4 to 8 Months of Age

Communication and Play

Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby

Eating

Moving

Socializing and Feeling

Learning

Bedtime

Healthy Practices

Safety – in Brief!

 

Communication and Play

Between 4-8 months, infants being to make different sounds with their voices as well as with their cries. They’ll play with their voice and start making sounds such as “dada” or baba” over and over. They like to listen to and imitate other people’s voices and tones. “Echo” is a favorite game.

The infant now starts to realize and enjoy the “social” games that parents and others play with them. They like to touch your face and hands, or toys that rattle, squeak or move. Their voice, facial expressions and gestures will tell you if they like or dislike something.

Infants 4-8 months will do things over and over, practicing and learning. They'll laugh and smile at all the attention they receive. Learning to communicate back and forth will help you to adjust the type of play to the infant's mood.

Even at this young age, the infant recognizes and adheres to a certain schedule or routine. They recognize familiar names, faces and toys. They are starting to quickly gather a hearing vocabulary; they understand more and more words each week. They may start to wave “bye-bye”. One definite landmark of this age group is the fear of strangers and parental separation.

Playtime can be a very enjoyable and bonding time.

o   Talk, read and sing to your baby

o   Take them out for a stroller ride

o   Gently massage arms and legs

o   Place under a mobile or give baby squeaky toys or rattles

o   Stacking toys, nesting toys or bubbles

o   Vary baby’s position; e.g. swing, on a blanket on the floor, play pen, bounce chair, infant seat, etc.

o   Show simple pictures to baby

o   Play soft music or musical toy

o   Place infant on a blanket on the floor and place toys just out of the baby’s reach

o   Place infant on the floor and encourage them to come to you

o   Play “Peek-a-Boo” and “Pat-a-Cake”

o   Kiss and cuddle; enjoy the moments of holding your baby close.

Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby
  • Meet basic needs first.
  • Check for fever, swollen gums and other signs of illness. Don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician.
  • Hold the baby against your chest and gently massage the baby.  Take a class in Infant Massage – it works wonders!
  • Rock, walk, or gently dance with the baby. Provide a repetitious rhythm while holding the baby.
  • Be patient; take a deep breath and count.
  • Call a friend or relative that you can trust to take over for a while, then get away, get some rest. Relax.
  • Offer a pacifier. No, it does not form bad habits. Some infants need the comfort that sucking on a pacifier provides.
  • Lower any surrounding noise and lights.
  • Offer the baby a toy that makes noise.
  • Hold the baby and breathe slowly and calmly; the baby may feel your calmness and become quiet.
  • Sing or talk to the baby using soothing tones.
  • Play some “white noise” or soft music.
  • Take the baby for a walk outside in a stroller or for a ride in the car seat.
  • Most of all, pray without ceasing. Heavenly Hosts await our call for help and they will assist the diligent parent.

Meet Basic Needs

  • Feed the baby
  • Burp the Baby
  • Change the diaper
  • Make sure clothing isn't too tight
  • Make sure baby isn't too hot, or too cold.

Mealtimes should be happy and relaxing. The infant in this age range will start to become distracted while bottle feeding if they are not in a quiet place. They may also begin to fuss more after feeding if they are not yet full. Breast milk or formula may not be enough for them anymore. At this time, begin introducing one new food a week. Rice cereal is usually the first solid introduced to an infant. The baby’s body is not ready for cow’s milk, so they should still be bottle fed with formula or breast milk and their cereal be mixed with either one of these. Other cereals they may enjoy could include infant oatmeal or barley.

Other foods appropriate for these infants are: Pureed squash, sweet potato, carrots, peas, applesauce, peaches, bananas, pears, beef, chicken, turkey or lamb. These can be bought in small containers already pureed for the young infant. If you have time and the inclination, enjoy the process of pureeing your own fresh vegetables and fruit. Remember to introduce a wide array of vegetables before fruits. The sweetness of fruits quickly becomes a favorite and getting them to eat vegetables becomes next to impossible! Also, consider introducing soft foods such as plain tofu and ripe avocado and finger foods such as crackers and cheerios. These are fun for little ones to eat and will help to keep them busy while a meal is being prepared.

When an infant has finished eating, they will push away their bottle or refuse to take food, start vocalizing and playing or look away. Don’t force them to continue eating. Too much food at one time can cause them to vomit. Remember to write down when and how much the infant ate and then put them in the appropriate place for playing or sleeping.

