Your baby grows more rapidly in the first 6 months than at any other time. Birth weight usually doubles by 4 to 6 months of age. Length usually increases 6 inches or about 1 inch per month in the first 6 months. Head size usually increases by 3 inches.
Your baby’s chubby cheeks at 6 months are quite normal. Body fat is added more rapidly than muscle in the 4th and 5th months. Then between 6 and 12 months, your baby will appear to slim down as calories are used to grow strong muscles for walking.
Healthy Habits: Eating Well
Birth to Six Months
Brain development and physical growth depend on adequate nutrients in adequate amounts – including a diet adequate in fat. In the first 2 years of life, skim milk and low-fat milk do not provide adequate fat and should not be used in your baby’s diet.
In the first year, breast milk and iron-fortified formulas are good sources of dietary fat. In the second year, whole milk is the appropriate replacement for breast milk or formula.
Brain development proceeds at an amazing rate in the first three years of life.
Brain cells branch out to connect with other brain cells – one cell connecting with up to 15,000 others. The connecting branches carry the nerve signals from cell to cell, allowing one brain cell to “talk” with another.
As the connecting branches grow, they are coated with myelin, an insulating covering composed primarily of a type of fat.
The first teeth (lower front) usually make an appearance at 7 months but are known to arrive as early as 3 months and as late as 12 months.
Family history is a more reliable predictor of the appearance of the first tooth than drooling. The drooling that begins at about 3 months is a sign of salivary glands that are maturing – not teething.
Books for Your Baby
- Start the habit of reading now.
- Choose brightly illustrated books with stories that rhyme.
- Babies enjoy rhythm and repetition.
- Books that can be grabbed by little hands, chewed on, and
- read over and over are good investments.
- Physical Skills
Usually around 2 months, babies start their own workout routine to gain head control. When lying on their tummies, babies strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck by head lifting exercises.
Usually around 4 months, babies do “baby push-ups,” raising their head and upper body while supporting their weight on their forearms. At this age, babies are using their mouths to explore everything and are taking awkward swipes with their arms at dangling objects. They can shake a rattle placed in their hand and will suck on it if given the chance.
Usually around 6 months, babies sit with support and are able to roll from back to tummy. They reach for an object with one hand and are able to transfer it to the other hand. Since they can get both hands to midline, they can now hold their own bottles. When held upright with their feet touching the floor, 6-month-old babies partially support their weight on their legs and may even practice walking movements.
How? Create a wide-open, safe space by placing your baby on a clean blanket on the floor. Get down on the floor and “coach” baby fitness exercises such as gently bicycling baby’s legs or placing your baby on his or her tummy for head and chest lifting practice.
Why? Practice makes perfect!
The areas of the brain associated with smiling mature early, followed by head control, sitting and walking. Identical areas of the brain mature in the same order in all babies, which explains why babies all over the world smile before they have head control and sit before they walk.
Ask Your Doctor
Muscle Tone and Strength — 6 Months
Your baby may need developmental evaluation if at age 6 months, he or she:
- seems stiff or floppy
- has difficulty holding up his or her head
- reaches with only one arm or hand
- does not roll over in either direction
- cannot sit well even with support
- does not put hands together
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
- Usually around 2 months, babies recognize and can be comforted by their parents’ voices. They begin to “talk” with soft vowel sounds like “aah” and “ooh.”
- Usually around 4 months, babies begin to “babble,” repeating vowel sounds and some consonants like “muh-muh-muh” or “bah-bah-bah.”
- Usually around 6 months, babies combine many different sounds to “talk” to you or the “baby in the mirror” in what sounds like adult speech. Babies can tell by the tone of your voice if you are happy, sad, or angry. At this age, they also laugh out loud with a delightful belly laugh.
Talking Takes Two — Baby and You
Your baby needs someone who listens, tries to understand and responds. Television and videotapes are not good talking partners.
How? If you want to get your baby’s attention when you’re talking, there’s a method that parents all over the world have used for years – baby talk or “parentese.” It looks and sounds like this…
As you speak, look directly at the baby with your eyes open wide, raise your eyebrows and exaggerate your mouth movements.
