You may be wondering where the last six months have gone now that your baby is halfway to a year already. This month, she will be further developing her interest in exploring the fascinating world around her and it won’t be long before she does not stay still in one place on her play mat!
This month will see the introduction of solid foods and possibly the appearance of her first tooth after weeks of teething pains.
Feeding and sleeping
At this age, babies need around 11 hours of sleep at night – possibly for eight or more hours consecutively, but many little ones will still wake once or twice during this period – and around three to four hours’ worth of naps during the day. If your baby is still waking regularly throughout the night, try to make sure she is getting enough milk throughout the day and at her final feed before bed. She might be waking for comfort rather than a feed so try offering cuddles or gentle pats before defaulting to the breast or bottle. Now may also be the time you consider moving her out of your room and into her own bedroom to minimise nightly disturbances. Remember also that even if your baby regularly sleeps through the night, you may still experience disturbed nights due to teething, illness, growth spurts, and so on.
You may be thinking about weaning your baby onto solids this month if she is showing signs that she is ready, such as sitting up unaided and controlling the movement of her hands to her mouth. You could try introducing finger foods such as cooked carrot batons, bananas, and toast fingers through baby-led weaning, or you might prefer to go down the spoon-fed route with pureed vegetables, yoghurt or porridge, or a combination of the two methods. Milk will continue to be her most important source of nutrients even as food is introduced. At this stage, your little one will not actually eat much as it is all about learning to try new tastes and textures, exploring food and taking joy from it, building the foundation for good nutrition as she grows. Try not to put any pressure on yourself or her to have a certain number of ‘meals’ per day – instead, keep weaning a fun and enjoyable experience for you both. Now is also a good time to introduce a sippy or open cup of water with food to get her used to drinking from a free-flow vessel.
Alongside milk and solids, it is recommended that children under the age of five years have a daily vitamin drop containing vitamins A, C and D unless they are drinking at least 500ml of formula per day.
Your GP or health visitor will be able to advise if you are worried about your baby’s feeding pattern and weight gain.
At this age, your baby will love making lots of noise, mimicking what she hears both in terms of tone and often the sounds themselves.
Talking to your little one is a key part of her language development – narrate your day together, ask questions and wait for ‘answers’, count the stairs as you walk up them, name items you come across in the world around you, and sing sing sing! You will often notice her touching your face as you talk to her and she works out the processes involved in talking and pulling silly faces.
Your baby will also use other non-verbal cues to communicate her needs to you, often holding out her arms to be picked up and cuddled, arching her back when she wants to be put down, and kicking her legs in excitement when she anticipates that an activity she enjoys is about to begin, such as bath time.
Senses and physical development
At around this age, you will notice how your baby is drawn to the detail, having been attracted to large movements and contrasting colours up until now. Your earrings, the pattern on your jumper or the nose of her favourite cuddly toy will be fascinating to her. She may try to reach out for them with her hands but her pincer grip for picking up smaller items is yet to come. Her ability to judge speed and direction will now make her more successful at grabbing moving objects.
Around now she will be developing her understanding of ‘object permanence’ – the awareness that an object still exists even if she cannot see it, making peek-a-boo even more fun as she anticipates your face appearing when hiding.
Your baby will likely be able roll from her back onto her tummy and sit up without support now, but she may still require some assistance for a month or two. She will also be able to bear some weight on her legs when you hold her under the arms, and may even try pulling herself up into a standing position using objects around her for support. This month, your little one may be making moves towards crawling, perhaps sliding backwards on a smooth surface during tummy time or shuffling on her bottom to get around.
Your baby will have lost most of her reflex actions by now and will be developing protective reflexes, such as putting her arms out when she topples over from a seated position.
You may notice your baby’s first tooth breaking through this month, providing a brief respite from the dribbling, sore cheeks, and teething pains. Now is a good time to introduce a soft bristled toothbrush for her to chew on in preparation for brushing.
Playing with your six-month-old
At six-months-old, your baby will be fascinated by texture. You can support this by exposing her to lots of safe household objects with different textures such as a soft pile rug, silk scarf, or kitchen foil.
Now that she is older, you can have more fun with the toys you offer her as your little one will need lots of stimulation. Stacking cups are great to support the development of her hand-to-eye coordination skills, alongside toys that encourage crawling such as moving cars, climbing such as walkers, and noise-making such as books with animal sounds.
Dancing around the living room is another fun activity to do together, along with singing your favourite songs and adding lots of hand actions to her favourite nursery rhymes.
Remember to also incorporate quieter periods of play into your baby’s day, encouraging her to play independently and to avoid overstimulation, particularly close to nap- or bedtime.
While the above indicates what you can expect to see your baby going this month, it is important to keep in mind that all babies are unique and will develop at their own pace. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, talk to your doctor or health visitor.
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett