9 month old baby milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more

Updated Apr 09, 2024
9 month old baby milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more | Huckleberry

Babies at 9 months are in a bit of a limbo stage where they’re not quite tiny babies but they’re not yet toddlers. They’re showing emotions, babbling, and moving around so much more these days, however, they still have a ways to go before they’re walking, talking toddlers. It’s a fun stage of development and there are plenty of exciting ways 9 month olds learn and grow. 

In this article, we’ll take you through the milestones you can expect from 38 - 42 week old babies, give you a handy 9 month old development checklist, and provide useful tips to help ensure your little one is learning and growing as much as possible.   

Editor's Note:

When we discuss babies and development at Huckleberry, we use their adjusted age (vs. actual age). Not all babies will reach 9 month old milestones simultaneously — and that’s OK! There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to how fast babies grow and develop. While many infants do reach these milestones between 38 and 42 weeks, this isn’t always the case. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s development, reach out to their pediatrician.


9 month old baby milestones at a glance

9 month old development milestones

38 to 42 week old development milestones checklist

5 development tips for 9 month old babies

Takeaway: Development milestones for 9 month olds

9 month old development milestones FAQ

Around 9 months, most babies are gaining some independence thanks to their developing gross motor skills. Typically they’ve started moving on their own by doing some version of creeping or crawling (though some babies never crawl!). They’re able to use new fine motor skills to do things like to feed themselves by picking up pieces of food with their thumb and index finger. 

On the language development front, they’re better able to show emotions and may be able to connect meaning to words like “mama” and “dada” at this age. 

We recommend around 14 hours of total sleep over 24 hours at this age. This sleep is usually broken down into 11 - 12 hours of overnight sleep and 2 - 3 hours of daytime sleep split over 2 naps. At 9 months, most babies can comfortably stay awake between 2.75 - 3.75 hours before sleeping again. These suggestions offer a basic framework for 9 month old sleep. It’s also helpful to pay attention to your child's mood and energy levels when evaluating their individual sleep requirements.   

Around this time it’s common for babies to hit a period of challenging sleep AKA the 8 month sleep regression (also called the 9 month sleep regression). This temporary phase is characterized by short naps, difficulty getting to sleep, and more frequent night wakings where time awake can last for long periods. If your child is experiencing these sleep challenges, rest assured that it won’t last forever! Sleep regressions typically last for 2 - 6 weeks. 

However, it's also usual for families to develop new routines during this time as a way to manage this phase — routines that frequently carry the risk of disturbing sleep over extended periods. For example, if a child who was able to fall asleep on their own starts requiring rocking to sleep, this change can frequently lead to more instances of waking up during the night. Fostering better sleep habits can help reset a baby's bedtime routine expectations, and return to encouraging your little one to fall asleep on their own once again. Many parents choose to accomplish this through sleep training.

Babies at 9 months typically eat every 2 - 4 hours, whether it’s breast milk, formula, or a solid food meal. At this age, most of your baby’s nutritional needs are still coming from formula and breast milk even as more solid food meals are incorporated into their daily routine. Your baby’s typical day may include 2 - 3 solid food meals as well as 3 - 5 nursing sessions or bottles. 

Around 9 months your baby can move toward eating finger foods [1] as their hand-eye coordination has improved as well as the fine motor skills that help them pick up small pieces and feed themselves. They can also benefit from trying advanced textures as they become more confident eaters. We recommend offering liquid feeds at least 30 minutes before solid food to make sure your baby comes to the table hungry and is getting the nutrition they need. 

At this age, a baby's appetite may vary quite a bit. Factors such as teething can impact how much they eat, especially when it comes to solid food. If this is the case, they may prefer breast milk or formula for a few days and that’s OK! If you have concerns about your child’s eating patterns, consult their pediatrician. 

Most babies have a weight gain [2] of about .5 - 1 pound each month at this age. They may grow about .5 inches in length too. Head size typically increases by about .25 inches each month as well. 

Note that it can be normal for your little one to grow more or less than this between 38 - 42 weeks. At well-baby visits, your child’s doctor will chart their height and weight to check that they’re growing at a regular pace and can pinpoint any trends that need attention. 

Sitting transitions: By around 9 months, most babies are able to get in and out of a sitting position [3] on their own while on the ground. Being able to change positions on their own helps strengthen the muscles needed to then move from sitting to a crawling position. 

Creeping/crawling: Most babies crawl between  7 - 10 months [4], so at 9 months your baby is likely doing some version of creeping or crawling! There are many different styles of crawling like classic hands-and-knee crawling, belly crawling on elbows, bear crawling with outstretched hands and feet, bottom scoot crawling, etc. 

