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5-6 months: baby development

5-6 months

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 she is. She’s also working out the difference between parents, caregivers, strangers, adults and children. At this age, she has made important attachments to her parents and other close family members or carers, and likes spending time with them.

Around this time, your baby might seem more aware or afraid of grown-ups he doesn’t know well – this is stranger anxiety. It’s a normal part of learning to feel safe in the world. If you give your child time, he’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, she’ll smile when she wants to. But she’ll also grunt, frown and cry if she’s angry or sad.

When it comes to communicating, your baby might babble and make sounds like ‘baba’ or ‘gaga’. But he’ll also let you know what he wants using other noises, movements and smiling. For example, putting his arms up might mean ‘Lift me up’.

Around this age, your baby can move her head on her own and is starting to move her body more by reaching, wriggling and rolling.

Your baby is also much better at using his eyes to guide his hands. He can reach out for objects with one hand, grab things and put them in his mouth or move them from hand to hand. Touching and tasting is how he learns about things now.

Your baby’s appetite is growing, and she’s ready to experience how different foods taste and feel. This means it’s a good time to introduce solid foods.

At this age your baby might also:

  • bang or shake toys to learn how they work
  • sit up with some support and maybe use his hands to help him balance when he’s sitting
  • stop what he’s doing when he hears you say ‘no’.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what she can reach, so always watch your baby. It doesn’t take long for baby to unexpectedly roll into or reach for something that puts her in danger.

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: by doing this you’re helping him learn about language and communication. While you talk or 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: feeding your baby solid foods helps her get enough iron and other nutrients. It also strengthens her 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 him feel loved and secure.
  • Reassure your child when she meets new people: if you comfort your baby when she’s crying or upset, she’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 to suit his age.
  • Prepare your home for a moving baby: it’s a good idea to look at how you can make your home safe for baby to move about in.

Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, she might be too tired or hungry. She’ll use special baby cues to let you know when she’s had enough and what she needs.

Responding to crying
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to his crying – for example, by changing his nappy when it’s wet or feeding him if he’s hungry – he feels more comfortable and safe.

Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort her. You can’t spoil your baby by picking her up, cuddling her or talking to her 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 him 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 OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your baby, call your local Parentline. Our coping toolkit has practical ideas to help you relax and feel calmer.

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 she needs and how you can meet these needs. 

As a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know and ask questions – often the ‘dumb’ questions are the best kind!

Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child or baby, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent. 

When to be concerned about baby development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your six-month-old is having any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communication
Your child:

  • is crying a lot and this is worrying you
  • isn’t making eye contact with you, isn’t following moving objects with his eyes or has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time
  • isn’t babbling or turning towards sounds or voices.

Behaviour
Your child doesn’t smile or show if she’s happy or sad.

Movement
Your child:

  • has difficulty eating solid foods
  • isn’t rolling
  • 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 child has lost skills he once had.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you notice the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men in yourself or your partner. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Video

Baby development issues

1:55

This short video is about baby development issues, particularly issues with vision, hearing and movement.

All babies develop in the same order but at different rates. There are signs that can tell you that a baby might be experiencing a delay in development. If you’re worried about your baby’s development, it’s a very good idea to have your child checked out by your GP or child and family health nurse.

Video

Developmental delay in babies

2:23

This short video has information about recognising and catching development delay in newborns and babies. If you’re worried about your baby’s development or you suspect a delay in development, you should talk with your GP or child and family health nurse. There’s no need to feel embarrassed if you're worried about your baby.

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 child and family health nurse or GP.

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Last updated or reviewed
01-02-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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