- Speak in a higher-pitched voice.
- Speak slowly.
- Use a musical voice that gets louder and softer, higher and lower, and starts and stops in a rhythm that sounds almost like singing.
- Once you have your baby’s attention, watch for signs that your baby wants to participate, such as cooing noises, changing facial expressions, or arm and leg movements. Reward your baby’s attempt to enter into the conversation by imitating his or her expressions along with smiles and lots of compliments.
Why? Your baby’s progress in learning words, how to put words together and how to use words to solve problems depends on you and other caregivers talking to your baby and encouraging your baby to enter into the conversation.
Ask Your Doctor
Hearing — 6 Months
Your baby may need special testing if at age 6 months, he or she:
- does not respond to loud noises by blinking, crying, becoming quiet, or appearing startled
- does not turn his or her head or eyes toward a voice or noise
- does not respond by smiling (even faintly) at parent’s face or voice
- shows no interest in rattles, bells, or noise-making toys
- does not coo or make noises for parents during alert play periods
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Falling in Love
As you learn to read your baby’s moods and needs, comforting your baby becomes easier. You become more sure of yourself and your ability to make your baby happy.
At 3 months, your baby begins to take part in play. Your baby tries in every way possible to tell you he or she is having fun – with waving arms, big smiles, and excited conversations made up of coos, squeals, and giggles.
The time you spend comforting, feeding and playing with your baby helps your baby develop a sense of security. Your baby trusts that you will always be there to meet his or her needs. You become uniquely important to your baby. Your baby becomes securely attached to you.
Emotion is the looking glass through which we see the world. Emotion colors every activity, every relationship, and every response. The emotional centers in the brain are so powerful that they can “take charge” of other brain activities like learning.
To learn, your baby must feel secure. Your baby’s sense of security depends on trust – trust in you. Without that trust, your baby’s learning becomes a prisoner of your baby’s emotions. Trust frees up your baby’s brain for learning.
The first time your baby smiles, rolls over, says “mama” or “dada,” you’ll check the date and make a mental note (or record it in a baby book) of the age your baby reached an important milestone. It’s easy to observe an activity or to notice a word. It’s not as easy to pick up on the progress your baby is making in the areas of learning. “Learning Milestones” will help you appreciate the higher level thinking your baby is doing.
In the first month of life, your baby can imitate simple facial expressions like an open mouth. To do this, your baby must focus on your face and notice your mouth is open. It isn’t clear why your baby copies you, but it likely has something to do with your baby trying to make sense of the world.
Toys are important ways to stimulate learning. Mobiles that have simple, bright shapes catch your baby’s attention and allow lots of experimenting.
At around 3 months, your baby’s brain is mature enough to use everyday experiences to make useful discoveries such as learning that kicking the side of the crib makes the animals on the mobile move. Your baby is beginning to understand what scientists call the principle of cause and effect.
Selecting a Child Care Provider
More than half of all mothers of children younger than 5 years old are employed. If you are a working mother who is taking a maternity leave, you are probably returning to work when you baby is between 6 weeks and 12 weeks old. Although you may find that child care options for infants under the age of 1 year are limited, don’t “just make do” when it comes to your baby’s happiness or safety.
When evaluating a day care center or a day care home for your baby, make sure there will be no more than three babies for every staff person and that the infants younger than 1 year are cared for separately from toddlers and older children. Choose carefully.
The following guide, “Four Steps to Selecting a Child Care Provider,” was developed by the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For more complete guidelines on health and safety in child care, call the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care at 1-800-598-KIDS (5437). For the name of the nearest Child Care Resource and Referral Program, call Child Care Aware at 1-800-424-2246. In Indiana, call 1-800-299-1627.
Four Steps to Selecting a Child Care Provider
1. Interview Caregivers - Call the caregivers and ask these questions:
- Is there an opening for my child?
- What hours and days are you open? Where are you located?
- How much does care cost? Is financial assistance available?
- How many children are in your care?
- What age groups do you serve?
- Do you provide transportation?
- Do you provide meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks)?
- Do you have a license, accreditation, or other certification?
- When can I visit?
