Your baby at six months old
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
But, whatever your baby's (lack of) sleeping pattern, 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.
Physical development at six months old
Hand-eye coordination is coming on apace. She will pat her image in the mirror and keep her eyes fixed on an object while she reaches for it. Remember a few weeks ago, when she didn't even realise those hands she could see were hers? Now she will not only reach out for an object but also grasp it tightly, cupping her chubby hand round it and securing it with her thumb.
Everything goes straight into her mouth where she can explore it with her tongue and lips – so keep a careful eye on what's lying within baby's reach.
As her hand control improves, her fingers will become more nimble. She'll also be able to bang things, like saucepan lids, particularly if she suspects you have a hangover.
She may also now be able to roll from her stomach to her back as well as from her back to stomach and is finally on the cusp of crawling. She may even 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 you may find she stands, supported by furniture, for a few moments at this age. She may sit unsupported for a little while, too – 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.
Is my six-month-old teething?
Your baby 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.
Hearing at six months old
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 will learn that you can't physically touch a noise.
Sight at six months old
At six months, she's heavily into small things and small-form patterns, so will stare at ditsy floral prints and tiny, pretty buttons happily for minutes at a time. Take her into Cath Kidston and watch her go into a trance.
She can see small objects of 15cm or less from up to three to six metres away but she won't stare for long at an object that is far away. If she could voice a colour preference around now, it would be for red or yellow.
How can I encourage my six-month-old's physical development?
If you put her on her tummy she might 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. Either way, she's getting plenty of practice for the first stages of crawling and is strengthening important sets of muscles.
Cognitive development at six months old
By six months old she 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'. These are big steps in baby psychology. (Some adults still have a problem with the thorny old concept of cause and effect.)
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.
Best of all, she will hold her arms out to be picked up and adore being cuddled (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. 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.
But your baby will also now show fear, occasional anger and simple dislike. She will develop preferences for foods (see more on weaning 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.
In fact, she's reaching out to touch just about everything right now and is fascinated by exploring various textures with both her hands and her mouth. It's worth encouraging this, as exploring new textures is what the early stages of weaning are all about – it could make the difference between her merrily chugging down your carrot puree and spitting it at your kitchen wall.
Language development at six months
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.
How can I encourage my six-month-old's brain development?
Lots of verbal feedback will encourage her to 'talk', so if she makes a noise, repeat it back to her. Listen carefully and you may hear her playing with words and adding a syllable to sounds you have made to see how you'll respond.
Give her plenty of opportunity to explore new textures, such as squishy toys, fake fur and soft ribbons, all of which will develop her motor skills as well as her cognitive understanding.
Play and activities at six months old
Babies of six months tend to be into animal noises in a massive way. Show her pictures in a book of animals and do the 'noise' for that animal. Months from now, she'll find it hilarious to subvert the form when you ask her what a dog says and shout “moo!” back at you.
She will also enjoy different textures such as furry things, knobbly things and squashy things. You might find it tricky getting her to tell the difference between breakfast time and play time, as she squishes porridge between her fingers.
She'll enjoy trying out her newfound sense of cause and effect, with towers of blocks to knock over and toys to chuck on the floor. 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.
Mostly, though, she just likes you to be involved in whatever she's doing. She'll love it if kneel down beside her and try to crawl with her – maybe because it makes you look ridiculous, we suspect.
What toys are good for a six-month-old?
Stacking cups or blocks that you can build for her and she can knock down; an activity centre with buttons to press, touch-and-feel books to help her learn about different textures.
Baby milestones at six months old
By six months of age your baby is likely to be doing some of the following:
- Rolling both from front to back and back to front
- Sitting without support
- Blowing raspberries
- Pulling objects towards herself
She may also be doing some of the following:
- Starting to crawl or at least lunging forwards from a kneeling position
- Pulling herself up to a standing position from sitting
What else happens when my baby is six months old?
The big news at six months is that you will be starting to wean your baby onto solids so it's time to invest in a highchair.
Some of the signs she is ready to wean include:
- Being able to sit up straight without support
- Holding her head steady
- Having the skills to use her tongue to move food to the back of her mouth and swallow (though this one only becomes obvious once you start, clearly)
Weaning is a long process – they don't go from milk to meat and three veg overnight, so start out slowly, and remember that your baby's usual milk should remain her main source of calories until she is 12 months.