Your baby behaviour questions answered

Our health visitor answers all your questions on your baby's behaviour

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Even if your little one loves his car seat, it’s important that he stretches his muscles too!

1) My daughter hates her highchair

Q: My 6-month-old daughter hates sitting in her highchair. What can I do?

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A: Around this age is when most babies are getting used to sitting up unsupported, and usually with plenty of wobbles along the way. Your baby may need a little more practice before she feels confident enough to sit in her highchair. Leave it for a few weeks, and feed her in a bouncer or on your lap, then pop her back in the highchair for short periods once she’s sitting up more independently. When you do try again, offer a few toys to distract her, as she settles into the new position.

2) Selective sleeper

Q. My 3-week-old baby will only fall asleep if I feed him. Everyone says I’m making a rod for my own back but what else can I do?

A. It’s still early days, so try not to panic, as your little one is too young for you to worry about sleep habits. In these early days it’s all about you two just spending time getting to know and understand each other. You’re responding to your baby’s need for food, which is comforting for him, so naturally when he’s sated and happy he falls asleep. You should also take these opportunities to rest yourself.

However, feeding shouldn’t always be used as a tool to settle him. As the weeks go by, keep your eye out for cues your little one gives that he needs a sleep. These include a certain cry, yawning, and being restless.

When you’ve worked out what your baby does and you know he’s tired, this is the time to start putting him into his cot while he’s awake, and letting him settle himself to sleep. For now though, lots of close contact with mum is just what he needs.

3) My baby seems miserable and clingy

Q. Since our baby turned 9 months old he has become very miserable and clingy. I’m worried that his personality has changed. What can we do to get our happy boy back?

A. Up until now your baby has assumed that you and he are the same person. At the age of 8 or 9 months it will have begun to dawn on him that if he’s not attached to you, you can leave him alone, which is scary for a little baby.

This anxiety will show itself in crying when put down or if you go out of the room, and he may no longer happily go to anyone else for a cuddle.

This developmental stage can last into a child’s second year, but it is entirely normal and an indication of the strong bond you are sharing.

The best way to deal with this stage is to keep your baby close where possible. As he is exposed to more of these situations the message will get across that you do always come back, and his confidence and sociability will be reinforced.

Your little one is well on course to learning all the skills he needs to be happy in social situations, with your support and reassurance.

4) Sleeping during the day and feeding at night – is this normal?

Q. My newborn baby sleeps all day and feeds most of the night. Is this normal?

A.Sleep requirements vary for babies, but generally newborns sleep for around 16 to 17 hours out of every 24. It will take a couple of months for proper patterns of sleep and rest to emerge. Gradually he’ll learn the difference between night and day and he’ll have bigger milk drinks that’ll sustain him for longer.

If you’re breastfeeding, night feeds are essential to keep milk supply going in the first weeks. This is because prolactin levels (one of the hormones involved with breastfeeding) are higher at night, so breastfeeding is more efficient. When feeding at night, keep feeds subtle with low lights and little stimulation for your baby. In the day, keep lighting bright and don’t mask any noises. Soon your baby will learn that nights are for longer sleeps.

5) Is he in his car seat too long?

Q. My baby’s always very happy in his car seat, but I’m worried he’s spending too much time in it. Please help!

A. Modern car seats are designed for babies to spend time travelling distances comfortably and sometimes you might leave your little one to rest in his car seat at other times during the day, too. However, any time he’s in his seat reduces the time he has to stretch and play on the floor, which is an important part of any little one’s development.

Through floor play he strengthens his muscles, while learning how to move and coordinate his limbs – all these skills are necessary for sitting, crawling and walking. Babies need to move freely to make an active healthy toddler. Learn to read your baby’s cues that it’s time for exercise and fun. Wriggling, fidgeting and restlessness when in his seat means it’s time to get out, have a hug and play on the floor where he can kick and wriggle around easily.

6) How do I get her to spend time on her tummy?

Q. My baby is reluctant to spend any time on her tummy. I’ve heard it’s important, so how can I persuade her?

A. You’re right; babies who spend time on their tummies develop good strong muscles in their upper body, neck and head. Time spent on the tummy also reduces pressure on the back of the head, which in turn becomes nice and rounded in shape. Other than when babies sleep – when they should always be placed on their backs to reduce cot death risk factors – tummy time is worth introducing early to newborns.

Start by resting your little one on your chest – most babies prefer this position anyway. Gradually build up to her lying across your knees and progressing to time on her front on the floor. If she’s still reluctant, get down on the floor with her and distract her with a pullalong toy or by rolling a ball. With a little persistence, it won’t be long before her strength increases and she begins to enjoy tummy time.

7) Is he sleeping too much?

Q. All our newborn seems to do is eat and sleep. Is this normal?

A. Sleep patterns for all babies vary. You could expect your little one to sleep anything from around 10 to 16 hours a day, depending on the size of her tummy and therefore how much food she needs when awake.

It seems as if your baby likes her shut-eye and you mustn’t wake her before she’s ready. Over the weeks this pattern will gradually change, and she’ll be awake for longer periods, and more interested in her surroundings.

In the meantime, use the time she’s asleep to rest too. When she’s awake, try a little baby massage and lots of cuddles to help bonding.

8) Keeping quiet

Q. My baby is 9 months old but not as vocal as his sister was at this stage. Is this normal?

A. Between 8-9 months, babies need to practise a range of sounds, squeals and babbles, and should be able to double babble words such as “da da” and “ba ba”.

It may be worthwhile reviewing your baby’s hearing as if he’s had frequent ear infections and colds then his hearing may have been affected. Even if he’s passed his newborn hearing test, contact your health visitor and arrange another test.

In the meantime, keep chatting away to your baby and sing nursery rhymes, always using lots of eye contact when you do this. Build a quiet hour into your daily routine so your baby can tune into sounds, and if he’s using a dummy, limit its use because without it he’s more likely to make noises.

9) Time for routine?

Q. My baby’s 4 weeks old and isn’t in a routine, but I’m happy. Do I need one?

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A. Don’t worry. In these early days, your job is simply to respond to your baby’s needs. His confidence will grow as he comes to understand you’re there for him. Carry on with your normal schedule. As long as there are no major problems such as sleeping all day and being awake all night, you may well notice that as the weeks go by, patterns begin to emerge. Then you can gauge whether a routine would help his sleeping or feeding patterns.

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