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Health & Baby

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Baby Development: Your 9-Month-Old

WebMD Commentary

Here's my month 9 caution: Don't worry if you are "stimulating" your baby enough to ensure they'll be smart as a whip and academically successful.

I'll bet good money that you have hung a nice black and white, round mobile above your baby's crib. On the advice of experts, you did it to "stimulate visual development." This popular (and hugely profitable) mobile is based on actual science. As we discussed previously, babies do like to gaze at sharp contrasts of dark and light. Perhaps your child has indeed stared wondrously at the mobile and you have been reassured that his visual system has been properly stimulated. Another job well done.

Baby Month by Month

Girl and Boy Baby
Your baby's first year will be full of joys and challenges. WebMD pediatrician Steven Parker, MD, explains what you can expect as your baby grows and develops.

The good news: the mobile has done no harm. The bad news: it hasn't done a bit of good. Your baby's ordinary environment provides plenty to look at, more than enough to "stimulate" the visual system.

Your Baby's Developing Brain

The whole fascinating process of brain development has rightly captured everyone's imagination. However, I'm sorry to report that we professionals have let you down by perpetuating myths that are unsupported by the research. Myths such as:

  • All of the important parts of our personality and character are laid down in the critical first years. As Rob Reiner famously said: "After 3 years, you're toast."
  • If a little stimulation is good, a lot is better. The more stimulation a brain gets (like your fancy mobile), the smarter it will be.

This notion of "infant determinism" -- that we are the slaves of what happened to us in the first years -- is misguided on all levels. The capacity to learn, the capacity to repair, the capacity to evolve, is with us all of our lives. The child who has had early bad experiences is by no means doomed to a life of misery as a loving, caring environment will serve to overcome most challenges. Of course, the early years are important, but so too are the middle years, and so too the adolescent years. You don't get a pass after three years, what happens in all childhood counts, albeit in different ways.

This emphasis on infant determinism has put some conscientious parents over the edge. After all, if every little part of your relationship is of earthshaking importance, for example if not being emotionally available to meet your baby's every need 24/7 will cause long term emotional damage, if being an imperfect parent will mean your little one will be toast by age 3, who wouldn't be a wreck about it? (This is why, while I don't object if some parents want to practice it, I think the practice of "attachment parenting" has done a real disservice to parents by implying there are dire consequences to your baby if you don't practice it, which is patently untrue.)

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

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