The Sixth Month: A Big Smile

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!

Baby's Development

Remember: All children develop through similar changes but at their own paces. You may see the following developments this month or soon thereafter:

  • Responds to facial expressions such as smiles or frowns
  • Imitates your sounds and actions
  • Shows preferences for certain toys (maybe)
  • Rolls from back to stomach
  • Creeps (propelling on stomach with legs)
  • Transfers objects from one hand to another
  • Sits without support
  • Has vision approaching 20/20

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.

Baby's Temperament

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.

Baby's Heath

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.

Parenting Tips

Baby's Food

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.

Delay giving your baby juice until she is able to drink from a cup. Some experts are recommending babies and young children are not offered juice. Breast milk and formula have plenty of vitamins. Be cautious about feeding your baby desserts. Babies usually love them, but they may develop a taste for sweets, which they may later regret.

Safety Tips

If you find your baby playing with something that is unsafe, substitute a safer toy and take the unsafe plaything away. Pulling the object away abruptly might frighten your baby. Store the hazard out of baby's reach or get rid of it altogether.

Your baby's control of her fingers is better now, so she can pick up very small objects. Unfortunately, most of those objects still go straight to her mouth! Crawling babies can find things that vacuum cleaners miss, so check carefully for pins, coins, stones, crumbs and dirt on the floor.

Parent-Baby Learning Games

Shake a rattle to one side of your baby's head, but out of her sight. If she turns her body to see the rattle, give it to her as a reward. Next time, shake the rattle on the opposite side of her. Gently place it in her hand and help her shake it.

Baby's Clothing

Most babies do not like to have clothing pulled over their heads. Clothing that fastens all the way down the front or back allows for ease in dressing and undressing. Also, avoid drawstrings at baby's neck, as these can hamper breathing or get caught in something. Choose fabrics that can be machine washed in hot water to allow thorough cleaning.

Babies don't need shoes to walk. Socks or bare feet around the house are fine at this age. If you just can't resist dressing your baby in cute shoes, make sure they are lightweight and breathable, have flexible soles and are the right size.

Does your baby like to get out of the house? Remember to protect baby's delicate skin from both hot and cold weather. During summer months, protect eyes, head, arms and legs to prevent sunburn. While some people think a suntan looks healthy, we now know that even minor sunburns, especially of babies, greatly increase the risk of skin cancer later on. Sunscreens may be used after your baby is six months old. During winter months, body heat is lost quickly from the head, so be sure to find a hat or jacket with a hood that you can tie on to keep baby comfortable.

Parents as Teachers

As your baby starts to become more independent, you may wonder when to set limits and when to give in to baby's demands. Many parents think that responding to a baby's crying will spoil her. At this age, the opposite is true. During the early years, babies need love and attention. Their cries show that something is not right in their small world. When you respond to a crying baby with hugs and comforting talk, you show her that you care, that you can be counted on to protect her, and that people help each other through life's difficult moments. Remember, baby learns from your example. If you spend time with your baby, she will learn that loving, caring and time with others is important.

Time spent meeting your child's needs during these early months helps create a child who is secure and needs less attention later. One of the greatest satisfactions of parenting is the feeling of providing comfort in a loving home. The only limits baby needs right now are those for safety.

You Need a Will

Now that you have a new family member, you need a will. If you do not have one, you need to write one. If you have one already, review it to see if it needs updating. Wills can speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. For example, a will allows you to select who will rear your children if you die. It also can allow you to choose who will manage your money and property to take care of your children's financial needs if you are incapacitated.

You may select one person to serve as the personal and property guardian. Or if you have a large estate, you may choose to have a personal guardian and a separate property guardian. The personal guardian is responsible for rearing the children. The property guardian would handle the children's inheritance. The property guardian would take money from your estate to give to the personal guardian who cares for your children.

The personal guardian is usually a family member or close friend. The property guardian might be your attorney, banker or businessminded relative. If you choose a personal guardian and a property guardian, choose people who get along well with each other. If you don't choose a guardian for your children in your will, the court will do it for you.

If you don't have a will, contact an attorney today and have one written. Even if you don't have much to leave your child, you probably have feelings about who should care for your child if you cannot.

Copyright © Don Bower. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.