Your baby at six months
At six months, your baby will have started mastering her body. No longer will she lie contentedly on her sheepskin rug; she'll want to sit up and keep an eye on you instead. Some (but, by no means, all) babies also start waking less often in the night (you can read more on this in our section on babies' sleep or moan to others about it in our sleep Talk forum). But, whatever your baby's (lack of) sleeping patterns, this is also the beginning of a more equal relationship between the two of you. Not only is she developing a few ideas of her own about what she'd like to do, but soon she'll also be putting them into practice.
This is the sweetest of times, when you can believe that your baby really, really loves you. No longer does she smile indiscriminately but she saves her best smiles for you. She will look at you lovingly, patting your breast or the bottle, or reach up to pat your face, sometimes more vigorously than is comfortable but you don't want to hurt her feelings.
You can make her laugh (who cares if she's the only one who thinks you're funny?) and she will kick her legs frantically to show how pleased she is with you. Best of all, she will hold her arms out to be picked up and adore being cuddled (well, most babies do as long as you don't squeeze them too tight). It's like the first few weeks of a romance all over again. But your baby will also now show fear and occasional anger. She will start liking and disliking foods (see our weaning section for advice on what foods to give her when). She will also become more sociable and, instead of blanking other babies like she used to, will now reach out to touch them.
Her eye and hand coordination is going full steam ahead. She will pat her image in the mirror and keep her eyes fixed on an object while she reaches for it. The clever girl (and, remember, this is someone who, a few weeks ago, didn't realise those hands she could see were hers) will then grasp the object, cupping her chubby hand round it and securing it with her thumb.
As her hand control improves, her fingers will become more nimble. She'll also be able to bang things, like saucepan lids, and will love doing so, particularly if she suspects you have a hangover.
She will now be able to roll from her stomach to back and from her back to stomach. She may bend her knees with her forearms on the floor in front of her and start to push off as though about to crawl. Or she may rock to and fro, wondering why she's not moving. Or she may surprise you and be an early crawler, in which case you'd better babyproof your home sharpish, as she'll have an unnerving knack for finding the bleach.
Some babies seem to have a lot of muscle tone and may stand supported by furniture for a few moments. She may sit for a little while – best done with cushions around her so that when she topples forwards (or backwards or sideways), her head doesn't make a horrible noise on the floor.
She now realises that people and things continue to exist even though she can't see them. She also realises, from playing and making things happen repeatedly, that "if I do this, then that happens". From being able to move one object from one hand to another she realises that her body has two parts that meet in the middle. These are big steps in baby psychology. (Some adults still have a problem with the thorny old concept of cause and effect.)
Her lovely, quite detailed babbling will make way for a serious combination of combined vowels and consonants. You may hear variations on "gaa goo" (yes, babies really do say goo and gaa) and "ka" and "ma". Or you may not. It can be hard to disentangle baby speech and all parents really want to hear is a nice crisp "mama" or "dada". Now is the time to stop calling her Chubbykins or Puffpot because she will respond to what she thinks is her name. She loves hearing voices and will turn round, swivelling her trunk to hear them. She can also begin to understand the emotional overtones of language. This is obviously a downside if you are a family who yells a lot, as you feel like a louse when your disagreement over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher makes your baby cry. Fortunately, jolly chatter will cheer her up again. On the cuter side of baby development, she will talk in varying pitch to her toys and to herself in the mirror. Probably about how she wishes her family wouldn't yell so much.
She can tell the difference between tunes and respond to her name. She will reach out for a toy that makes a sound but will soon stop doing this – unless she can see and is interested by the toy – because she realises that you don't usually can't reach for noises.
She can see small objects from 15cm or less up to three to six metres away. She won't stare for long at an object that is far away. If she could voice a colour preference, it would be for red and yellow, so the girl's got taste.
She will have (or will soon have) some incisors – the two central top and two central bottom ones. At this point, she will want to bite everything and dribble over everyone. It's worth starting to clean any teeth, even just with a flannel, as soon as they appear.
Banging things and producing repeatable noises is a good game, as are waving rattles and having mum blow raspberries on your stomach. She will also like different textures such as furry things, knobbly things and squashy things. She likes it if you kneel down beside her and try to crawl with her – maybe because it makes you look ridiculous. She likes you to tell her what games you are playing with her, as in "I am rolling the ball towards you" (or something equally spontaneous). Now is the time to give that chiropractor a ring as your baby's favourite game will soon be throwing things out of her pram, so you pick them up and she can do it again.
A word on reading our development calendar
Milestones of development are not carved in granite but widely variable (see our behaviour/development Talk forum). It's not uncommon to have isolated pockets of late development, such as late walkers and talkers, and much of the individual differences between the development of babies and children is genetically programmed - so try and resist the temptation to be a competitive parent.
Some babies will be slower to develop in certain areas because they were born prematurely or because they are twins (or triplets). For more information on twins, triplets et al, see our multiple births Talk forum.
A minority of babies and children do have delays in development that may need specialist help. Doctors' textbooks tell them to take a parent's concerns about their child seriously. No health professional should ever trivialise a worry that you have about your child. If you are at all concerned, go to see your GP.
We are also obviously aware that some children have special needs. You can get advice from other parents in our special needs Talk forum. We have included some site recommendations that may be useful in our webguide but the list is by no means exhaustive and we would welcome other suggestions.