Your 1-year-old on the move
Congratulations on surviving your first year of parenthood! Time to throw a party to celebrate your first year parenting milestone. This might be around the time that you are thinking of or have returned to work. Regardless, this is another time of change, transitioning from having a baby to having a toddler. They have progressively needed less day sleep, meaning more time awake during the day for active play and exploration. At the same time, they have transitioned to needing less milk feeds, increased water intake and an increasing variety of foods.
Your 1-year-old sees the world differently now and will experience more brain development leaps to expand their sense of self-awareness, understand the world and their place in it, and making choices for themselves. They can communicate what they want using gestures/sounds and some words. They are learning and understanding new words every day, even if they can't yet say them all. This is an important time to expose them to language and communication within everyday situations (commentary), picture books, and 'conversations'. Their play is getting more complex, engaging in imaginative play, sensory play, music, and dance. You can get creative in helping your child explore through play and enjoy interacting with them.
They will be walking and gaining confidence on their feet over different surfaces within this stage, including how to get up and down steps. By 18 months they will likely be well on their way to running confidently and keeping you on your toes to keep up with them.
It is such a time of discovery and fun-seeking for your toddler. Let their joy and wonderment be contagious, an opportunity for you to follow their lead and see the world through their eyes, laugh, and be silly with them. Let yourself go to embrace life on the fun side together. Equally, give them space and opportunities to fully experience all their big emotions, let them feel, label the feeling, understand and find a way through their emotions. Be their safe place for a cuddle or kiss until they are back to baseline and ready to get back into it.
You are there to teach them, but equally they will teach (or re-teach) you a lot about life. Enjoy the ride!
Now that you have been doing solids for over 6 months now, you both will be getting into a bit of a rhythm. The biggest threats to keeping rhythm are new teeth and new food refusal. These things may not be an issue for your easy-going toddler, but many will be upset by teething and be the pickiest eaters at this age.
Teething can both affect your baby's appetite due to sore gums whilst helping them manage a larger variety of foods simply because they have more teeth for chewing. The seemingly never-ending teething can have you eagerly wishing for the day when the last molars are through (for your sanity and theirs).
With more teeth and more practice moving food around their mouths and being more effective with chewing, there is no need for purees anymore. Trying various textured foods, including crunchy and chewy, can be part of the widening menu of family foods. Whatever food you prepare for your toddler, be prepared and happy to eat it yourself if they refuse. You may even find that seeing you enjoy the food can entice their curiosity and change their mind to have at least a taste.
Continue to encourage your baby to sit and explore their foods with a mixture of using their hands and trying using utensils (starting with a spoon). If you keep giving them opportunities to use a spoon, by 18 months, they will be getting very good at not spilling and getting most of the spoon full in their mouth.
Keep food exploration fun, engaging for the senses and social. Be prepared for mess and do what you can to feel comfortable with the mess, including stripping them down to a nappy (if it's warm enough) and making sure your highchair or eating surface is easy to clean.
When trying new tastes, they will tell you in no uncertain body language what they like and dislike. Of course, keep in mind what they prefer, but continue to offer foods repeatedly. It can take some kiddos many exposures to like or accept certain foods.
Offer plenty of water during the day as well as breastfeeds/milk drinks. If you have a cup of water available or, better still, a bottle which your baby can access freely and without spilling, this certainly helps them move towards independence with drinking. They can usually start getting the hang of using a cup at 12 months, however, it is likely there will be spills. By around 15 months, if given regular practice, there will be less and less spilling. You might want to progress to a sippy cup/bottle or skip straight to a straw cup/bottle.
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Again, your baby has developed longer stretches of awake time between their usually 2 x daytime naps. The night stretches of sleep may also have become longer. Nighttime waking is still common (especially during development leap times), as well as the need for night feeds. If your baby's sleep hasn't improved as much as you expected by this stage, feel comforted that most parents are thinking the same thing - when will they sleep?!
As a rough guide, babies between 12 to 18 months old sleep during the day for around 1-3 hours (averaging 3.5 to 4 hours awake time between their 2 naps) and during the night, an average of 9 -12 hours. In total, this is 11-14 hours (with a range of between 9 and 16 hours). As always, the averages serve to give you an idea of what the awake/sleep rhythms of your baby's day might be, but each baby will be unique in their sleep needs. You'll know by now if your baby tends to need more, less or an average range of sleep to function. They may have always been that way, or perhaps their sleep needs have changed over time to a degree.