Also note that some babies never crawl. Babies who don’t crawl (or who have a crawling style other than classic) can still reach subsequent motor milestones like walking. However, if you’re concerned about your baby’s gross motor development, reach out to their doctor. 

Pulling to stand: 9 month old gross motor milestones usually include babies working on pulling themselves up [3] into a standing position using a sturdy piece of furniture for support (like a couch or step stool). They may also start to take steps [3] while continuing to hold onto said piece of furniture. This action is called cruising and is a precursor to walking. 

Pincer grasp: Babies can typically use their hands in new and exciting ways by around 9 months. A baby’s pincer grasp [5] (use of thumb and index finger together) usually develops at about this time, making it easier for little ones to do things like pick up small toys and feed themselves. Most babies can poke something with their pointer finger at this age too. 

Holding objects: Around 9 months, babies are becoming more self-sufficient when it comes to eating. Most little ones can hold a bottle themselves [6] and will try to hold a spoon when they’re eating. It might be pretty messy at first, but it’s a big deal that they’re able to try! Another expected 9 month fine motor milestone is being able to bang two objects together [2]. 

Connecting meaning to babbles: Your baby may have been babbling “mama” and “dada” [7]  for a couple of months now. But until around this time, they probably didn’t connect any meaning to the words — they were simply sounds. Now, at around 9 months, your little one may know what the words “mama” and “dada” mean, if those are terms you use in your family. This is one of the milestones you’ll likely remember forever!

Early language comprehension: Your baby is likely understanding some simple instructions [6] at this age, especially when you use visual cues to help them — like motioning with your hand when you say “Come over here!” They also might look for familiar objects when you name them out loud. 

Copying movements and sounds: At 9 months, you may notice your little one is copying movements [5] they see and also mimicking sounds they hear. For example, if you push a button on a toy, they may then push the same button on the toy. When your child imitates you, it means they are paying attention and learning [8] from you! 

Expresses feelings: Typical 9 month old emotional development includes showing their feelings [3] using facial expressions and actions like crying, pointing, smiling, frowning, etc. Even though they don’t yet have the words to verbally express their emotions, they can still “say” a lot this way. 

Separation anxiety: If your baby is suddenly extra clingy and gets upset when you leave the room, separation anxiety may be the culprit. Separation anxiety usually starts around the 9-month mark. It’s a normal phase of brain development that marks a shift in your child’s understanding of themselves in relation to caregivers. When your baby realizes they are not physically connected to you, it’s often anxiety-inducing. 

Things like taking extra time to introduce your baby to a new caregiver or environment can be useful in proactively handling this period of development. The period of separation anxiety usually ends around 18 months so rest assured it won’t be forever. 

Most children will hit the following milestones by 38 - 42 weeks, but this might not always be the case. Babies develop at different rates and there’s a large spectrum of normal regarding how fast a baby grows and learns. If you are concerned about your little one’s growth or developmental delays at 9 months, reach out to their healthcare provider. 

  • Gets in and out of sitting on their own 

  • Creeps/crawls (note some babies never crawl!) 

  • Starts to pull to stand 

  • May take steps while holding onto support (cruising) 

  • Picks up small objects with thumb and index finger (pincer grasp)

  • Tries to hold a bottle or spoon while feeding themselves 

  • Connects meaning to babbled words like “mama” and “dada”

  • Understands simple instructions like “come here,” especially when coupled with a  gesture

  • Copies of movements and sounds 

  • Shows feelings with facial expressions and gestures

  • Displays signs of separation anxiety 

Chatting with your little one every day is a great way to help them reach 9 month language milestones. Exposing your child to as many words as possible and engaging in back-and-forth “conversations” help your baby learn [6] and become more interested in speech. Also, try to respond to your child’s babbling so they feel engaged with you too. 

If your baby is working on some version of creeping or crawling at 9 months, you can encourage their gross motor skill advancement by getting on the floor with them. Place toys a little out of reach to encourage their movement and even try a very simple game of hide and seek. 

Note that some babies never crawl and that’s OK! Meet your little one where they are developmentally and encourage them to do activities that build muscle strength that will help them with future motor skills like standing and walking. 

Encouraging your little one to love books is great for 9 month old language development. You can help foster their interest in reading by choosing board books with simple stories. Rhymes and repetition [9] also often do a good job of capturing the attention of little readers — as do books with pictures of other babies in them!  

When your baby has developed a pincer grasp and can feed themselves, encourage them to self-feed as much as possible. Allowing kids to use their fingers to eat helps them develop healthy, independent eating habits [1]. Note that babies will sometimes eat the food but other times they may only do things like taste, touch, lick, or squish it. These all count as food exposures and are a part of learning the skill of eating. It’s your job to offer food at mealtime and their responsibility [10] to decide how much, how fast, and how frequently to eat!  

