by Don Bower
At the end of this sixth month, you will be halfway through this first very important year. What changes will occur? Read on!
Remember: All children develop through similar changes but at their own paces. You may see the following developments this month or soon thereafter:
Language development continues this month with the addition of the following consonant sounds to baby's vocabulary: f, v, th, s, sh, z, sa, m, and n. Don't be surprised if your baby "talks" more to females -- this is common because of the softness of female voices. Your baby may well vocalize displeasure by grunting and growling when she is displeased. But she'll also show pleasure by cooing and laughing.
Your baby is more alert than ever now. Some babies are visually alert up to half of the daylight hours. While playing with one object, baby may reach for another and visually key in on a third. Six-month-olds have an unending curiosity. Make sure you provide a stimulating, safe environment for learning and growing.
Your baby is now fully able to distinguish between you and other people, so don't be surprised if she is shy around strangers. Don't try to force your baby into someone else's arms if she resists. A six-month-old baby can feel real anxiety if forced into a frightening situation. Physical closeness to a familiar adult will help baby adjust to and trust other unfamiliar adults. Strangers may get smiles from your baby as long as you are close by. This fear of strangers usually lasts three to six months.
Remember: Baby needs her third DPT and Hib immunizations this month [Editor's note: if you are following a traditional immunization schedule versus delayed selective vaccination]. The third polio vaccine can be given any time between now and 18 months of age. Keeping your baby's immunization up-to-date, right through the teen years, is one of the best gifts you can give her!
Baby's teeth are starting to show now, if they haven't already. The lower, middle teeth usually come in first. The top teeth come in next. As teeth push through tender gums, baby may be uncomfortable. Drooling and irritability are common. If baby drools much, you will need to change her top frequently so that her skin does not become chafed by wet clothing. A bib will protect baby's chest and can be changed easily.
For sore gums, a teething ring may help. Don't be surprised if your baby likes to chew on your finger! A cool, damp washcloth to chew on may also help. Some babies like hard biscuits, frozen teething rings, or sturdy fruit rinds such as cantaloupe. If your baby appears to be in a lot of pain, a pain reliever may be needed. Check with your doctor.
Along with teeth comes a new activity -- keeping teeth clean. Wipe baby's new teeth with a soft cloth to remove food build-up. First teeth that are allowed to decay may affect permanent teeth that replace them later.
This month is probably the time to start feeding baby an iron-fortified infant cereal such as rice [Editor's note: or other good first food]. After five days or so, add another cereal such as barley or oatmeal. Add just one type of food at a time to make sure baby does not have an allergy to a food. For feeding a baby cereal, a good rule to follow is: "A smile from you with every spoonful -- whether accepted or rejected." Baby will soon learn to associate pleasant times with eating and may become more cooperative.
Vegetables and fruits are usually started after cereals. Choose mild-tasting vegetables first, such as green beans, carrots or squash. Yellow vegetables are more easily digested by babies. If your baby's skin or bowel movements turn yellowish, don't be alarmed. It may be because she really enjoys and eats a lot of those yellow veggies! The yellowish color will disappear as her favorite foods change. Don't add salt, lard or fatback to vegetables.