Next, visit the child care facility or home; visit more than once and stay as long as you can. Look for these indicators of a healthy environment:
- Responsive, nurturing, warm interactions between caregiver and children.
- Children who are happily involved in daily activities and comfortable with caregivers.
- A clean, safe and healthy indoor and outdoor environment, especially napping, eating and toilet areas.
- A variety of toys and learning materials that your child will find interesting and that will contribute to growth and development.
- Children getting individual attention.
Ask the caregiver:
- How do you handle discipline?
- What do you do if a child is sick?
- What would you do in the case of an emergency?
- What training have you and other staff/substitutes had?
- Are all children and staff required to be immunized?
- May I see a copy of your license or other certification?
- Do you have a substitute or back-up caregiver?
- May I have a list of parents who use or have used your care?
- Where do children nap? Are babies put to sleep on their backs?
2. Check References
Ask other parents who use the caregiver these questions:
- Is the caregiver reliable on a daily basis?
- How does the caregiver discipline your child?
- Does your child enjoy the child care experience?
- If your child is no longer with the caregiver, why did you leave?
- How does the caregiver respond to you as a parent?
- Is the caregiver respectful of your values and cultures?
- Would you recommend the caregiver without reservation?
Ask the local child care resource and referral program or licensing office:
- What regulations should child care providers in my area meet?
- Is there a record of complaints about the child care provider I am considering, and if so, what can I find out about it?
3. Make the Decision for Quality Care
From what you heard and saw, ask yourself these questions:
- Which child care should I choose so that my child will be happy and safe?
- Which caregiver can meet the special needs of my child?
- Are the caregiver’s values compatible with my family’s values?
- Is the child care available and affordable according to my family’s needs and resources?
- Do I feel good about my decision?
4. Stay Involved
Ask yourself these questions about your child care arrangement:
- How can I work with my caregiver to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
- How will I stay informed about my child’s developmental accomplishments?
- How can I promote good working conditions for my child care provider?
- How can I network with other parents?
- How can I arrange my schedule so that I can talk to my caregiver every day, visit and observe my child in care at different times of the day, and be involved in my child’s activities at the day care?
Health Alert: Is it a “Good Fit”?
Watch your baby for signs of a good or bad “fit” with new child care arrangements.
Signs that suggest things aren’t going well for your baby include fewer smiles or clinginess and irritability.
Another red flag is a caregiver who shows no delight in your baby – no welcoming smile, no cute stories at the end of the day. If you get the sense your baby is “just another mouth to feed,” it’s time to find another caregiver.
Useful Info: Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s Off to Work You Go
There is no one best time to go back to work, but there are some times that are not so good for your baby.
It’s best not to schedule your return to work right after a move or any other break in the daily routine that your baby finds comforting. It’s also best to avoid the period around major milestones like walking or toilet training. These are times your baby will want the security of having you close.
Safety Habits: Child Care for Your Child with Special Needs
In addition to the usual qualities parents look for in child care arrangements, you’ll have additional criteria that must be met to be sure you have the right individual and the right facility for your child with special needs. When you interview a child care provider, ask these questions…
- Does the caregiver have experience in caring for a child with similar special needs?
- Is the caregiver trained and certified in rescue skills and first aid?
- Is the caregiver willing to adapt his or her program to meet your child’s needs?
- Is the caregiver willing to take responsibility for the necessary medical procedures and medication your child requires?
- Does the facility have enough space for any extra equipment your child requires?
- Are the play materials and toys appropriate for your child?
- Is the site safe for your child? Could your child and necessary medical equipment be transported quickly and easily from the facility in the case of an emergency?
- If increased electrical capacity is necessary for medical equipment, is it available? Is the caregiver willing to make arrangements for emergency power for medical equipment in case of an electrical outage?
If you need help in finding a quality child care center, contact the Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral at 1-800-299-1627.
Safety Habits: Home Emergency Planning for Your Child with Special Needs
- Notify local emergency services including the electric company of special health care requirements for your child.
- Make arrangements for emergency power for medical equipment in the case of an electrical outage.
- Post an emergency plan for transporting your child and necessary medical equipment from the house in the case of an emergency.
- Practice your home fire escape plan to be forewarned of possible difficulties.