by Don Bower
The first four months of your baby's life were quiet in comparison with the next four. The fifth month begins a new phase of growth and development for baby, and it's exciting. Here's what to expect:
Your baby is growing in more ways than one. Baby's physical development is perhaps the most obvious, but his energy level has also increased. With a little help from you, your baby may play up to two hours at one stretch.
Expect Your Baby to:
Your baby's language development continues this month. He may put his consonant sound (d, b, l and m) and vowel sounds (ee, ey, ah, and ooh) together to form words such as "dada," "mama" and "bye-bye."
Incidentally, your baby may say "dada" before "mama" simply because those syllables are easier in the beginning! He probably does not know what these words mean yet. With the pleasure you show when called by name, your baby will soon associate the sound with you.
Have you noticed that your baby understands his name? If not, he soon will! Babies are unpredictable as to when they develop certain skills, so don't be concerned if your baby is "behind" or "ahead" of another child his age.
Your baby tends to repeat behavior that is reinforced. For example, if he hits a mobile and causes it to move, he has been reinforced by its movement. So he will hit the mobile again and again. When you smile, hug him and repeat his first attempts at words, he tends to repeat them. The lesson: Pay attention only to those behaviors that you want to see more often!
Parent-Baby Learning Games
Shake a rattle about 12 inches over baby's stomach. Next, move it toward baby so he can grab it. Say, "Grab the rattle," and when he does, exclaim "You've got it!" Let your baby pull the rattle toward him. Then, gently pull it out of his reach. This game helps language development and eye-hand coordination.
You may offer your baby water to drink, but do not add any sweeteners. Also, do not give your baby coffee, tea or soft drinks. These are not nutritious and can be harmful to babies.
Parents as Teachers
You are baby's first and most important teacher. From the day he was born, you taught him about his world, what people are like, and what he can and cannot do. Sometimes he learns as much from what you don't do as from what you do. Teaching babies is not like the teaching you probably had in school -- no tests for 5-month-olds! Being your baby's teacher is an exciting, rewarding part of parenting. Babies learn by copying their parents. What you say, baby will try to say. So, be a good model!
Babies also learn from exploring their environment with all their senses. Do what you can to share many different experiences with your baby. We know that his brain is forming rapidly in these first few months, and his experiences can actually help him learn more things, more easily, now and later in life. Babies who are left without much human contact or stimulation have much more difficulty learning throughout life.
One word of caution: Never rush your baby. Your baby will let you know when he is ready for new activities by experimenting and becoming excited about his discoveries. He may cry or fuss if his routine is not changed when he is ready. Too much stimulation can frustrate him, so watch for his cues that he is ready for change.
Baby-proof your home! Your baby will soon be crawling and getting into everything within reach. So, now is the time to remove hazards to your baby's safety. Remove matches, poisons, and small, sharp and breakable objects from your baby's environment. Keys in china cabinet doors or gun cabinets should be removed, too.