Baby development at 4-5 months: what’s happening
By about 5 months, your baby is starting to form a stronger attachment to you. Over the last few months, your baby has learned to know your voice, remember what you look like and understand that you respond when they need you. Your baby also knows other caregivers and understands who they are.
Your baby will turn to you when you speak, and they might even respond to their 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. Your baby might smile and talk to themselves (and you!) in the mirror. Your baby is also starting to show emotions like anger, frustration and irritation. Instead of crying your baby might grizzle.
Your baby really enjoys reaching and grabbing everything – dangling rings, rattles, toys, small blocks and more. They can hold things in their hands using their palms and pointer fingers and will often put things in their mouth.
At this age, your baby might also:
- drop something – for example, a rattle – and turn their head to look for it (but they 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 their hips and behind their bottom and lower back
- put their fingers in their 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 they can reach, so always watch your baby. It doesn’t take long for your baby to unexpectedly roll into or reach for something that puts them in danger.
Helping baby development at 4-5 months
Here are 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 baby learn about language and communication. When you talk and listen, look your baby in the eye and make facial expressions to help your baby learn the link between words and feelings.
- Make eye contact with your baby: when you get your baby to follow your eyes, it encourages your baby to turn their head. Like tummy time, this builds your baby’s neck strength and head control.
- 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. It also helps baby feel loved and secure.
- Find a routine: when it feels right for you and your baby, it can help to do things in a similar order each day. A familiar pattern helps your baby feel safe 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.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, they might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use baby cues to let you know when they’ve had enough and what they need.
Crying and how to respond
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to your baby’s crying – for example, by changing a wet nappy or feeding – your baby feels comfortable and safe.
Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort your baby. You can’t spoil a baby by picking them up, cuddling them or talking to them in a soothing voice.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage. If you feel like you can’t cope, it’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Gently put your baby in a safe place like a cot. Go to another room to breathe deeply, or call your state or territory parenting helpline.
Parenting a 5-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 your baby needs and how you can meet these needs.
As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your baby. When you’re well, you can give your baby the loving attention they need to grow and thrive. You can also cope better if your baby is crying a lot.
Remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your baby, including your partner, friends, relatives, child and family health nurse and GP.
When to be concerned about baby development
You know your baby best. So it’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 5-month-old has any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communicating
- is crying a lot and this is worrying you
- isn’t making eye contact with you
- doesn’t follow moving objects with their eyes
- isn’t making any sounds or responding to noises.
Behaviour and learning
Your baby isn’t:
- putting objects in their mouth.
Movement and motor skills
Your baby isn’t:
- lifting their head or has poor head control
- reaching for objects
If you notice that your baby no longer has some of the skills they once had, see a child health professional.
It’s also a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in birthing mothers or postnatal depression in non-birthing parents. Signs of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Development usually happens in the same order in most children, but skills might develop at different ages or times. If you’re wondering whether your child’s development is on track, or if you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s best to get help early. See your child and family health nurse or GP.