At 9 months, babies often experience separation anxiety and may cry and become upset when you bring them to a new place and/or leave them with a new caregiver. To help build your child’s trust and learn how to tolerate being away from you, try gradually introducing your little one to these new situations. This may look like leaving them with a new caregiver for a short period at first then increasing the time once they’re more comfortable. 

  • Babies at 9 months are learning and growing so fast. They’re likely connecting meaning to words like “mama” and “dada,” copying sounds you make, and even understanding some simple instructions. Plus, they’re typically getting to be more social by trying to make their feelings known via facial expressions and gestures like pointing. 

  • 9 month gross motor development often includes exciting milestones like creeping or crawling, getting in and out of a sitting position on their own, and possibly starting to pull to stand. These skills set the stage for standing and then eventually walking! 

  • Most 9 month olds are able to feed themselves finger foods at this age thanks to the development of their pincer grasp. When they’re able to use their thumb and forefinger together, they can feed themselves small bites of food. Feeding themselves can help set the foundation for future healthy eating. 

  • Note that these are general guidelines for development at 9 months. It’s normal if your baby isn’t doing all of them between 38 - 42 weeks since all children grow and develop at different times. That said, consult with your child’s healthcare provider if you notice any 9 month old milestone red flags or delays.

If you're curious about what lies ahead in the coming month, glimpse into the future to see what you might experience once your baby is 10 months old.

9 month old development milestones FAQ

Q: What should a 9 month old be able to do?


Babies at 9 months are usually doing lots of new things like creeping, scooting, or crawling (though some babies never crawl), holding objects in each hand, and also grasping small toys and bites of food with their thumb and pointer finger. They may also be able to pull to stand at this age using a sturdy piece of furniture for support. When it comes to 9 month old speech milestones, little ones may be able to connect meaning to the words “mama” and “dada” if those are terms you use in your family.

Q: What are 3 major physical milestones by 9 months of age?


Physical development at 9 months often includes baby being able to get in and out of a sitting position on their own. They are usually able to do some sort of creeping or crawling movement that allows them to move independently, although some babies never crawl. At this age, little ones may also be able to pull themselves up to a standing position using a sturdy piece of furniture.

Q: What does a 9 month old understand?


At 9 months, your baby may be able to understand the meaning [7] behind the words “mama” and “dada” when previously they only babbled the words without intent. It’s an exciting speech milestone and one that’s particularly fulfilling for parents! 9 month olds are also better at understanding how to communicate their feelings using facial expressions and gestures like pointing. Children this age also often experience separation anxiety now that they are able to understand they’re a separate person from you, their primary caregiver.

Q: How to help a 9 month old reach milestones?


You can help your child reach 9 month developmental milestones by talking, reading, and singing to your baby as much as possible. Exposing your little one to language in these ways helps them learn words [11] and then associate them with specific objects or actions. Motivate your baby to work on motor milestones like crawling and pulling to stand by playing with them on the ground. Try to entice them to move using toys and fun games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek.

Q: What milestones should a 9 month old have for a pediatric visit?


During your child’s 9 month well-baby visit, their doctor will likely ask if you have noticed any developmental red flags when it comes to social, emotional, and physical milestones. They will also chart your little one’s height and weight to make sure they are continuing on their individual growth curve. A doctor will likely ask about milestones like crawling, babbling, eating solids, holding objects, and sitting transitions.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

11 Sources


  1. Nemours Health (2024). Finger Foods for Babies. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/finger-foods.html

  2. Children’s Hospital of Orange County (2024). 7-9 Month Old Baby Development & Milestones. https://www.choc.org/primary-care/ages-stages/7-to-9-months/

  3. Help Me Grow (2024). 9-Month Baby Developmental Milestones. https://helpmegrowmn.org/HMG/DevelopMilestone/9Months/index.html

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics (2021). Movement: Babies 8 to 12 Months. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Movement-8-to-12-Months.aspx

  5. UNICEF (2024). Your baby's developmental milestones at 9 months. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/your-babys-developmental-milestones-9-months

  6. The Hanen Centre (2016). Imitation and Communication: What’s the Connection? https://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Imitation-and-Communication-What-s-the-Connection.aspx

  7. Zero to Three (2024). Read Early and Often. https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/read-early-and-often/

  8. Pennsylvania State University - Thrive Initiative (2022). The Division of Responsibility in Feeding. https://thrive.psu.edu/blog/the-division-of-responsibility/