old is not making sounds, is not interested in picking things up, and is not interested in self-feeding, Dr. Segura recommends mentioning these things to your pediatrician.
At 9 months old, your baby will have, on average, added about 1/2 inch per month in height since birth and slowed weight gain. They also may triple their birth weight by their first birthday.
9-Month-Old Baby Milestones
As your baby becomes more mobile, they also may start to test their standing and walking skills. This means they might cruise around furniture or enjoy walking and standing while you are holding their hands. In fact, your baby is actually closer to being a toddler than an infant any longer. This may feel hard to fathom, but it won't be long now until your baby takes those first few steps.
"By 9 months babies are usually trying to pull up to a standing position, picking up things with their fingers instead of raking as well as shaking their head or pointing while babbling," says Dr. Garbi.
In addition to movement, your baby's language skills are really taking off at this age. Many are continuing to babble but may also make a wide range of noises in order to communicate with you. They may even say simple words like "ma" and "da."
"They copy sounds, make noise to get your attention, and understand the word no," Dr. Garbi says.
At 9 months old babies will have—or be working on—the pincer grasp, where they pick things up with the thumb and index finger, Dr. Segura says: "Babies this age also should be able to respond to their name or look up when someone says their name."
And while each of these milestones is important, you should recognize that each baby will develop at their own pace, says Dr. Garbi.
"If there is ever anything you are concerned about, talk to your child's pediatrician," she says. "This is why well-visits are so important. They give pediatricians a chance to monitor a baby's growth and development and determine if anything needs to be addressed."
- Stands up unassisted
- Starts taking steps, even if holding onto something
- Waves "bye-bye" when prompted
- Explores how things work
- Loves opening and closing things
9-Month-Old Baby Food
During this month, your baby needs about 750 to 900 calories a day with about 400 to 500 of those calories coming from breastmilk or formula or a combination of both. But these numbers are just meant to be guidelines. They are not meant to be strict rules about how much food your baby should eat.
Instead, focus on providing nutritious foods and allowing your baby to decide how much they want to eat. "At 9 months, babies are eating three meals a day and may have decreased their nursing sessions or their formula to about 24 ounces a day," Dr. Segura says. "In terms of the food groups, the goal is that your baby is eating what the family is eating."
Some babies may nurse more or drink more formula than others while others may drink less depending on their interest in solid foods. But all babies this age should be reducing their nursing sessions or formula feedings to some degree as they move toward making solid foods a regular part of their day, Dr. Segura says.
Ideally, they are getting three to four fruits and vegetables a day and two to four ounces of protein a day, as well as some grains, starches, and snacks. Foods with iron are especially important at this age, says Dr. Segura. So, try to incorporate iron sources like beans, lentils, chicken, and beef into their daily meals.
To ensure your baby is getting enough iron, your child's pediatrician will likely check their hemoglobin level sometime between their 9-month check-up and their 12-month check-up. This test is a simple finger prick that allows them to determine your baby's iron levels.
When it comes to feeding at this age, many parents worry about how much their baby is eating. While it's normal to wonder if your baby is eating enough, as long as you are consistently offering them nutritious foods as well as consistent nursing or bottle feeding times, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Many parents like to use baby-lead weaning as a guide for how to feed their babies at this age. Generally, this involves allowing the baby to dictate how much food they want at a time. It also allows the baby some freedom on how much they want to reduce their nursing or bottle-feeding sessions.
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9-Month-Old Baby Sleep
By 9 months, most babies are sleeping through the night and taking two—sometimes three—naps during the day that last about one to two hours each, says Dr. Garbi. "They also are sleeping anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day with about nine to 12 of those hours coming at night," she adds.
Although the amount of sleep a baby needs at this age varies, the typical schedule is a day that starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. with two naps in the middle, Dr. Segura adds.
"Teething may be starting or continuing around this time period, too, so a lot of parents talk about sleep regression," says Dr. Segura. "Other times babies will experience a disruption in their sleep schedule due to a developmental leap where they are mastering a new skill."
