When we last left off our Development Calendar at 3 months, we had babies who could kick, wave and grip objects, had a noticeable but forgivably infantile sense of humour and who slept well...just as much/little as before. With double that time now passed, what should you expect from your little one at 6 months old, and where should you be putting the most attention?
Babies start to get some serious strength at 6 months old. It's quite common by this point to see them sit up if well supported (or even sometimes just on their own), trying to manage their own weight on two legs - with a bit of help of course - and roll both from front to back, and back to front.
There's three major milestones you may well be seeing around this time: teeth, solid foods and crawling. It's common for one of the bottom front teeth to appear, followed by its first neighbour and then two teeth on the top of the mouth. Once you've confirmed their 'tenancy', start brushing them twice a week with a baby toothbrush and some children's fluoride toothpaste. With teeth comes the possibility of eating, and by leaving the first feeding as close to the 6 month mark as possible, you leave your baby much more prepared. We've previously covered eating solid foods on the blog before, so we won't repeat the nutritional details of this exciting prospect.
It's not that uncommon for some babies to completely let crawling pass them by, and it can take as much as 10 months before they're off gallivanting on their hands and knees. Some crawl the classic way, others like to roll their way across the room and some may even prefer a 'bottom shuffle' as their way of manoeuvring. The more they do crawl however, the stronger their arms and legs will become.
In each step of this Development Calendar we've continuously advocated somewhat of a 'running commentary' with your baby. The more they hear you talk or point things out for them - especially if it's repeated often - will inevitably help with their early language development. At this point, your baby will start to realise they can get different responses from you based on their behaviour. Whilst this is a key opportunity for mischief in the future, remember to always keep the loving focus on them when they deserve it!
In terms of the way they'll communicate with you, the babbling of recent months will become more frequent and will slowly resemble actual words...if only ever so slightly. For some very stimulating conversation, always be sure to speak back in their little language.
The short answer to your inevitable question is, sadly, getting your baby to sleep is still going to be a challenge. But now that they're six months old, you can start to put in place some routines and techniques that may help improve the ease of their lulling, and can even shift the times they do it.
You've probably heard of the 'Ferber Method', which in short involves leaving the baby in their crib, and leaving longer periods of time between the start of their tamtrum, and coming in to comfort them. The method works well for many families, but there are two alternatives:
Babies at this age love to touch all sorts of things; running water, paper, grass - you name it. You should definitely try to stimulate these senses as much as possible; it can help with attention span, curiosity and can even carry over into their food when they start weaning.
It's quite common for stranger anxiety to be the norm for 6 month old babies. Playdates and going to baby groups helps them not only get more comfortable with people that aren't you, but it also teaches them that not always being with you isn't so bad. Encourage others to give your baby a bit of attention or welcome them with a smile, and they'll be well into making their first friends.
Though you want to start giving them their quiet time to play, there's all new activities to tuck into with your 6 month old. Animal noises are all the rage, and as you're probably well aware there's no shortage of books to help them identify what the source of a 'moo' or 'roar' may actually be.
Games and play that also encourage hand eye co-ordination and sensory play are very highly recommended. The two of you can have a lot of fun stacking and toppling blocks, and the mirror game - in which you copy your baby's sounds, facial expressions and movements (all the way down to blinking) - will be a huge source of smiles.
What were the biggest changes you noticed when your baby celebrated their first half-birthday? Let us know in the comments, and you can also share your experiences with us on Facebook, through Twitter or on Google+.