12 Months

Caring for Your 12-Month-Old


  • Most 12-month-olds are ready to switch from formula/ breast milk to cow’s milk. To optimize growth and development, start with whole milk, instead of 1 percent, 2 percent or skim milk.
  • Encourage, but never force, your baby to eat three meals a day, plus two snacks (usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon). Offer a cup (rather than a bottle) to your baby during mealtimes.
  • As a parent/caregiver, it is your job to offer age-appropriate healthy food choices during regular mealtimes. It is up to the child to choose what and how much to eat. Avoid giving juice, soda, tea, coffee and flavored drinks.
  • Babies may not take to every new food that is introduced. It can take more than one try for your baby to gain a taste for some foods. Be patient and keep trying.
  • Finger foods are appropriate at this age, as your baby is mastering a “pincer” grasp. It may be a little messy at first, but your baby will learn to feed him/herself with practice.
  • Try to encourage regular mealtimes for your baby, preferably together with the family.
  • While most 12-month-olds have teeth, they are not the teeth used for chewing. Be sure that the foods you offer are soft and cut in small pieces.
  • Some high-risk foods, including nuts, popcorn, hot dogs, whole grapes, and hard, raw vegetables, can present a choking hazard for your baby. Take care to avoid offering these.


  • Regular, easy-to-pass stools at least once daily are normal at this age.
  • As the baby’s diet expands, you may find that the stool pattern changes. Ask your doctor if you are concerned about the consistency or frequency of your child’s stooling.

Baby Care

  • Routines are important regarding sleeping and feeding schedules. Try to make the time leading up to your child’s bedtime relaxing and predictable with a bath and a book.
  • Babies this age are curious about their environment, and will touch and pull at most everything. Instead of saying “no” when they touch something inappropriate, try to distract them. Say “that’s dangerous” or “ouch” and redirect their attention to a safer item. Never slap or hit your baby; it will teach him or her to hit others.
  • To best care for your baby’s budding teeth, be sure there is fluoride in the water your baby is drinking. Use a baby toothbrush or washcloth to clean your baby’s teeth. Your baby can visit a dentist as early as 12 months of age.
  • Try to eliminate bottles and move toward sippy cups only. Do not let your child fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice, as this can rot the teeth.

Growth and Development

  • 12-month-olds often know a handful of words. The more words your baby hears, the faster he or she will learn. Talk to your baby, and prioritize face-to-face interaction. Reading to your infant will also promote language skills.
  • Babies this age love to use their hands. At this age, babies can learn to wave “bye-bye,” play peek-a-boo, and will enjoy watching your hands move as you sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or playing patty-cake.
  • Because the hands master fine motor control before the mouth, some infants can learn simple sign language starting at this age.
  • Books should be a part of your everyday naptime, playtime and bedtime routine. Your child will point at pictures, turn pages and bring books to you to read. Smile and answer when he or she speaks or points. If you ask a question, wait for a response from your child. Your child can follow simple stories and will often be calmed or distracted by books when you are waiting or riding in a car.
  • Babies often develop a fear of strangers at this age. Have strangers approach gently so as not to frighten your child.


  • Babies learn to stand by pulling up and supporting themselves on surrounding items. Sometimes these items can present danger. Make sure furniture is stable and will not tip over.
  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Co-sleeping, sleeping with your baby, increases the risk for SIDS. Your baby should sleep in a crib with a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Keep bumper pads, pillows, blankets, loose bedding and soft objects, like stuffed toys, out of the crib.
  • Lower the crib mattress so that when your baby stands up, the crib railing will still provide a safe barrier.
  • Keep the living environment (including the car) smoke-free, and keep small items (choking hazards) and hot liquids (burn risks) away from the baby.
  • Babies this age should ride in a rear-facing five-point harness car seat in the back seat of the vehicle until they have reached the maximum allowable height and weight limits printed on the car seat.
  • Most babies this age can crawl or get around on their own. Be sure you have the top and bottom of stairs blocked with gates to prevent falls. Be sure that electrical outlets are covered, and loose cords (lamp, TV) are tucked away safely to prevent injury.
  • Babies this age put just about everything in their mouths. Batteries (especially “button” type) and magnets pose great danger to children if swallowed. Other choking hazards are latex balloons, marbles, coins and other round or cylindrical objects. Keep these items out of your baby’s reach.
  • If you have a gun in your home, be sure the ammunition is kept separately from the weapon and that these are both kept safely locked away.
  • Chemicals (like lawn and cleaning supplies) and medications can be tempting for little ones to explore. Be sure these are locked away, out of the baby’s reach. If poisoning is suspected or questions arise, call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Be sure that you have safety guards on home windows, especially those on the second floor.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.