Even if your little one is doing well sleeping through the night, other factors such as illnesses and growth spurts may cause temporary disruptions in sleep. Try not to get too discouraged when this happens because these sleep issues are usually temporary.
"Separation anxiety intensifies also at this age," Dr. Segura says. "Babies may resist going to bed or wake up looking for their parent(s). This is the time to hone in on your baby's sleep routine and make sure they can go to sleep on their own."
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9-Month-Old Baby Schedule
Babies this age love to "play" so it is important to take advantage of the times throughout the day when they are awake. Offer interactive toys and set aside time to read—especially when you need to sit down or want to transition to nap time or bedtime.
You also should be talking with your baby and can play simple interactive games like peek-a-boo. Regardless of how you choose to spend your day, try to be as consistent as possible. Consistent routines that include regular naps help your little one get better sleep at night.
"Most babies this age follow a pretty consistent schedule throughout the day that involves wake periods of playing, nursing or taking a bottle, eating solids, and sleep," says Dr. Segura. "On average they have around four nursing or bottle-feeding sessions a day, three meals a day, and go to bed around 7 p.m."
Storytime: Why You Should Be Reading to Your Baby
9-Month-Old Baby Health and Safety
At 9 months old, your baby is due for their 9-month well-child check-up this month. Along with checking their weight and head circumference, your child's doctor will check your baby's development and determine which milestones they have reached. They may even do some screenings like checking for anemia and the risk of lead poisoning.
"The 9-month check-up is really important," says Dr. Garbi. "In addition to checking their growth and development, they may have some vaccines due, so parents need to make sure they [make those visits a priority]."
As for health and safety at home, you may want to consider your environment from your child's point of view by getting down on their level and looking around. Even the best child-proofing plans can miss something, so you want to be sure your home is as safe as possible.
"What really starts to happen around 9 months is a lot more movement," says Dr. Segura. "This increased movement brings additional dangers, so a baby this age must be constantly monitored. They cannot be left unsupervised."
And because your baby is now pulling up to a standing position, you may want to consider what risks are now within their reach. For instance, can your baby now reach things on the table or couch or even in the kitchen? If so, these things need to be moved out of the baby's reach.
"At this age, it is also important to lower the crib mattress if you have not done so already so that they cannot climb out of their crib," Dr. Garbi says. "You also should make sure all electrical outlets are covered."
And, if your baby has moved to the adult bathtub, it is important to never leave them unaccompanied even if they can sit on their own, she adds.
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9-Month-Old Baby Care Basics
Caring for your 9-month-old will require you to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Now that they are mobile and have better use of their hands, there is a greater risk of injury, choking, and accidents, so it is important that you never leave them unsupervised.
Even though they appear more independent than they were several months ago, they still do not have the skills needed to be on their own—even for five minutes. This applies to everything from eating to bathing. Even if your baby is buckled into a stationary exercise toy, they should not be left alone.
Likewise, you should be alert when changing their diapers or getting them dressed for the day. Babies this age are very mobile and may not be willing to lie still while you are changing them, so you may want to consider sitting on the floor to do these tasks. This way, if they try to roll away there is no risk of a fall.
You also may want to keep an eye out for constipation. Cereal, bananas, and other similar foods can lead to constipation. If your baby starts to have difficulty with bowel movements, try adding tiny pieces of prunes or other fruits and limit some of the binding foods for a while.
New Parent's Guide to Baby Bowel Movements
What Else to Know About Your 9-Month-Old Baby
As your baby hits the 9-month mark, they are likely displaying all types of emotions and personality traits. From perseverance and determination to stubbornness and joy, you are likely to get a glimpse of who your baby is.
Be sure you are regularly interacting with your baby as you go about your day. Tell them what you are doing, name objects for them, and engage them in conversation. And, if they are babbling away, try repeating back some of the sounds they are making or affirm the fact that you hear them speaking. These types of activities help promote language and communication development as well as strengthen your bond with your baby.