Whether you have your baby in a cot, toddler bed, floor bed or bed-sharing with you or your spouse, find what works for your family as long as you have the peace of mind that it is a safe sleep surface.
If you yourself need more sleep, try enlisting the help of your spouse or family members to give you a nap during the day or enjoy an earlier bedtime where someone else puts your baby down. Any extra sleep will do you good and has such a potential to change your perspective on life completely.
Now that you are over 12 months post-birth, you might be slowly starting to feel yourself again. Your body will have mostly recovered from being pregnant, your boobs won't be leaking (so much), your belly skin may have bounced back (somewhat), and the relaxin which caused your joints to become stretchy for the birth should have returned to normal. If you feel worse-for-wear, you might be well overdue for a medical check-up to check your iron and other essential nutrient levels. It is not uncommon for women to experience postnatal depletion even years after their births. Byron Bay-based Integrative Doctor Oscar Serrallach speaks about this in-depth in his book The Postnatal Depletion Cure, you can also check out his website to learn more. If you identify with the symptoms and get the checks done, then you have a path to feeling yourself again.
The importance of self-care is repeated to mothers in different words, but with the same message for a reason. It's time to get the help you need to take a breath, focus on your body, mind and spirit messages and take action. Your toddler will be non-stop exploring and practising their mobility skills at this age. They will often prefer their mother at this age but will go to other loving caregivers. Identify who those helpers are and ask for help - they will often be delighted to be able to spend time with your energetic kiddo and take them out to explore new sights.
If your toddler gets unwell and you are ever worried about what to do even after hours, remember you can contact your GP and/or go onto the Health Direct website or app or ring the hotline on 1800 022 222.
It's a good idea to make sure your thermometer is working for when you need it, have a cold pack in the freezer, a hot pack ready to go, a vaporiser in the cupboard, and a well-stocked first aid kit including bandaids. You might want to keep a store of pain relief medication handy for when/if it's needed - hopefully these are rarely needed.
If you're spending lots of time outdoors, make sure you slip, slop, slap on high UV days and times. You might want some natural sunscreen, a sun shirt and a sun hat for you and your kiddo. Sunglasses are also super-cute on toddlers, especially to accentuate their sass or coolness.
You'll be well and truly practised at nappy changes by now. The difference now, is the challenge of trying to keep your explorer in one place long enough to get them cleaned and changed. At this age, pull-up type toddler pants are the perfect compromise. These will get your toddler ready for wearing undies. When wet, these can be ripped off at the sides and you can wipe your toddler in standing, hose them down, or lay them down for the minimum amount of time to get clean, then stand to pull on the new pants. If you do need them to lay down and need to distract them, try giving them an everyday item that you use such as a tube of cream they can't open, keys, or sunglasses (just watch they don't put them in their mouth!). They will be more interested in these than any toy.
When you want to start your toddler with toilet learning and will be out and about, it can be handy to have the National Public Toilet Map app installed on your phone. Because when they have to go, they have to go! Knowing where the nearest public toilet is will come in handy for you too especially if your pelvic floor isn't what it used to be.
Bathtime is a great activity to do well before bedtime to give your toddler time to play with the water and their bath toys. If you don't have a bath installed, you can try something like the Shnuggle Toddler Bath or a large plastic tub. Bath toys can be as simple as a plastic cup, basic stacking cups, to any number of water-friendly toys such as those available from The Stork Nest, Lime Tree Kids, Cherub Baby, eBay's range of Bath Toys or Amazon's range of Bath Toys.
Your toddler will be busy trying to stand up and will need to be closely supervised around water. There are bathtime safety items such as a non-slip mat, bath spout covers, step stools and kneel pads (more for you) that can help keep things safe and fun.
You'll continue to find new uses for baby wipes since they are always handy, so much so, that you might always have a packet handy in the house from now on well past the toddler years.
You'll want to be brushing your toddler's teeth as soon as they come through to keep them clean and healthy. Your toddler won't have the hang of spitting out the toothpaste just yet, so use a baby toothpaste and soft brush for now. Lime Tree Kids has a great range of kids dental care products to check out. Toddler's love music, so if you are struggling to keep them interested and engaged, why not download a free toothbrushing app such as Brush Teeth with The Wiggles.
Between 12 to 18 months is a very dynamic time for your toddler developmentally. They are more engaged than ever in their play activities to learn, discover and experiment with everything. You can feel like they are everywhere at once. If you have done your baby-proofing early, you can relax a bit, knowing there is nothing they can get into that they aren't supposed to. Just know that as soon as there is something in their reach that they aren't supposed to have, you can bet they will be all over it like a rash!
