Babies come in all shapes and sizes, but baby development at 5-6 months typically has a few things in common. Here’s what your baby might be doing, how you can help and when to see a child health professional.
Baby development at 5-6 months: What’s happening
At 5-6 months, your baby is learning about who they are. Your baby also working out the difference between parents, caregivers, strangers, adults and children. At this age, your baby has made important attachments to you and other close family members or caregivers, and likes spending time with you and them.
Around this time, your baby might seem more aware of or even fearful of strangers. It’s a typical part of learning to feel safe in the world. If you give your child time, they’ll eventually get used to these new people.
Your baby can express emotions – laughing, squealing and smiling with happiness, joy and pleasure. At this age, your baby smiles when they want to. But your baby also grunts, frowns and cries if they’re angry or sad.
When it comes to communicating, your baby might babble and make sounds like ‘baba’ or ‘gaga’. But your baby will also let you know what they want using other noises, movements and smiling.
Around this age, your baby can move their head on their own and is starting to move their body more by reaching, wriggling and rolling.
Your baby is also much better at using their eyes to guide their hands. Your baby can reach out for objects with one hand, grab things and put them in their mouth or move them from hand to hand. Touching and tasting is how your baby learns about things now.
Your baby’s appetite is growing, and they’re ready to experience how different foods taste and feel. Around 6 months is a good time to introduce solid foods.
At this age your baby might also bang or shake toys to learn how they work. And your baby might sit up with some support and use their hands for balance when they’re sitting.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what they can reach, so always watch your baby. It’s a good idea to look at making your home safe for your baby to move around in.
Helping baby development at 5-6 months
Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby’s development at this age:
Talk and listen to your baby: this helps your baby learn about language and communication. While you talk and listen, look your baby in the eye and make facial expressions to help your baby learn the link between words and feelings.
Start introducing solids: solid food helps your baby get enough iron and other nutrients. It also strengthens your baby’s teeth and jaws and builds other skills that your baby needs later – for example, for language development. Just make sure the solids are small and mushy enough to prevent choking.
Play together: Read books, sing songs, do tummy time, play with toys and make funny sounds together – your baby will love it! Playing together helps you and your baby get to know each other and also helps your baby feel loved and secure.
Reassure your child when they meet new people: If you comfort your baby when they're crying or upset, they’ll learn that she’s safe.
Check your routine: It can take time to find a routine that works for you and your baby. And as your baby grows, you might need to make some changes to your routine.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, your baby might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use baby cues to let you know when they've had enough and what they need.
Crying and how to respond
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to your baby's crying – for example, by feeding your baby if they're hungry – your baby feels comfortable and safe.
Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort your baby. You can’t spoil your baby by picking them up, cuddling them or talking to them in a soothing voice.
But lots of crying might make you feel frustrated or upset. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place – for example, a cot – or ask someone else to hold your baby for a while. Take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or call a family member or friend to talk things through.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.
It’s okay to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your baby, talk to your spouse, a family member, friends or seek professional help.
Parenting a six-month-old
Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what your baby needs and how you can meet these needs.
As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s okay to feel confident about what you know. And it’s okay to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your baby. When you’re well, you can give your baby the loving attention they need to grow and thrive. You can also cope better if your baby is crying a lot.
Remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your baby, including your spouse, friends, relatives and General Practitioner.
When to be concerned about baby development
See your paediatrician or General Practitioner (GP) if you have any concerns or notice that your 6-month-old is having any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communication
is crying a lot and this is worrying you
isn’t making eye contact with you
isn’t following moving objects with their eyes
has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time
isn’t babbling or turning towards sounds or voices.
Your child doesn’t smile or show if they're happy or sad.
has poor head control
isn’t sitting with your help
doesn’t reach for objects.
You should see a child health professional if you notice your baby has lost skills they once had.
You should also see your paediatrician or GP if you notice the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men in yourself or your spouse. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your paediatrician or GP.
Video: Connecting and Communicating (0-6 Months)
Watch this video and learn the importance of communicating with your baby, and how it helps her learn and develop.