Your baby is also learning about the world around them through exploration, so give them plenty of opportunities to play and experiment—with your supervision, of course. You can encourage exploration by rotating their toys in and out of the room or by putting their toys around the room so that they are encouraged to move around the room and "discover" them.
Keep in mind that your baby also probably understands the word "no" at this age. So, don't be afraid to say no when your baby is about to "discover" something dangerous or off-limits. Even if they do not fully grasp the meaning of the word yet, they will pick up on your facial expression and tone of voice and realize that they should stop what they are doing.
Of course, some babies might test the boundaries a little bit. But if that is the case, simply move them away from the object or situation while saying no. You can even give them a short explanation as to why they cannot touch the object or move in that direction. Use simple sentences like "No, that is hot," or "No, that could hurt you."
Talking to your baby and explaining things—even if they cannot fully understand what you are saying—is so important. Not only is it a loving and respectful way to interact with your little one, but it also helps them build important language and communication skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
What skills should a 9-month-old have?
Although every baby is different, many babies this age are crawling, pulling to stand, and getting into the sitting position on their own. They also have developed the pincer grasp and pass objects smoothly from one hand to another. They also copy the gestures of others and can wave bye-bye.
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What words should a 9-month-old say?
Most babies this age are not talking yet. They may be saying "mama" and "dada" but may not know exactly what they are saying. In fact, most babies this age are babbling and still working on saying vowels and stringing consonants together. They also understand the meaning of the word "no" and will often copy the sounds and gestures of others.
Learn More:When Do Babies Start Talking?
How do you discipline a 9-month-old?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends telling your baby in a nice what they need to do, like "Time to eat" rather than what not to do. It is also helpful to use distraction at this age. For instance, you can change what your baby is doing by offering them something else like a favorite toy. You also can redirect them by moving them to a different area to play. And if your baby is going to get hurt or could hurt others say "No" in a firm voice.
Learn More:Why Discipline Is Important
Is walking at 9 months early?
A recent study of 50,000 babies by the World Health Organization found that babies can walk independently between 8 months and 18 months. Most babies take their first steps around 1 year of age, but it is completely normal for a baby to start walking later.
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How many naps should a 9 month old take?
Most 9-month-olds sleep a total of 14 hours a day. They sleep roughly 11 hours at night and three hours during the day, which is usually divided between two naps. However, some babies may take three naps a day at this age.
Learn More:Infant Sleep Needs
Should I feed my 9 month old at night?
Most 9-month-olds do not need to eat at night. However, if your baby has an illness and has not been eating much during the day, you may want to feed them at night until they are feeling better. This extra hydration is especially important if they have diarrhea or vomiting. If your baby is waking to eat because they are struggling with separation anxiety and want to feel close to you, you may want to hold off on feeding at night and instead just reassure your baby with a gentle back rub or another kiss goodnight.
Learn More:How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
How long should a 9 month old sleep at night without eating?
Most babies this age sleep about 11 hours at night without needing to eat. If your baby is waking up to eat, they may have something else going on like an illness, teething, or a growth spurt. If they continue to wake at night to eat, you may want to reach out to your child's pediatrician for advice. They may want to evaluate your child for a possible illness or they may give you tips on how to get your baby to sleep through the night again.
Learn More:What Is Sleep Regression
A Word From Verywell
The 9-month mark is an exciting time for both you and your baby. Not only is your baby developing, growing, and learning new things at a rapid-fire pace, they also love to interact with you and explore. This can be both exciting and overwhelming.
Make time to read to your baby and interact with them as much as possible. You do not have to schedule special times to do this, just talk to them while going about your day. Their brains are like little sponges and they are learning so much just by watching and listening. You also can encourage movement and exploration by setting up their toys around the room so that they are not only encouraged to move but also get to "discover" things.
But most importantly enjoy this time. As you can see by looking back on the past 9 months of their life, time goes by very quickly, so you want to take time to savor every minute that you can.