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 the beginning of stranger anxiety. It’s a typical 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.
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. Around six 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 he might sit up with some support and use his hands to help him balance when he’s sitting.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what she 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 him 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 six months: 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 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, 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.
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 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, 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 her 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 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 he 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 her 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 child doesn’t smile or show whether he’s 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 child has lost skills she 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 women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.