WARNING: Do not give infants any honey, hot dogs, home prepared beets, turnips, raw carrots, grapes, chips, popcorn, candy, peanut butter, eggs or cinnamon.

PRECAUTIONS: Never prop a baby’s bottle up and leave them to eat on their own. Also, never allow an infant to fall asleep with a bottle. Always hold them or strap them into a highchair while feeding. If you must stop the feeding, take the bottle with you. Leaving a bottle with an infant can cause choking, ear infections, or damage their first teeth when they come in.

On the Move…

When infants are first learning to sit up, they will need lots of support. Using a Boppy Pillow or Bumbo chair can be very helpful during the training process. As they become stronger, they will need less of this support, but a soft blanket is always nice for added padding when one topples over accidentally.

At this age, the infant will need daily “tummy time”. Simply placing them on their tummy in the middle of a blanket spread on the floor will give them practice rolling over and pushing up with their arms. They will soon be rolling around and exploring new things. During these explorations, they tend to get stuck into positions and will cry out for help.

One of the funniest things these young infants do is scooting. They try to scoot forward and find themselves moving backwards. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t back into unsafe areas.

Infants at this developmental stage will also begin to show more skill at reaching, holding and exploring toys. They can move toys back and forth between their hands and will play by ringing their hands together, separating them and bringing them together again.

During the later part of this age group, infants will begin to show anxiety or fear when new or different people come around. This is the beginning of “stranger anxiety”. They’ll have to get acquainted with the newcomer before playing with them. However, with familiar people, they will cuddle closely, return smiles, show preferences for certain people, use signs as well as cries in order to be held, stare, study and copy faces and become upset when their parent/caregiver leaves the room.

Whatever you do, resist the counsel to force them to acclimate. “Stranger anxiety” and “separation anxiety” are natural and typical.  Instead of trying to soothe them with “don’t be afraid” messages, reassure them with “It’s okay; I’m here” messages. An infant that learns to trust will be a well adjusted and happy toddler – child – adult. Reassurance and trust now will pay big, big dividends later on, so be patient and enjoy being the most important person to your child.

Learning

Toys with various textures and sounds are interesting to children in this age group; especially if they make a loud crashing noise when toys are dropped to the ground. These infants like to drop toys from their highchair or crib, have the adult pick it up for them and then re-drop it. They like the sound and enjoy the personal attention. Avoid getting angry; it’s only a game. Instead, teach the child to pick of the toy.

They listen intently to all sounds around them and sometimes get scared by sudden, loud noises. Pick up and comfort your little one and try to distract them with something else.

Probably the most important thing parents can do at this stage is to purposefully develop the infant’s attention span and listening skills. It’s not as difficult as it may appear. Simply spend time reading to them and letting them listen to audio stories. Whatever you do, do NOT introduce visual stimuli such as television, movies, video games or phone applications. These hold them captivated, but they are passive entertainment. Research has shown that these visually stimulating activities have a detrimental effect on the developing brain. Don’t be led astray by the marketing power of the mass media claiming that baby videos are teaching tools. They are not.

Read to your child. Tell your child stories: Stories of your childhood, Bible stories or animal stories. Listen to simple, age-appropriate stories. Sing songs to them. Then, read to your child some more.

By the time an infant reaches 3 – 4 months of age, their physical needs will dictate their sleeping habits and a routine will begin. Try to avoid the temptation of forcing your baby into a sleeping routine dictated by doctors, friends, family members or books. Everyone will be much happier and rested if you create predictable rituals and routines that work for your young family as a whole.

While sleeping, place your baby on their back or on their side for sleeping. Avoid putting them on their stomach as they may suffocate if they cannot turn their head or roll over.

Check on a sleeping infant frequently and/or use a monitoring system. Make sure the infant does not have pillows or stuffed animals in their crib or bassinet. The room should be kept at a comfortable temperature and only a light receiving blanket placed over the sleeping baby.

If an infant cries out while sleeping, they may need their pacifier or a gentle rocking to urge them back to sleep. They may cry louder at first, but soon sleep will take over. Do not give them a bottle in order to go back to sleep. If they are hungry and it is time to eat, go ahead and get them up for a feeding. Their body will fall back to sleep once their stomach is filled.

