I've had a few questions about this period and how dramatically it effects sleep. Tomorrow, I'll feature one "typical" question about this period and its impact on sleep. But I think it's also important to know the "good news": the cool new skills that are being acquired during this incredible transition stage. You'll probably hear me say this again and again: one of the only things that got me through the roughest of the transition periods in my boys' development was knowing that underlying the crazy sleep disruptions and general neediness were these almost magical changes in the way that kids think and feel about their world, especially their social world. So here are some of the details about the developmental leaps kids are making around 9 months, taken from our book.
FROM Bed Timing: "Starting at around 8-9 months, babies learn to point, an operation that combines a hand gesture directed at an object with attention to the target of the other person’s gaze. They also learn to look where someone else is pointing, combining their attention to the pointing hand with their attention to objects at some distance out there in the world. Before this, children act like your cat: if you point at something, they look at the tip of your finger, not at the object you were trying to refer to. Pointing doesn’t make sense unless someone is looking where you’re pointing, or you’re looking where someone else is pointing, and it is not until this age that the infant’s working memory can hold onto both parts of this equation. Babies also learn to find objects that are hidden... The capacity to retrieve hidden objects makes it sensible to search for them, just as the capacity to look where someone is pointing makes it sensible to point... As we will see, the 8-11-month old’s obsession with retrieving hidden objects is fundamental to a major change in social development: the onset of separation distress, based on an obsession with retrieving hidden parents.
Another social habit that emerges at this age is gazing at other people, usually parents, for cues as to the meaning of a situation. This is called "social referencing." The classic experiment to test social referencing involves a piece of apparatus called the visual cliff. This is a plexiglass (see-through) surface that covers an actual cliff—a drop of several feet in a plastic surface, often composed of brightly coloured checks for easy visibility. In the classic experiment (yes, we like to mess with babies), the infant is invited to crawl across the flat, plexiglass surface, which he very often does with little prompting anyway. Then he arrives at the cliff. Although there is no real danger, it appears to the infant that the floor is about to drop away from under him. Should he proceed or not? Before the baby is 8-9 months, she (at least those who can creep or crawl) usually move blithely across the visual cliff, whether trusting in some divine protection or just plain oblivious. But now, at 8-9 months, they generally stop and look around for their mother. Once they catch sight of her, they look at her facial expression. The experiment is usually designed with instructions for mother to either smile encouragingly or to frown and look discouraging. Before 8 months, babies don't care what their mother's face looks like at that point; they go on their merry way or not. But starting at 8-9 months, infants’ actions depend very much on mother’s expression. If she is smiling, they proceed across the visual cliff. If she is frowning, they stop, and treat the cliff as dangerous. The point of the experiment is to show that the older infant decides whether to cross or not based on the parent’s nonverbal communication. Their interpretation of a situation is completely based on the reaction/signals of their parent." END QUOTE
Does this amaze other people as much as it does the geeky developmental academics? We completely FREAK OUT about how consistently you can find this new skill at 9 months and how non-existent it is in 7-month olds. This new "social awareness" is linked to the emergence of "separation anxiety or distress" and "stranger anxiety."
The specific implications for changing babies' sleep habits are HUGE...