Baby's sixth month: development, medical and sleep
Sitting by himself opens a whole new world view
At six months, your baby will have a basic comprehension of names such as “Mum”, “Dad” and siblings has started, followed by basic words such as “no”, “bye” and “bottle”. To encourage them to learn words, talk slowly so they can register what words mean and give them a chance to imitate the sound of them.
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.
Babies will be able to understand waving, kissing and recognise names and basic words such as yes and no. Talk slowly so they can register what words mean and imitate them. They are also able to copy facial expressions and roll over and back again. Eye colour can also change when babies turn six months.
Your toddler can also distinguish between male and female voices now and look at objects as a whole visually. Babies are also skilled at figuring out the orientation of objects – eg: up, down or sideways and have a keen interest in a variety of sounds.
If they can keep their head level when in a sitting position and sit by themselves with minimal support they are usually able to sit in a high chair, which is timely considering this is usually a good time to begin weaning. They should be able to hold a bottle.
Your baby might have realised that he can use rolling as a way to transport himself, or he may skip it altogether and move on to sitting, lunging, and crawling all of which enable him to actively explore his environment so don’t delay child proofing your home, keep a hand on your baby during nappy changes and never leave him unattended on any other elevated surface.
Bouncing babies on their toes helps to strengthen their legs for crawling in a few months. Babies can also usually sit up unsupported at six months, although they may fall when reaching for an object in front of them or to the side, and it’s important to let your baby try and reposition herself if this happens, as it also helps her with crawling, provided she can’t hurt herself. Once babies are aware of their new found mobility they will begin to actively explore their environment and it might be a good idea to start child proofing your home.
At this age your baby also not only tolerates attention from others, he'll often initiate it. He is also aware that certain types of attention draw your attention and he will act accordingly, to try provoke a reaction from you.
Social and emotional imitation also begins at six months where if you shake a toy, your baby will copy you and if you are in a bad mood, your baby is likely to pick up on this and reflect this in his own behaviour and will perform certain actions specifically to draw laughter.
Eczema can appear during this time, often as a result of the new foods your baby is having. Eczema is a skin condition that presents as a red, scaly rash and often identifies an allergic reaction. The onset of eczema starts between two and six months and can continue for several years. Babies who have parents with a history of it or asthma or hayfever are most susceptible to it. It is extremely itchy but children must not scratch because this can result in infection and should wear mittens to stop them from being able to do this.
Changes in bowel movements are also common as babies begin to eat many different types of foods.
If a child is allergic or intolerant of a certain food can display symptoms such as reflux, rashes and hives, bloating and wind, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, constipation,a sore throat or runny nose and watery eyes. Other things such as wheezing and breathing difficulties are much more serious and can indicate anaphylaxis, which is a hypersensitive allergic reaction that can lead to death if left untreated.
At six months your baby will also need their third round of immunisations for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenza b, Hep B, Pnuemococcal conjugate.
Most babies are ready to start solids now, supplementing breast milk or formula with pureed food with a paste like consistency that poses no choking hazard. There are a number of signs your baby will give you such as showing curiosity in foods, chewing or lip smacking when people eat in front of them, being constantly hungry and crying to be fed long before their regular feeding time, drooling at the sight of food and of course trying to eat your food when positioned nearby, by reaching.
You should wean your baby onto solids slowly though, one by one, in order to determine if allergies or intolerances to certain foods are present. Start with rice cereal, followed by pureed vegetables and fruits. It is best to try your baby on vegetables before fruits as baby’s taste buds are more attuned to sweet tastes and they may reject vegetables if fruits are introduced first. Cow’s milk, soy milk, honey, nuts, eggs and salt should not be added to any food your baby eats as they all place strain on the kidneys and are linked to common childhood allergies. Always use a rubber tipped spoon to feed babies of this age as they may be teething and using a metal spoon may damage their delicate little gums.
As a result their bowel movements will become thicker, darker and smellier, which is perfectly normal. A baby is only considered to be completely weaned once he is only consuming solids and no longer consuming breast milk. But six month old babies still require 600ml of breast and formula milk each day.
Babies are now capable of teaching themselves how to fall asleep both when they first go to sleep and when they wake up during the night but different approaches can be taken to teach babies how to sleep through the night. It is important to remember that if a baby has additional stresses such as teething, illness or has just started solids that it may be better to delay sleeping techniques such as controlled crying, until your baby is feeling better and will have a better chance of acquiring the new skill as quickly as possible. Fourteen hours of sleep is still the average, and babies that are starting to sleep through the night are inclined to rise early in the morning.
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. 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 cannot sleep if they are not and cannot stay awake if they are. It is important that they learn to fall to sleep on their own, which they are able to do at this age. Techniques such as controlled crying and gradual withdrawal may work at this time, although incidents such as travel, teething or illness can alter circumstances. It is better to wait until these situations have passed before trying these methods.
Babies who sleep uninterrupted can still be prone to waking very early in the morning and there are ways to discourage this, including keeping the bedroom sealed so that sunlight can’t wake him ahead of time and by keeping him up later during the day. Also if you wait a half hour to feed your baby breakfast after he wakes up, he will adjust to the new time and should cease rising early because of hunger pangs.