Babies come in all shapes and sizes, but baby development at 5-6 months typically has a few things in common. Here’s what your baby might be doing, how you can help and when to see a child health professional.
Baby development at 5-6 months: What’s happening
At 5-6 months, your baby is learning about who she is. She’s also working out the difference between parents, caregivers, strangers, adults and children. At this age, she has made important attachments to her parents and other close family members or caregivers, and likes spending time with them.
Around this time, your baby might seem more aware or afraid of grown-ups he doesn’t know well – this is stranger anxiety. It’s a normal part of learning to feel safe in the world. If you give your child time, he’ll eventually get used to these new people.
Your baby can express emotions – laughing, squealing and smiling with happiness, joy and pleasure. At this age, she’ll smile when she wants to. But she’ll also grunt, frown and cry if she’s angry or sad.
When it comes to communicating, your baby might babble and make sounds like ‘baba’ or ‘gaga’. But he’ll also let you know what he wants using other noises, movements and smiling. For example, putting his arms up might mean ‘Lift me up’.
Around this age, your baby can move her head on her own and is starting to move her body more by reaching, wriggling and rolling.
Your baby is also much better at using his eyes to guide his hands. He can reach out for objects with one hand, grab things and put them in his mouth or move them from hand to hand. Touching and tasting is how he learns about things now.
Your baby’s appetite is growing, and she’s ready to experience how different foods taste and feel. This means it’s a good time to introduce solid foods.
At this age your baby might also:
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what she can reach, so always watch your baby. It doesn’t take long for baby to unexpectedly roll into or reach for something that puts her in danger.
Helping baby development at 5-6 months
Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby’s development at this age:
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, she might be too tired or hungry. She’ll use special baby cues to let you know when she’s had enough and what she needs.
Responding to crying
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to his crying – for example, by changing his diaper when it’s wet or feeding him if he’s hungry – he feels more comfortable and safe.
Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort her. You can’t spoil your baby by picking her up, cuddling her or talking to her in a soothing voice.
But lots of crying might make you feel frustrated or upset. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place – for example, a cot – or ask someone else to hold him for a while. Take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or call a family member or friend to talk things through.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.
It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your toddler, talk to your spouse, a family member, friends or seek professional help.
Parenting a six-month-old
Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what she needs and how you can meet these needs.
As a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know and ask questions – often the ‘dumb’ questions are the best kind!
Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child or baby, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.
When to be concerned about baby development
See your paediatrician or General Practitioner (GP) if you have any concerns or notice that your six-month-old is having any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communication
Your child doesn’t smile or show if she’s happy or sad.
You should see a child health professional if you notice your child has lost skills he once had.
You should also see your paediatrician or GP if you notice the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men in yourself or your spouse. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your paediatrician or GP.
Video: Connecting and Communicating (0-6 Months)
Watch this video and learn the importance of communicating with your baby, and how it helps her learn and develop.