Baby's fifth month: development, medical and sleep

Around this time your baby is likely to laugh for the first time, squeal in delight and smile when you smile at them
Around this time your baby is likely to laugh for the first time, squeal in delight and smile when you smile at them 

Emotional attachment to toys and other objects will start this month and this is an indication that your baby is developing emotionally and can become attached to other things and people besides her parents. Dummies and thumb sucking are also things used by a five month old baby to help them feel secure and helps them start learning to self-soothe. So if your baby cries for certain items, it is best to give them to her straight away.

Your baby will still be learning hand-eye co-ordination and will use his mouth to explore objects. He will have become quite mobile although will most likely not be crawling yet, instead shifting backwards, forwards and sideways in small lengths.

In trying to get to things they want, they will perch on their stomach, lift their arms and legs and make swimming motions. He tends to reach with one arm only and is increasingly coordinating the act of reaching with the desired goal of taking hold of a toy, undeterred by failures the majority of the time. When they succeed they will normally inspect it with their eyes, smile and vocalise, put it in their mouth and by five months he can actually hold one toy while looking at another although they still cannot hold two things at once. Babies may start to drool a lot, as they continue to put things in their months, and this is one of the very early signs of teething.

Around this time your baby is likely to laugh for the first time, squeal in delight, smile when you smile at them and be able to hold his head up and raise himself up with his arms when on his tummy. He will also use his arms to physically communicate his needs, such as pushing away an unwanted bottle. If you watch your baby while he plays, you’ll be able to see him make conscious decisions about his toys as well as amusing herself with his own hands and feet.

He will also use his arms to physically communicate his needs, such as pushing away an unwanted bottle.

Your baby can also pick up on your emotions, including happiness, sadness, love, concern, anxiety, and anger as he now sees and hears the world fairly well.

At this age, about half of babies repeatedly babble, one syllable sounds and other consonant-vowel combinations — over and over. A few will even add another syllable or two, making their sounds more complex so that words sound like “ah-ba” instead of just “ba-ba”. Some babies may even be able to say two syllable sounds such as 'dada' or 'mama', and 'dada' is more likely to come first, as this is one of the earliest sounds babies can say easily.

She can use toys to make noise now as she learns to identify and locate the source of different sounds and will probably turn towards new sounds to see where they are coming from, as she begins to understand cause and effect and visual scanning, which is important for when she eventually learns to read. Her hearing detects approval and disapproval in voices and positive and negative speech and she will show this in her facial expressions.

Her strength is at the stage where her muscles will tense when she is supported in a sitting position as she tries very hard to hold his balance and she can lift her head, neck and shoulders off the floor and probably roll over in both directions, although she may not do a full rotation just yet. Once she figures out how to do it, she’s likely to repeat it again and again. If babies figure out how to flip from their back to their stomach during sleep try not to worry as the risk of SIDS is much lower at five months because they have better breathing control.


Their attention span is also getting better and they can play for longer. If you watch your baby when they play you’ll be able to see them make conscious decisions about his toys and how he interacts with them. She’ll find great interest in her surroundings, as well as the sounds she makes and the sounds of others. Her improved ability to focus and pay attention means she will not be distracted as easily and will learn more each day. She is also learning that gestures combined with sounds in addition to crying work well at getting attention from people, although they can be subtle.

A baby at five months now smiles at her image in a mirror, the first indication that your baby is aware of who she is and her own body.

By this time your baby may have experienced one of the common infancy illnesses babies are susceptible to, such as allergies, upper respiratory tract infections, fever, middle ear infection, reflux and urinal tract infections. Many of these illnesses can recur and it is important to observe your baby’s behaviour closely and see how much it differs from the norm. The easiest way to tell if your baby is sick is a change in his mood. If he turns fussy, or starts crying more than usual, you should be on the lookout for a problem. If he develops a fever (whether slight or high) you have another big clue. Ear infections tend to strike after a common cold or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too.

Sleeping for a five hour stretch is considered to be sleeping through the night. Most will have learnt to sleep more at night than during the day, and can stay awake for 2-3 hours at a stretch. though they will still need  two longish naps in the day time. Just because a baby sleeps for a long stretch one night does not mean that they will do it again the following night though – the majority will wake regularly for feeds. Getting a baby into a bedtime mood is more important at night and you will probably need to use a settling routine. By putting your baby to sleep after an extended period of being awake, changing their nappy and feeding them you are enabling them to sleep for longer, as they are less likely to wake up for any reason.

Though the typical baby in the fifth month takes three or four pretty regular naps of an hour or so each during the day, the number and length of each sleep is not as important as the total amount of sleep they should be getting, which is approximately fourteen and a half hours. Most babies can regulate their quota for sleep quite well so if your baby sleeps for less time than this and are contented they may just require less sleep than other babies.

As they begin to sleep more during the night, putting a baby to sleep after feeding him is a way to encourage longer periods of sleep as hunger is less likely to rouse him.  Longer naps can be encouraged by timing them perfectly when baby has been fed, his nappy has been changed and when there is unlikely to be any interruptions.

Your baby should weight approximately 5 kilograms or more now, making night feeds metabolically unnecessary for them, which means if they are waking during the night they are feeding out of habit rather hunger. Most will stay nap twice a day. If a baby sleeps through the night, this does not mean they will do it every night so don’t think your baby has regressed if this happens.