Your Baby's First Year: 6-Month Marker
At 6-months-old, Baby is becoming more mobile, more sociable, and more responsive at playtime. You may find yourself really enjoying this phase of life because Baby may become more predictable and generally easier to care for. This is also where she begins to make the change from cute infant to real babyhood — crawling, sitting up, holding her bottle, giggling, and stealing your heart every time she smiles at you.
The 6-month checkup
The 6-month checkup covers a lot of territory. Baby is weighed and measured, as usual, and his growth is plotted on the charts. He's given a physical exam by the doctor, who will probably have a lot of questions about what Baby has been up to this month. The doctor will ask whether Baby is reaching for toys or other objects, whether he tries to get things that are out of his reach, and whether he's rolling both ways, sitting, and pushing up on his hands and knees.
Your doctor will also want to discuss safety issues with you, like installing gates near stairways, and making sure that Baby is strapped into his feeding chair. Make sure that you take the time to write down any pertinent information and to ask any questions that you may have.
Most of Baby's checkups include at least one immunization shot. This month, Baby will be given:
- Hib #3: Protects against Hemophilus influenza B, which can cause meningitis and other serious (and potentially fatal) bacterial infections.
- DTaP #3: A three-in-one shot that protects Baby from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).
- PCV #3: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Pneumococcol bacteria can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and ear infections.
She may also receive IPV #3 and/or HBV #3, although these shots can be given anywhere between 6 to 18 months. Pediatricians also recommend a flu shot for children 6 months to 2 years; this is given in two doses in the fall.
Ask the doctor or nurse about the side effects of each shot, and appropriate comfort measures for each. Also make sure to ask which side effects warrant a call to the doctor.
Milestones this month
Baby is a busy little bee this month, both physically and socially. During the sixth month, you'll likely notice the following changes and developments:
- Expect Baby to gain about 1 pound.
- He increases in length by about 1/2 inch.
- Baby can now hold his head steady.
- He can hold and drink from a cup or bottle.
- He rolls both ways.
- Baby is able to transfer objects from hand to hand.
- He may be able to "stand" (support weight on his legs) when you hold him on your lap.
- Can probably sit up for a short period of time, supporting himself with his hands.
- Baby may begin to push up on his hands and knees or drag himself forward; a few kids perfect the art of crawling this month.
- He can feed himself large finger foods (like a baby biscuit).
- Baby recognizes the difference between his parents and others; stranger anxiety may begin.
- He mimics facial expression and sounds.
- Turns his head toward a voice or a sound.
- Recognizes and responds to his own name.
- Is able to participate in a game of peekaboo.
- Begins to babble.
Keep in mind that some kids are slower to reach physical milestones, but may still be well within the range of normal development. Doctors are most concerned with a steady stream of progression — whether or not Baby is working toward these milestones. Maybe he can't quite shift a block from his left hand to his right, but does he make an attempt? Is he trying to roll, or does he just lie on his blanket without moving at all?
Some children never really learn to crawl, opting to create their own unique styles of movement instead. This is also quite normal and nothing to worry yourself about.
Stimulating the older baby
So with Baby showing all of this wonderful potential for physical and social growth, how can you encourage her development?
For starters, take a step back and let her try to do some things on her own. Putting the bottle in her mouth just as she's reaching for it only delays the time when she'll actually be able to hold it herself and get it into her mouth. The same goes for her toys: Let Baby struggle a bit to get a toy that's out of her reach. She has quite a sense of achievement when she finally grabs it, and she'll work even harder the next time, realizing that there's a benefit to her efforts.
Speaking of toys, supply playthings that are age-appropriate. At this age, Baby may take an interest in toys that make noise (something that rattles or jingles when Baby shakes it) or toys that offer some visual interest (bright, primary colors catch Baby's eye now).
The best way to stimulate Baby is by playing with her. Take the time to engage in a game of peekaboo; sing songs; and tickle her tummy, giving her a chance to respond.
Reading to Baby at this age seems nonsensical to some folks. (Can she really understand the story? Will she seriously sit through the reading of a book?) Baby's tolerance for listening to a story is as important as choosing the right book. A child who has no interest in sitting still for more than a minute or two isn't going to enjoy storytime right now, and trying to force her into it will only set up a battle of the books between the two of you that isn't necessary. Have some cloth books around for her to look at when she chooses; have a few very brief board books on hand, too. Let her look at the stories when she's in the mood. Soon enough, she'll probably allow you to read one to her — though she may always prefer to be somewhat on the move while you do.
Continue talking to Baby by giving her a play-by-play of the day as it happens. Now that she's starting to babble, slow down on some of the single-syllable words, giving her time to interpret the sounds coming out of your mouth. Six-month-olds are just starting to get the hang of repeating sounds. Give her every opportunity to practice, even if she's only able to copy the inflection of your voice, and in a very short time she'll be forming her first little words.