Baby's First Year - Month 6
Firs foods and baby learns to talk
At this stage many parents introduce solid food for the first time. Solid food is actually assortments of purees. We have some tips to get you started below. Baby will also be continuing to absorb language and it is never too early to start reading and singing songs to your baby who just loves the sound of your voice!
How baby learns to talk
Simple - he learns from you. As you go about your daily routine with baby in tow he is soaking up everything around him, from the way you talk on your mobile phone or answer the door, to the sounds on the television. His brain is taking in everything that he hears.
You can add to these experiences by talking to him as you go about the day, singing him little songs when you change his nappy or bath him, playing games such as 'Old McDonald had a Farm', 'Incy Wincy Spider' or 'Round and Round the Garden', and reading out loud from his own books as well as your magazines and books - even the shopping catalogues.
Researchers have watched as mothers look after their babies and found that they talk to their babies in a certain way and that they pitch their voices differently than when they are talking to adults or the dog, or anyone else. This talk is called 'parentese' but it is just another instinctive thing that parents do when they are caring for their baby.
At six months the average number of hours a baby will sleep during the day is four and the average number of hours at night is ten. This is an average, some will need more, some less - but it shows that most babies still need to get an important part of their sleep quota during the day.
Babies of this age sleep because they are tired and if baby is not tired then you will have virtually no chance of convincing her otherwise. Alternately, if she is tired but you would rather she slept later, you will have great difficulty keeping your grizzly baby awake. Some babies are happy to play in their cots, but babies who have been left to cry for any length of time are not generally in this group - they associate the cot with being abandoned.
It is important that baby has a routine, but it should not rule your life. If you are out and it is baby's normal nap time, then do as much of his normal routine as you can - change, feed, rock - whatever your routine is. There is no reason why he can't sleep in your arms or over your shoulder at times like this.
There comes a time when baby will need more food than breast milk or formula, but it is important to know that there is no magic date. Baby will not suffer if she does not have her first rice cereal before she reaches the seven month mark, nor if she is interested in that first spoonful at five months. We do know that it is important not to offer foods other than milk any earlier or much later than that time. Earlier and her digestive system is simply not able to cope efficiently; she will still have the tongue reflex that makes the food come right back out and she is unlikely to be able to sit without one or two props. Later than seven months and she will not be getting the iron and other nutrients she needs to grow.
Baby's first food has to be a puree - even if she has a tooth or two she can't chew yet and she is likely to choke on anything else. Rice cereal (sold as baby rice cereal) mixed with breast milk or formula, is the usual first food because it is bland and easily digested, easy to mix up, its consistency can be altered and it is readily available.
Baby can have her first meal at any time that suits you - when you are not in a rush or stressed. Give baby her usual milk feed (breast or bottle) first and than offer one teaspoon of rice cereal (mixed according to the directions on the packet) from a spoon and bowl that have been thoroughly washed in hot water and dried on a clean tea towel.
Have a cloth nappy on your lap, sit baby on top and be prepared for a mess.
Offer her a small amount on the spoon and if she doesn't like it, don't persist. Throw the cereal away and try again later that day, or early the next.
If baby likes it you can introduce another new food after three or four days. Most parents chose a fruit such as apple or pear to puree first.
These are so easy to make yourself. All you need is an apple, a saucepan, two tablespoons of water and a stove. Peel, core and slice the apple or pear put it into the saucepan with the water and simmer until soft. Puree it with a tablespoon or two of boiled water and you have it! This will make about a cup and you can use this method to make different fruit purees.
Babies don't need any added salt or sugar added to their food, their taste buds are much sharper than yours.
Find out more:
Baby & toddler food. Recipes and practical information for feeding babies and toddlers by Carol Fallows and Karen Kingham (nutritionist), published 2005, Murdoch Books.
Introducing solids. Recipes for babies. Fact sheet from the Queensland Department of Health
Your baby can be immunised by your doctor, an immunisation clinic, your local council, your community child health nurse or possibly at a hospital. If you haven't received a reminder (or maybe you have mislaid it!) this is the month your baby needs the next lot of immunisations. Use this handy Immunisation Calculator to help determine what immunisations are due.
- IMMUNISATION: Don't forget to take your child's Personal Health Record when you go.
- EYES: Optometrists recommend that a baby should have their first eye examination at six months.
- FEEDING HABITS & TEETH: If you are feeding your baby to sleep, now is a good time to wean him off this routine. As baby's teeth come through they will quickly decay if milk pools around them while baby is asleep. So you need to find other ways of getting baby to sleep. If you are using a bottle you can gradually wean baby from the milk by diluting it with water and gradually increasing the amount of water and decreasing the amount of milk over a few nights.
Keeping in Touch
Getting together with other mums who have babies the same age is a great way of letting off steam. For some mums this is a Mothers' Group, for others it is being a member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association or a Playgroup. Finding the right group is very important - you want to find like-minded people who do not make you feel like an outsider, so it may be that the first group you go to is not right for you! This is not unusual and it is worth the trouble of trying out a few alternatives until you feel you belong.
Mother's Groups are often formed by women who meet in ante-natal classes, clinics or at the hospital. You can look for a local Mothers' Group by posting a message on the EB Forum (link to forums - Parents Groups) or checking out the noticeboard at your clinic.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association and Playgroup Association hold meetings in most suburbs and towns in Australia. There are baby playgroups and no child is too young to enjoy an environment full of other children and their mums or dads.
The Essential Baby Parents Groups offer a great way to chat and meet others online while baby is napping. The Playgroup Association website will help you find a playgroup in your area. Visit the site and click the Search for a Playgroup button. The Australian Breastfeeding Association's website will also help you find your nearest group. Go to the website and click on Contact Us to get the search facility you need.
Find out more:
The Parent Easy Guides from Parenting SA, a government organisation and the fact sheets from the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service are amongst the best and most up to date sources of information for Australian parents. Here you will find PDFs on all these topics and more.
Visit the Essential Baby Forums to meet other parents and share your experiences at each stage.
These guides are written for Essential Baby by child care author, Carol Fallows. Carol established Australian Parents magazine in the early 1980s as Australia's first parenting magazine and managed it for nearly 18 years. She continues to write about and for parents. Her most recent title is Having a Baby. The essential Australian guide to pregnancy and birth. (Transworld/Random House, 2005).
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This information is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have any concerns about your child's health or wellbeing it is important that you seek help from your doctor or a health professional.
Unless otherwise indicated the pronoun he or she refers to either sex. We have chosen to alternate.