Using all her senses, your baby is investigating her world and is learning very quickly. Enjoy this time of discovery by providing a wide variety of things for her to play with. Looking intently, handling, and mouthing, banging and dropping or throwing everything within reach is your baby’s way of relating to her world. Encourage her explorations.
What Your Baby is Learning
Your six month old is learning better hand control. She will begin raking objects toward herself and then transferring objects from one hand to the other. When she has objects in both hands, she will begin banging them together. Until now, she dropped things because she couldn’t hold them longer. This month she will begin purposely dropping toys to see what will happen.
She is becoming much more active. She wants to move. She will be sitting with legs wide spread and hands propping her up. Then because she wants to get toys beyond her reach, she may “fall” from sitting to tummy, roll from tummy to back or reverse, “bounce” forward or backward. All of these motions are building muscles and skills for creeping and crawling.
Her leg strength is improving too. Your baby is learning to support all her weight when held in a standing position. Bouncing with your support will be one of her favorite games.
At about six months your baby’s growth rate will slow from 1½-2 pounds per month to 1-1¼ pounds per month until her first birthday.
Six month olds search out the source of sounds with their ears and eyes. At six months babies are babbling and producing an enormous variety of sounds including squeals, hisses, bubbling, and throat clicks.
Until your baby is able to speak, you may enjoy teaching your baby sign language. She understands language and her motor skills are far ahead of her ability to speak. She already shows you she is sleepy by rubbing her eyes and raising her arms when she wants you to pick her up. Try using the same hand signal every time you use common words. For food, touch your mouth; for quiet, cover your ears; for hot, put hand out and pull back quickly. This will not slow her speech development, it may actually speed it. And it may save a few tantrums from the frustration of being unable to communicate needs.
See our article on Baby Signing.
Six month olds are still enjoying strangers who smile and make faces. She may actually initiate attention from strangers. She is still needing, even craving, your tender loving care and attention. She holds up her arms to be lifted up. She knows whom she wants to hold her.
She wants your attention and is learning ways to get it. Some of her antics are so cute you can’t help but give her the attention she wants. Soon enough some of her behaviors won’t be ones you want to encourage. So begin now to give her lots of positive feedback when she is doing things you like. Since attention is what she wants, lots of attention for “good” things she does will encourage her to do them more. This is the beginning of teaching right from wrong.
She is expanding her understanding of cause and effect. Letting go of an object makes it fall. Clapping objects together causes a banging sound. Her experiments with cause and effect will continue to expand.
She is gaining a sense of object permanence, knowing that an object exists even if she cannot see it. She will enjoy searching for an object that is partially hidden. Peek-a-boo is a favorite game at this age.
Ways You Can Help
She should be ready to sit up. When you pull her to a sitting position, she will hold her head up well. Provide some time each day for her to sit supporting herself with one or both hands. You will need to be nearby to offer support and surround her with pillows to cushion a possible fall. She is gaining muscle control necessary to sit by herself.
With all her movement, she will want to wear soft, loose, stretchy clothes. The baby blue jeans may be cute, but they will chafe her tender skin when she moves. Don’t make her wear anything that will get in the way of her sleeping, crawling, and playing.
Putting toys and other objects in her mouth allows her to discover the taste and texture of different objects. This is one way she learns about her world. Give her a wide variety of things to explore: different fabrics, textures, things that make noise, soft and hard, bright and colorful.
The other reason for mouthing things can also signal the first tooth may be ready to surface. Your baby will drool a lot and chew everything she can. Teething hurts. Rubbing her gums will help to soothe the pain.
She may use one hand more than the other for a little while and then switch to the other. There is no way to know if she is right or left handed this young. Don’t try to force her to become right or left handed as it can cause difficulty concentrating, hand-eye coordination problems, and poor handwriting later on.
Play games that involve taking turns making sounds. When she makes a sound, you mimic her, then you take a turn making a sound and pause for her to mimic you. Babies love to learn to make animal sounds.
This is the time to begin reading aloud to your child daily. She will enjoy looking at books with you now. Cardboard books give her a chance to learn to turn the pages. She will enjoy the bright pictures and the new sounds you make as you read. The melody and rhythm of language will interest her before she is able to understand the words. Besides developing a love of language and learning, reading provides an opportunity for cuddling and socializing too.
Sleeping and Naps:
At six months your baby is settling into a good routine for naps. She will average 14 hours of sleep per day with 7-8 hours at night. Most six months olds take at least two naps during the day.
Your baby would rather play and interact with you than nap. So if she is only taking 20 minute “catnaps” during the day, it may be time to start putting her in her crib for naps where she won’t be so easily roused after a short sleep. Keeping naptimes consistent will help her fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
This is a good age to help your baby learn to fall asleep on her own. Have a set bedtime routine and put her to bed before she is asleep. If she cries, stay away a few minutes to see if she settles herself. If not, return and soothe her without picking her up. You may have to repeat this routine several times. She will soon figure out that her crying is not getting her what she wants. If she wakes during the night, repeat this same procedure. If you cuddle, feed, or talk to her, she may make a habit of waking in the night for your attention.
This process is not easy because it is hard to hear your baby cry. However, you must remember she is safe and that some crying now will mean you all will sleep better after she learns to put herself to sleep. It may take a few nights before it is automatic.
What to Expect Next
- Sitting unsupported and pivoting to reach objects.
- Getting her knees and elbows or hands under her when lying prone.
- Jabbering, putting syllables together
This is typically the first efficient way for babies to get around. Balancing on hands and knees, she begins to move forward by pushing herself with her knees.
When do babies start crawling?
Most babies begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months. Since being instructed to put baby to sleep on her back instead of her tummy, many babies are slower learning to crawl and some skip the stage completely. Some babies scoot around on their bottom, others slither on their tummy, others roll across the floor. As long as your baby is actively moving her arms and legs and strengthening those muscles, she is still preparing to walk.
Why should your baby crawl?
Crawling is not only good exercise for babies but is important for the development of their sensory/motor systems and general motor skills. Babies follow a developmental pattern from learning head control to balance while sitting to creeping to walking. Although some babies can learn to walk without ever crawling, it is best not to rush past this stage of development. Each stage of the pattern is important.
How does crawling develop?
When your baby can sit well without support, she will be able to hold her head up and look around. The muscles in her arms, legs, and back become strong enough to keep her from falling when she gets up on her hands and knees.
From sitting by herself, she will learn how to get onto all fours. It will take a little while for her to be able to do this whenever she wants. At first, while on her hands and knees, she will rock backwards and forwards.
At around 9-10 months, most babies learn to push off with their knees and begin moving forward. Some babies move backward before they learn to move forward. At first she may move an arm and a leg from the same side giving her a rolling, unstable crawl. Soon enough she will begin moving one arm with the opposite leg and become much more stable and faster moving.
It takes lots of practice in all of these activities to strengthen her muscles, improve her balance, and prepare her for walking.
Should my baby use a walker, jumper, or exersaucer?
Walkers, jumpers, and exersaucers do not help a baby learn to walk earlier. They may actually delay walking a little. In walkers, babies cannot see how their legs and feet move, and they learn to use unusual muscle patterns to move around, so their progress in walking may be slower. Exersaucers don’t move forward, so the baby is getting a false sense about walking. However, jumpers and exersaucers encourage leg muscle development and back and neck strength. As long as they are not used as a substitute for playing on the floor, they shouldn’t delay learning to walk.
Heavenly Father, I see how my baby trusts me to meet her needs. She never worries about her safety or her provision. Help me to always be trustworthy toward my child. Also help me learn to trust you like my baby trusts me. In Jesus’ name. Amen