The time has come. Your sleepless nights actually involve some sleep. You can prepare to leave the house in under an hour, and you’re a pro at stocking a diaper bag. You are able to expertly loosen or tighten any 5-point harness and you can wash onesies in your sleep.
You made it – your baby has reached the 6-month mark! Just as you’re catching your breath and giving yourself a well-deserved, congratulatory pat on the back, you realize that after all the firsts, milestones and moments that have happened, there are so many more to come! So what can you expect in caring for your 6-month old baby?
Sleep: “To sleep, perchance, to dream . . .” Maybe Shakespeare said it best because this category is definitely trending positively! The good news is that sleep is back on the nightly agenda. At six months, your little one should be sleeping between 6-8 hours while still taking 2-3 naps during the day. You may find that your baby now just does longer morning and afternoon naps or she still may need three each day. The not-as-good news? 6-8 hours is the average, so while it’s more than you’ve been doing, you still don’t really get to “sleep in.” Also, keep in mind that this sleep standard applies to most babies but may vary based on your child’s sleep needs. Common occurrences like teething can also affect a baby’s sleep patterns.
Your baby is also a lot more mobile at 6 months, so even though you lay her down on her back, you may find her on her stomach or side when you return. At her age, the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has decreased, so it’s not required that you wake your child to readjust her. However, because she can move, you definitely want to eliminate any other items with her in the crib, including blankets, quilts, stuffed animals and crib bumpers. For this reason, you also can stop swaddling your baby as she can more easily get herself tangled in a swaddle blanket. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) still advises that you put your baby to sleep on her back, so this is a routine that continues at this stage.
Food, Glorious Food: One of the great reasons that your baby is sleeping longer is that she can now eat more so she’s not waking up as frequently with a “grumbly in her tumbly.” Six months is usually a good age for babies to try solid foods, whether it’s homemade or store-bought baby food. Again, it will vary, child by child, but some signs that your little one is ready include: holding her head up, opening her mouth when food is nearby, being able to get food from a spoon (rather than letting it dribble down her chin) and her interest in what you’re eating. So, what do you do when you’re ready to start? The AAP does not necessarily recommend one food over another for baby’s first; however, it is good to start with single food fruits and vegetables. When you pick one, be it peaches or peas, stick with that one food for 3-5 days so you can gauge any food allergies or reactions. Typically, solids are best received when mixed with a grain (like baby cereal) and a little formula or breast milk. Keep in mind that this is a whole new experience for your little angel so if it’s not well-received at first, give it a break and try again later. You also want to start slowly, with about 1-2 teaspoons of solid food and work your way up as your baby responds and grows. Breast milk or formula is still a major staple of her diet so continue that as well. Of course, feel free to consult your doctor or another trusted resource (like Moms On Call started and managed by nurse moms). Finally, what comes in must come out so be prepared for some changes in poopy diapers – it’s all part of the process!
Communication: This is when life really becomes fun! Around this time, your baby will start babbling and making all sorts of sounds, like “ba,” “da,” “ga,” and a whole range of vowels. Just as exciting as speech, her expressions and facial responses start to increase. You’ll hear more laughs, squeals, shrieks and see more smiles; she’ll react when you talk to her and even respond back. Use her name as she will begin to know that as well! Your baby will realize that she can use her voice to get attention and express that she wants something. She’ll recognize familiar faces, those who are “hers,” such as you and your spouse and other, regularly seen family members such as grandparents. On the flip side of this, this is also the age when babies can become clingy and show stranger anxiety around people she doesn’t know. If you become the only one who she wants, this is normal though sometimes exhausting. So what can you do to cultivate your baby’s communication? Read to her, sing to her, talk to her and engage with her. The more she sees and hears, the more she’ll say and do! Socializing, like play dates, music classes and baby groups, is also great and you can find local classes for 6 months and up (like baby sign language or music) in your community.
Movement: A common question at this age is “How should my baby be moving?” The answer – there are many different options; however, don’t be worried if your little one doesn’t do them all yet. Here’s a sampling of what you may see:
- Move an object from hand to hand.
- Reach or grab for what she wants.
- Sit with support.
- Prop herself up on hands and/or be able to sit without support.
- Roll from back to front and over again, even using this as a means to move around a room.
- Scooting, especially backwards, either on her stomach or sitting up.
- Rocking back and forth on her knees, as if trying to crawl.
- Yes, even crawl! This is the age at which babies can begin to crawl. Six months is on the early side but it can and does happen.
As a parent, you want to ensure your home is fully baby-proofed and don’t ever assume “my child can’t do that yet.” And, what should you do if you have concerns or worries about what your child is or isn’t doing? Again, we always recommend our tried-and-trusted partner, Moms on Call, and you can also check with your pediatrician. There is a wide range of “normal” and these experts can help determine what is right for your child.
As Dorothy realized in The Wizard of Oz, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” You’re entering an entirely new, but incredibly awesome phase in which your baby is saying more, doing more, expressing more (and yes, eating more!) Caring for your 6-month old is a new but extremely exciting adventure. Soak it up and enjoy it – it’ll be gone in a blink!
- “Baby Development: Your 6-Month Old.” com. 10/22/217. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-6-month-old#1
- Brusie, Charnie. “Your Six Month Old Baby’s Development.” com. 08/28/2018. https://www.verywellfamily.com/your-6-month-old-baby-development-and-milestones-4172585
- “Solid Foods: How to Get your Baby Started.” Mayo Clinic Staff. 04/14/2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20046200
- “Your Child’s Development: 6 Months.” 06/216 https://kidshealth.org/en/Parents/development-6mos.html