Healthy Practices and Safety

It’s very important that infants receive their immunizations on schedule. No, it is not true that multiple immunizations cause Autism (Center for Disease Control; Medical News; Kids Health;  American Academy of Pediatrics). As a result of these shots, they may become fussy, have a slight temperature or loose stools. These usually clear up by the second or third day after a shot series. One thing to remember: Do not give your infant any type of pain reliever prior to an immunization shot. You want to know if the child has a reaction to the shot(s). Only provide pain reliever after the shots are given and only if the infant shows signs of discomfort. Be sure to ask your pediatrician for dosage amounts specific to your baby.

Keep in mind, immunization shots are bundled – multiple shots given at one time. Feel free to ask the doctor to give these shots individually.  

At this age, an infant may begin teething. Common symptoms are crying, being fussy, drooling, chewing on everything, loose stools, elevated temperature and unwillingness to suck. Chilled teething rings and chewing on a wet washcloth will help, as will some gum numbing gels.

Now that your infant is a few months old, they’ll be visiting more places and cuddling with more people. The exposure to germs will increase, but so will their immune system. The better part of wisdom is to ensure that whoever holds your infant is free from any known viral or bacterial infections. The good thing: Most people will tell you if they’re not well.

If you suspect the infant may be ill, look for typical symptoms such as:

·         The infant stops and refuses to suck on their bottle

·         They become abnormally fussy and cannot be consoled

·         They behave as if unusually tired

·         Have three or more bouts of diarrhea

·         They begin vomiting forcefully

·         Have a temperature of 100° or higher.

In such cases, contact your pediatrician immediately. If your child’s doctor has a list of symptoms with higher thresholds (e.g. temp of 101° or more), consider getting a new pediatrician. Because of their small size, young infants are very vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, having seizures with high temperatures or developing respiratory problems or ear infections. If your child is miserable, they need help.

Safety – in Brief!

·         Infants are most comfortable if the room temperature is kept around 78 degrees. To keep the baby warm, dress in a t-shirt, one piece outfit and blanket. If the infant is cold, cover their head with a light hat. More than likely, if your baby is too hot or cold, they will be fussy. Simply touching their skin with the back of your hand can help you determine if they need more or less clothing. 

·         Young infants who cannot yet lift their heads, turn over or raise themselves up with their arms should not be placed on their stomachs for danger of chocking, suffocating or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). NEVER lay an infant on a bean bag chair, water bed or mattress with plastic, pillows or blankets. The infant can suffocate, asphyxiate or choke if they turn or roll over.  NEVER leave an infant unattended especially if they are on a bed, couch, chair, changing table or other elevated surface.

·         Walkers are not safe toys. If used, they must be closely supervised so the infant does not roll down stairs or into unsafe areas. 

·         Toys with strings or cords can get wrapped around an infant’s neck or body and strangle them. Watch closely and keep all such toys out of children’s reach. Really – this is serious. Once the child is able to walk, they will love pull-string toys. Infancy is not the time for them, though.

·         Closely supervise—they put everything in their mouth! Putting things in their mouths is their way of exploring their environment. Protect them from:

o   Poisonous plants – many indoor varieties are toxic

o   Medications, vitamins, herbs, compounds

o   Cleansers

o   Dangling cords

o   Open stairways

o   Electric sockets and power cords

o   Plastic or balloon pieces

o   Small objects on the floor

·         Before diaper changes or bath-time, make sure everything is within arm’s reach, i.e. diaper, wipes, towel, baby wash, lotion, etc. When bathing, only use a small amount of warm water and baby soaps made from natural ingredients. After bathing, gently pat the baby’s skin dry. Remember to never leave an infant alone while bathing.

 

·         Driving with an infant is another matter. In fact, we have an entire page dedicated to young children in vehicles. Most areas have laws that require infants to be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car. Remembering they are back there is the danger. A sleeping baby is quiet – so is a choking baby.

 

One solution is for someone to ride in the backseat with the baby. An additional solution is to invest in an infant seat mirror. These mirrors attach to the headrest of the car seat directly in front of the infant. The driver of the vehicle can then look into the rearview mirror which reflects the baby’s image in the infant mirror. Not only is it a safety tool, these little infant mirrors are also great communication tools.

 

The car seat: The safest car seat is the infant, rear-facing car seat. Some children are petite and lightweight. Why not use this first seat for as long as your child fits into it? On the other hand, a fast growing little one might grow out of his car seat faster than you realize. Keep an eye on the length and weight of their bodies and be sure to use the correct car seat.
 
 
 
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