Baby development at 5-6 months: what’s happening
At 5-6 months, your baby is learning about who they are. Your baby is also working out the difference between parents, caregivers, strangers, adults and children. At this age, your baby has made important attachments to you and other close family members or carers and likes spending time with these people.
Around this time, your baby might seem more aware or afraid of grown-ups they don’t know well – this is the beginning of stranger anxiety. It’s a typical part of learning to feel safe in the world. If you give your baby time, they’ll eventually get used to new people.
Your baby can express emotions – laughing, squealing and smiling with happiness, joy and pleasure. At this age, your baby smiles when they want to. But your baby also grunts, frowns and cries if they’re angry or sad.
When it comes to communicating, your baby might babble and make sounds like ‘baba’ or ‘gaga’. But your baby will also let you know what they want using other noises, movements and smiling.
Around this age, your baby can move their head on their own and is starting to move their body more by reaching, wriggling and rolling.
Your baby is also much better at using their eyes to guide their hands. Your baby can reach out for objects with one hand, grab things and put them in their mouth or move them from hand to hand. Touching and tasting is how they learn about things now.
Your baby’s appetite is growing, and they’re ready to experience how different foods taste and feel. Around 6 months is a good time to introduce solid foods.
At this age your baby might also bang or shake toys to learn how they work. And your baby might sit up with some support and use their hands to help them balance when they’re sitting.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what they can reach, so always watch your baby. It’s a good idea to look at how you can make your home safe for your baby to move about in.
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 your baby learn about language and communication. While 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.
- Start introducing solids around 6 months: solid foods help your baby get enough iron and other nutrients. It also strengthens your baby’s 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 your baby feel loved and secure.
- Reassure your child when they meet new people: if you comfort your baby when they’re crying or upset, they’ll learn that they’re safe.
- Check your routine: it can take time to find a routine that works for you and your baby. And as your baby gets older, you might need to make some changes to your routine.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, your baby might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use special 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 feeding your baby if they’re hungry – your baby feels more 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 your baby by picking them up, cuddling them or talking to them in a soothing voice.
But a lot of crying might make you feel frustrated, upset or overwhelmed. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold your baby for a while. 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 the demands of caring for your baby, call your local Parentline. You might also like to try our ideas for dealing with anger, anxiety and stress.
Parenting a 6-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 also OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
When you’re focusing on looking after a baby, you might forget or run out of time to look after yourself. But looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally will help your child grow and thrive.
When to be concerned about baby development
Seeing, hearing and communication
- is crying a lot and this is worrying you
- isn’t making eye contact with you, isn’t following moving objects with their eyes or has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time
- isn’t babbling or turning towards sounds or voices.
Your baby doesn’t smile or show whether they’re happy or sad.
- 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 baby has lost skills they once had.
You should also 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. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.