Half a year has gone by already since you had your baby – the time can go so fast. Even though, with the best of intentions, you want to make the most of each day, you probably feel too busy sometimes to pause and just be in the moment. Try to make time to just enjoy your baby and become immersed in them. It is through these quiet, unhurried times that you will be giving your baby some of the most valuable nurturing they will ever receive.
This is a lovely age to secure your baby in their pram and go outside with them. Take them out for walks and talk to them about what you can see. Try not to limit their exposure to the world and be positive about what you are doing. You are your baby’s earliest and most important teacher and from you, they will learn that the world is generally a good and safe place to be.
Feeding and Sleeping
At six months, most babies are ready to be introduced to solid foods. Some babies are ready beforehand and have been munching on solids already. But by 6 months the iron stores which were laid down while they were still in the uterus have been used up and they need to be topped up. Breast milk is low in iron and this is why one of the first solid foods offered to babies is iron fortified rice cereal. Many babies don’t like the taste so try some pureed fruit such as unsweetened apple or pear mixed through it. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption and many babies like the taste and texture of pureed fruits. Milk still needs to be number 1 on your baby’s dietary menu for now so offer them their milk feeds first, followed by solids.
Your baby still needs 3 day-time sleeps of 1-3 hours and up to 10 hours sleep overnight. This may seem like an awful lot, especially if your little one isn’t too keen on sleep. Try to settle them using the same strategies and techniques during the day as you do at night. When parents are consistent and remain calm, this can go a long way towards promoting sound sleep habits in their children.
Your baby will think they are oh so clever this month when they learn to blow raspberries. Some will even grab their parent’s face and suck on a nose or cheek. This is a strongly oral phase when your baby will learn a lot about the world through their mouth. Try not to be too fanatical when it comes to cleanliness or stop your baby from placing everything in their mouth. Now that your baby is eating solid food they will be exposed to all sorts of substances which are not sterile or always as clean as they could be.
Read to your baby every day, if you haven’t been doing this already. Watch them as you show them bright pictures and point out familiar scenes to them. Don’t be too critical of yourself when it comes to chatting to your baby – they won’t be.
When you laugh with them, they will laugh back. You’ll know the little games they like to play and will see them almost anticipate the next step in a game sequence. But your baby’s tolerance for games and interaction will still be only short and they will tell you when they have had enough. Breaking their gaze, looking away, becoming irritable and crying are all signs that it is time to stop and have a change of scenery. Knowing when to stop is as important as initiating a game. Try to be sensitive to your baby’s cues or signals. You being responsive to them will be your baby’s first lesson in how they can develop their own empathy when it comes to relating to other people.
Your baby will be able to support their weight on their legs for a short while now, though you will have to hold their hands firmly while they do this. Learning to balance takes lots of time and practice; watch the concentration on your baby’s face as they try to get it right. This is the month when many babies start to sit on their own, but only for short periods. They will tend to topple forwards or sideways so you will have to watch them closely. If your baby isn’t showing any interest in sitting, don’t force them. Some babies don’t sit independently until after they have learned to crawl, at around 8-9 months of age.
Teeth may make an appearance this month so look at your baby’s gums and see if you can see any change in them. The first teeth to erupt are usually the bottom central (middle) incisors. Once your baby has a tooth or two, make a point of cleaning them with a wet washer every day.
Your baby is learning quickly that those projections at the end of their hand are actually under their control. Their fine motor pincer grasp still won’t have developed so you will see them “rake” objects into the palm of their hands. Your baby will use both hands equally at this age and it won’t be until they are in their pre-school years that their individual hand dominance will be obvious.
Your baby will have doubled their birth weight by now, unless they were premature or have had problems with their weight gain. Your baby’s head will still be large in relation to the rest of their body, but they will be looking more in proportion than they did after birth. If you notice your baby’s head is flattened at the back, make a point of mentioning this to your early childhood nurse. Changing your baby’s position in their cot, ensuring they have tummy time each day and preventing them from lying in the same position for long periods can make a big difference.
Many babies have their first cold at around 6 months, much to their parent’s disappointment. It can be scary when your baby gets sick for the first time and seeking reassurance from a healthcare professional is common. Always trust your gut feeling when it comes to having your baby checked. Even though they may seem fine, if you just have a sense that something is not right, this alone can be reason for them to be assessed. A change in feeding, an elevated temperature, rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, change in behaviour can all be signs that something is not right.
Play and Interaction
Join a play-group or gym class if you’re keen. A baby massage group, exercise for mums or just a pram push group can all be great ways to keep up your human contact. Avoid falling into the trap of making every second count when it comes to playing with your baby. They will benefit from some quiet, calm time alone when they can just chill out as well. If they are happy and don’t need to be fed or settled, give them the opportunity to just look at their toys and entertain themselves. This is an important, life-long skill which starts in the early years.
What About Mum?
If you are feeling a little unchallenged try to make a point of reading, even if it’s something light. Listening to the radio, subscribing to a magazine, signing up for e-newsletters can all help with maintaining connections with the outside world. You may find your focus is so strongly on your baby at the moment that everything else just takes a back seat. This is fine and healthy, but don’t forget your needs too when it comes to maintaining your own brain pathways.
You may find yourself reflecting on when would be the right time to have another baby. Even though you aren’t likely to be making any firm plans, you could reflect on the last 6 months and consider if having more children is on your agenda. There is no ideal age gap between children in a family – there are just too many individual variables which influence this decision.
Your Sleep Needs
If your baby is finally sleeping for longer overnight, enjoy the benefits of this yourself. If you still find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open past 8pm give into your body’s signs that you need to sleep. Some women experience overwhelming fatigue at this stage and just put it down to the demands of parenting. But if you still feel exhausted even if you’re having a reasonable amount of sleep each day, check with your G.P. Thyroid or hormonal imbalance is not uncommon and one of the symptoms is extreme tiredness.
If your partner is feeling a little left out, make a point of including them in your baby’s care. It’s easy to become so absorbed and immersed in baby care that we can overlook the contribution others can make too. Step back sometimes and try not to always be seen as the “expert” parent. Babies only benefit from receiving loving care and interaction from lots of people. Although they develop primary, close relationships with the main caregivers, there is a lot of truth in the saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”.
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