You can be impressed by your toddler's developing fine motor hand control improving. At around 12 months, they are practising a refined pincer grasp, using their thumb and tip of the forefinger to pick up objects. By 15 months, they are typically working on holding a pencil at first using their whole hand (known as the palmar supinate grasp), imitating scribbling, and building a tower of 2 blocks. Give them plenty of opportunities to practice their hand skills through activities such as playdough, block building, drawing (use thicker handled pencils, crayons or chalk on horizontal and vertical surfaces), finger and brush painting, playing with stickers and large magnets, drumming the options are endless! Starting from this age, a kids easel can be fairly inexpensive to purchase and inspire many hours of play. You might notice that they enjoy playing with simple everyday objects, especially if they move and have parts that pull apart and fit back together. It's not necessary to spend a huge amount of money on toys at this age. Instead, you can head to the kitchen drawer, and they can be just as happy. It is a time where they can really start enjoying and engaging with picture books. With regular practice and familiarity with books, by 18 months, they will be attempting to turn the pages themselves. Even if they are turning 2-3 pages at a time, they will have the hang of single page-turning in no time with more practice!
Now that your baby is moving into toddlerhood and is becoming more upright, this is a great time to expand their wardrobe to include more tops, shorts, skirts and dresses. This wardrobe update will make you realise just how much they have grown up. Of course, they will still look crazy cute in a onesie and a jumpsuit which will still be great all-rounders, especially around nap and bedtimes.
If you're out and about and want to protect your toddler's feet, soft shoes with plenty of toe space make the best first shoes. For any other time, barefoot is the way to go to help your toddler gain the maximum sensory feedback from their feet to help with developing more confident walking skills.
Now that your baby is getting bigger and starting to get up on their feet, they have a new mode of transport, their legs! At this age, they are mobile but remain quite unaware of hazards around them, so need close supervision as they explore everything in their reach.
They are heavier, but if you have regularly carried them from birth, you might have noticed that your strength and ability to carry them have developed as they have. That's not to say, that carrying your toddler doesn't put a load on your body, especially if you have back, neck or other conditions which make it difficult or painful to carry your baby. In that case, every growth spurt makes it harder to lift and carry them.
Continue to look for products which fit your lifestyle, what your body can manage to push/carry/lift, local environments, and where else you will need to take your baby. You can use any combination of the following at different times:
- carrying (in arms/sling/carrier) - Carrying your baby has many benefits for both you and your baby even into toddlerhood (if you can manage their weight). For this phase, what suited your younger baby may be not feeling right anymore.
Baby Tula have a great range of colours in their toddler carriers which are designed for 11kg to 27kg for front or back carries. Their other carriers are designed for babies up to 20kg so are worth considering also. Ergobaby also have a great range of versatile full buckle carriers suitable for babies & toddlers.
If you are confident with baby carrying and are ready to try a woven wrap, these are great for any sized baby, they just require some learning in the beginning.
- car or public transportation - To travel in a car, you will continue to need a child car seat. If you have had your baby in a capsule car seat, some of these last until 12 -18 months, it could be time to upgrade your seat. See our guide to choosing car seats below for what to consider. For travelling on public transportation, a small to medium-sized pram and/or carrier can be great. Once your toddler gets fast on their feet, yet is still impulsive, some parents opt for a backpack with reins to give them some freedom whilst keeping them safe. Now that they are more alert, you may need to think of novel ways of keeping them comfortable and entertained on your journey.
- Combination Pram/stroller or stroller - If you have a Combination pram/stroller, you can be confident in sitting your baby more upright in the seat when they are alert. You still have the option to lay the seat flat when they have a nap in the pram. Strollers and jogging strollers are designed to be used from 6 months old, but not before. Your baby will enjoy being about to see the world in outward-facing seats and some will still want to face you at different times. Having the option to face your baby to you or face them out can come in handy to cater to their mood and preferences as they change. When it comes to looking around and choosing what is going to suit you, it all gets very confusing because there are so many brands and so many models available. You need to know what you want and need before you can begin to narrow down your search.
- bicycle (with a child seat or trailer/pod) - great fun and fitness for you in urban areas (smoother roads help with comfort) whilst creating a sensory experience for your toddler. Just make sure they are strapped in tightly and secure in their seat.
- convertible tricycle (from 6 months) - a fun open seat for young children with either footrests or pedals where the parent can push much like a stroller or the child can pedal (once old enough). Great for walking but mostly for even or sealed roads or footpaths due to the quality of the wheels and suspension.