Baby Development: Your 8-Month-Old

4 min read

We’re up to 8 months. Get ready for some major developmental changes in the next months!

Creeping and crawling may already rule the day or soon will. Isn’t it amazing how fast your little crab can scuttle around on their little arms and legs? Soon thereafter, she’ll be triumphantly pulling to stand and surveying her kingdom, looking this way and that, with a big toothy grin. I am Master of the Universe!

Next comes “cruising,” which is pulling to stand and then moving around while holding on. Finally, the coup de grace: walking unassisted. This can happen as early as 9 months and as late as 18 months.

I can’t resist to share with you one of my all time favorite quotes is on this topic from, of all people, the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (no, I haven’t really read him either, but I absolutely love this quote):

"The loving mother teaches the child to walk alone. She is far enough from him so that she cannot actually support him, but she holds out her arms to him. She imitates his movements, and if he totters, she swiftly bends as if to seize him, so that the child might believe he is not walking alone...And yet, she does more. Her face beckons like a reward, an encouragement. Thus, the child walks alone with his eyes fixed on his mother's face, not on the difficulties in his way. He supports himself by the arms that do not hold him and constantly strives towards the refuge in his mother's embrace, little suspecting that in the very same moment that he is emphasizing his need for her, he is proving that he can do without her, because he is walking alone."

Walking is a wonderful triumph, thrilling to see, but so too is there a tinge of sadness: Your baby is moving on, farther and farther from you, less dependent on you, becoming her own person.

Beware, here comes the “neat pincer grasp,” in which your infant can pick up the smallest object between their thumb and forefinger, a far cry from the clumsy raking grasp that jump-started the process just a few months ago. Coupled with 20:20 vision and keen interest in all things small, watch for the littlest speck of dust to make it into their hands and thence to the mouth.

Soon your baby will learn a meaningful word which, when you think about it, is an amazing intellectual feat. However, as you well know if you have ever tried to learn a second language, it’s easier to understand than it is to speak. So it takes months after the brilliant idea for first words to actually be spoken.

By entering the realm of language and symbolic thought, object permanence takes a leap ahead. No longer solely at the mercy of the senses (“If I can’t see or touch it, it doesn’t exist”), your baby has the beginnings of this concept: “Things continue to exist even if I can’t directly sense them.” So now she will continue to look for an object that is completely hidden. After all, it must be somewhere.

All of these developmental leaps make for an exciting, if somewhat hair-raising time. But as your little one gets more mobile and more curious and more able to corral small objects, new safety issues emerge.

As a start, pretend you’re your infant and crawl all around your house looking for danger (“What’s that under the couch?” “How did that little toy -- so easy to aspirate -- get under the bed?” “What happened to the plug on that electrical outlet?”) and remove all risks:

  • With increased mobility often comes the need to put gates on thoroughfares so they can’t tumble down the stairs.
  • Put latches on all kitchen cabinets, especially those with toxic cleaning and other bottles. But leave one or two open, filled with pots and pans and wooden spoons that your child can happily and safely play with in explorations of planet kitchen.
  • Have the number of Poison Control by your phone.
  • Watch for choking hazards.
  • Keep all medications safely stored.
  • Be sure your water temperature is <120 so no scalding accidents can occur.
  • Rear facing car seats at all times are a must.

I don’t mean to make you paranoid (actually, I suppose I do), but the No. 1 priority of parenting is to help your child make it through childhood intact, and of all the risks for your baby’s well-being, unintentional injuries by far leads the list. Now, by virtue of the wonderful developmental milestones soon to come, many of those risks will be greatly increased. Don’t be caught napping.