Your baby is developing his own personality and may also start to show the first signs of separation anxiety. It's a good idea to get baby used to close family members if you want some time to yourself. You can slowly introduce more foods to your baby being careful to watch for any reactions. If your baby is an early riser we have some tips to get you more sleep.
Most babies can sit quite firmly from around the age of six months; others will topple at the slightest breeze. Some however will not sit until they are nine months. This is perfectly normal. A baby with strong neck muscles will sit first - and this is why tummy play is important - see month 3. A baby who cannot sit unaided will enjoy being propped up and carried around in a baby chair, but it is important that he has time on his tummy and on the floor so that he can use his muscles.
The early riser
If you are hearing more bird calls than ever before in your life then chances are you have an early riser, who wakes with the birds - okay in winter, but not much fun in summer. Your baby is awake because for the time being she has had enough sleep. There is a good chance things will change before too long, so don't be too worried.
You can try:
- Changing her nappy and giving her a comfort drink - in that order.
- Putting some toys in her cot for her to play with.
- Taking her into your bed for a cuddle - and maybe a little doze. (Remember the safety issues about bed-sharing from Month 3).
Babies on average need 14 hours sleep in 24 hours, but every child is an individual. To find out how much sleep your baby needs use a sleep/settle chart which you will find in the Sleep in Early Childhood fact sheet from the SA Children, Youth and Women's Health Service.
By now you will have no doubt that your baby has a very definite personality. Our grandparents believed that babies were a blank canvas and that their personalities were a result of how they were parented and the environment they came from - but we know better. Baby's personalities are a mixture of nature - their natural tendencies, likes and dislikes - and nurture - how we care for them.
This partly explains why two babies who are nurtured by the same parents turn out differently. But that is just part of the story; there are many other elements to be considered, such as the baby's temperament and environmental influences.
The Australian Temperament Project is a study of Australian children that began way back in 1983 with over 2,000 Victorian children. Every 18 months or so the researchers have followed-up on most of these families and their results are fascinating.
The study has found that between 10 and 15 per cent of babies are 'difficult' or, more appropriately, high-needs. These babies are likely, but not certain, to grow into high-needs adults. Forty per cent are easy going - and these too may or may not grow up to be easy going adults. The remaining 45 per cent are described as active.
Australian health professionals are aware of this study and its implications for parents. Parents are no longer blamed or credited with their baby's personality or temperament. So if you find you are not coping with your baby and are finding parenting stressful talk to your GP or clinic nurse - seeking help will give you a better chance of enjoying your baby growing up.
Is baby really allergic to certain foods?
Babies who are fed family foods before they are ready are more likely to develop allergies. Food allergy is frequently blamed for all sorts of problems, from behavioural to skin rashes, but real allergic reactions to food are not as common as many people think. Allergies to food are actually quite rare, food intolerance is more common.
Food allergy is an instant reaction to the proteins in the food - in the moments after a food is eaten the symptoms will appear. These symptoms include swelling, usually around the mouth, eczema, rashes and hives. Babies from allergic families are at a higher risk than those who are not.
Allergic children will grow out of most allergies, except for those to nuts and fish, before they start school.
Before you decide that your child is allergic to anything it is important to seek professional advice from a dietitian.
Food intolerances are different because they are a reaction to the chemicals found in food - they may not show until hours after the food is eaten. Symptoms can be similar to those from a food allergy - rashes, hives, eczema - and also vomiting and diarrhoea, but these can also be caused by illness. Once again, it is wise to have your child assessed by a registered dietitian before making assumptions.
Foods most likely to cause allergic reactions in children are:
- Cow's milk
- Peanuts and nuts
- Soy and wheat.
There are also a number of Food additives that can cause an adverse reaction.
Foods that are not likely to cause a reaction are:
- Most vegetables
- Many cereals including rice, barley, sago, buckwheat
- Fats and oils
- Protein foods such as beef, chicken, lamb and veal.
Find out more:
Food Allergy and Intolerance is a fact sheet on the website of Nutrition Australia.
Friendly food. The essential guide to avoiding allergies, additives and problem chemicals. From the allergy experts at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit, published 2004, Murdoch Books.
If you love music - and who doesn't - you will be delighted to know that there are many benefits to sharing this love with your baby. The origin of lullabies is not known but they have been around for centuries because their soothing, simple tone pacifies babies - often to sleep. Music therapists use soothing music to treat premature babies and babies with colic. The sound of a female voice singing a lullaby to a single instrument such as the piano or guitar, has been found to be the most effective.
There is research to indicate that classical music can help build the neural bridges in the brain along which thoughts and information travel. Known as the Mozart Effect, playing classical music around your baby is claimed to boost baby's IQ, benefit health and keep family peace. Classical music by composers such as Mozart, Schumann, Ravel, Beethoven and Bach is said to be ideal. Babies also enjoy music with a beat and rhythm - which is one reason why the music of groups such as the Wiggles is so popular - it's that good old rock' n'roll!
Sharing the care
Many mums who have given up work, or are taking a year off, are totally absorbed in the care of their baby and love every minute of baby's amazing development. Others would like some time to themselves and can feel trapped. If you share the care of your baby with your partner, and even with your parents, parents-in-law or other close family members, it gives you the opportunity to have some time to yourself when you need it. Babies who rarely or only occasionally spend time with someone other than their mother find it frightening when she disappears. Taking some time to yourself, once or twice a week, and giving your baby a chance to develop a relationship with her father, grandmother or aunt benefits everyone. If you choose someone other than your partner, then you will be able to have some time together - and that too is important in keeping your relationship healthy.
Need to meet other parents? The Essential Baby Parents Groups are a great way to meet others and share your experiences of parenthood.
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.