Happy Birthday to you and your baby!
Baby’s first birthday is a special time for parents to look back on a year of changes, and forward to the year ahead.
12 Month Check
You will be well used to these checks by now, and it may be a relief that they will be less frequent from now on. It is still a good time though to have your pediatrician’s full attention to ask questions, and be sure that anything out of the ordinary is spotted early. Very likely you will be reassured that your baby is normal and healthy.
The nurse or pediatrician will weigh your baby and measure her length and head circumference, and plot her new results on her growth chart alongside her previous results. They will listen to her heart and lungs and check her eyes ears and mouth as well as the soft spots (fontanelles) on her head.
After a full physical exam your pediatrician will want to know how your baby is developing and whether you have any concerns. You might talk about how many words your baby uses, whether she points and claps, and pulls herself up on furniture or walks. There is a wide spread of what is normal at this age, and it’s good to talk to someone who really knows about baby development.
Vaccinations and Blood Tests
It is likely that some vaccinations will be given at this visit.
Most usually at your 12 month check your baby will be given shots for measles mumps rubella (MMR), chicken pox, Hib, hepatitis A and pneumococcal (PCV). Boosters for polio and hepatitis B along with any you have missed are also given. If your baby is unwell you may be advised to return when she is better. Fall and winter babies will be offered a flu vaccination now, or advised to come back soon when it is available.
A blood test can be taken for anemia, especially if your baby looks a bit pale. Sometimes a blood test for lead will be taken too, depending on where you live and what other buildings your baby spends time in.
A Visit to the Dentist
At 12 months it’s time to take your baby to the dentist. Most babies will have 2 or more teeth by their first birthday, and you will need to brush them twice a day, just like your own but with a soft brush and without the toothpaste.
Even if there are no teeth showing yet, you may want to introduce her to your family dentist, who can look and feel inside her mouth and give you an idea of when to expect new teeth.
Remember that un-brushed teeth before bed will promote tooth decay far more than in the day time when your baby is talking and salivating.
12 Month Baby Diet
At 12 months it is time to add cow’s milk to your baby’s diet, and gradually change from formula to full milk. You can still breast feed if you want to, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years.
You may already have thrown out your baby bottles and be using sippy cups with or without the beaker top on them. It is a good time to make this new milk drink come only from a cup. If your baby insists on a bottle for comfort you can help this process by only putting water in the bottle.
Gradually change the mealtime drinks first, then the morning drink. The last milk of the evening is the most important for comfort, so make it the final one to move over to full milk.
Although we think of low fat milk as healthier for adults, babies need fat for energy and growth. Rarely your pediatrician might suggest 2% milk for a very heavy baby, but otherwise stick to normal full cream milk.
Whilst milk is still a very important part of a 12 month baby’s diet, be sure that your little one is also getting a varied diet of normal table foods and healthy finger foods. A healthy diet for a 1 year old includes 2-3 cups of milk per day, fresh fruit and vegetables and cooked family meals, including 2 snacks and 3 meals a day. Keep take-outs and other salty foods to a minimum, but it’s a great time to let your baby try a bit of everything and expand her tastes.
With a changing diet comes changing diapers. You will probably notice different colors and smells, as well as some harder and softer poops. You will certainly notice if your baby has diarrhea and should consult your doctor right away, but don’t be concerned that her poop is just a bit different each time.
Milk can be quite constipating. It’s normal for a baby to go one or more days without a dirty diaper, and to grunt and strain a little when pooping. If she cries or screams, or keeps trying but can’t produce anything, give more fiber foods like fruit and wholegrains, and offer a drink of diluted fruit juice or prune juice. Check that you are not giving more than 24 – 32 ounces of milk a day. If that doesn’t help, consult your doctor for advice.
Baby’s First Birthday
Of course your baby has no idea what a birthday is, but for you and her siblings this is worth celebrating. Hold a little party just for your close family. Your baby won’t understand yet, but traditions always start with a first time. If you have older children the sight of a cake and lit candle and the Happy Birthday song will already be familiar. She may have seen them at day care or her toddler group too.
Keep it simple, with a cake, a song, and a parcel or two. Remember that at this age tearing off the wrapping paper and putting the box on your head are as much fun as most toys. Have the camera ready as this is another of those precious moments to share when your baby is older, even though for now it may feel like a lot of effort for something she doesn’t understand.
It’s a good time to visit with your own parents and siblings to, and maybe have a day out somewhere child friendly. Again this is more for others than for your baby. Be sure to keep things calm and not make so much fuss that she becomes confused and upset.
At a year old your baby can eat most foods, so a little party food won’t do any harm, but make sure she gets her usual healthy meal first, and limit new things. Beware of choking hazards like peanuts, hotdogs and hard sweets.
You have come such a long way together, and there is so much more to look forward to!