By Raising Children Network
spacer spacer PInterest spacer
spacer Print spacer Email
Happy mother and baby laughing, playing with mirror credit

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

Your baby is curious and wants to learn about the things she sees, often by putting them in her mouth.
Babies come in all shapes and sizes, but baby development at 4-5 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 4-5 months: what’s happening

Over his first few months, your baby has learned to know your voice, remember what you look like and understand that you respond when he needs you. At about five months old, he’s starting to form a stronger attachment to you. He’s also got to know other close family members and carers well, and understands who they are.

Your baby will turn to you when she hears your voice, and she might even respond to her name or another sound, like a bell ringing.

Your baby is showing more emotion – blowing ‘raspberries’, squealing, making sounds like ‘ah-goo’ and even trying to copy the up-and-down tone you use when you talk. He might smile and talk to himself (and you!) in the mirror. He’s also starting to show emotions like anger and frustration. Instead of crying he might growl or whinge.

Your baby really enjoys reaching and grabbing everything around her – dangling rings, rattles, toys, small blocks and more. She can hold things in her hand using her palm and index finger.

At this age, your baby might also:

  • drop something – for example, a spoon – and turn his head to look for it (but he probably won’t look down for it just yet)
  • roll from back to tummy as well as from tummy to back
  • sit up with support around his hips and behind his bottom and lower back
  • put his fingers in his mouth and start getting interested in what you’re eating – this interest will grow over the coming weeks.
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 4-5 months

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby’s development at this age:

  • Talk to your baby and listen to his reply: by doing this you’re helping baby learn about language and communication. When you talk to your baby or listen, look your baby in the eye and make facial expressions to help him learn the link between words and feelings.
  • Play together: sing songs, read books, play with toys, do tummy time 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 her feel loved and secure.
  • 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.
  • Find a routine: when it feels right for you and your baby, it can help to do things in a similar order each day – for example, feed, play, sleep. This pattern also helps your baby feel safe and secure.

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

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

Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort him. You can’t spoil your baby by picking him up, cuddling him or talking to him 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 her 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 five-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 he 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 five-month-old is having any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • is crying a lot and this is worrying you 
  • isn’t making eye contact with you or doesn’t follow moving objects with her eyes
  • isn’t making any sounds or responding to noises.

Behaviour and learning
Your child isn’t smiling and isn’t putting objects in his mouth.

Movement and motor skills
Your child:

  • isn’t lifting her head or has poor head control
  • doesn’t reach for objects
  • isn’t rolling.

If you notice that your baby no longer has some of the skills he once had, you should see a child health professional.

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 Development issues

This short video is about development issues in babies. All babies develop in the same order but at different rates. This video explains there are also some key indicators that a baby might be experiencing a delay in development. If you're worried about your child's development, you should have your child checked out by a health professional.

Video Catching delays in development

This short video has information about recognising and catching delays in development in newborns. If you suspect a delay in development, you should seek medical advice. 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.
  • Last updated or reviewed 17-02-2016