Happy half-birthday to you! Yes, we know that it's really your baby turning 6 months old, but you've reached a huge milestone too: surviving parenthood for the tricky first six months of the year. All of those midnight feedings, crying jags, developmental worries, and sickness scares of the first six months should start to taper off now, giving you more time to enjoy your little one. And the best part? He's finally old enough to interact with you, too. Celebrate your huge achievement as you look ahead to the future and know exactly what to expect this month.
Solid Eater. Now that your baby's 6 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives you the go-ahead to start giving your baby solid foods. For the first couple of months, solid foods are more for practice than true nutrition, so you'll still need to have a bottle or the breast at the ready to finish out a feeding. Still, it's a brand-new frontier that you and your baby can discover together.
- Don't hand over the steak and mashed potatoes just yet; it helps to offer new foods one at a time, so you can watch for potential reactions and isolate foods that could cause tummy troubles or dangerous allergies.
- Start with puréed fruits and vegetables at first. They're easier for your baby to digest and don't pose a choking hazard for your toothless tot. Stay away from foods that aren't recommended during the first year at all, like peanut butter and honey. Talk to your pediatrician about which foods to introduce, especially if your baby has had a history with allergic reactions.
Sits Up. By this age, your child should be steady (or close to steady) when sitting up. Being able to sit up without support opens a whole new world of play to your little one, who was restricted to laying on the floor before. By offering plenty of literal and figurative support, you can help your babe become a star sitter.
- Offer incentives for your tiny learner to play from a seated position. Many toy bars and activity centers can be raised up so they're eye level with a seated baby. When your little guy realizes all the fun he's missing while laying on the floor, he'll work to get better at sitting.
- Secure the area where your baby is sitting. Even steady babies can topple onto the floor every now and again. A few pillows placed around his bottom can help him stay steady and offer cushioning for a crash.
Social Butterfly. Your kid is a social creature; in fact, you might see him grinning and making faces at the lady behind you in the grocery checkout! He often seeks out attention, but isn't always happy with the attention he receives. He might be nervous around strangers and even family members he doesn't know well.
- Introduce new people slowly to your little one. It might help if you show him off from the comfort of your own arms, where he feels completely safe and sound. Don't force your baby to "go to" someone he doesn't know; it could make matters worse later on.
- Your baby can easily mimic emotions and picks up on the feelings of those around him. If you're angry or stressed out, you'll probably notice that your babe gets fussy too. By staying calm and positive, his temperament can be easier to handle.
Back and Forth. Your baby can finally manipulate his hands so that he can actually play! You'll probably notice that one of his favorite games is simply passing one item back and forth between his hands. He might even find his feet and spend plenty of time examining his toes while he hangs onto them with his hands.
- Provide plenty of safe opportunities for your little one to play. Soft toys, rattles, and noisy playthings are all great, but your baby also loves finger play. "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" is a classic! Be sure to play plenty of patty cake and any other games that get his hands moving.
Sleep Training Time. Your 6 month old is finally old enough to benefit from sleep training, which means you could also benefit from a little more shut-eye. Since your little one's tummy is big enough to hold enough food to get through the night, most night waking by this point in time is completely habitual.
- Do your research and choose sleep training methods that fall in line with your ideals as a parent. If you're into attachment parenting, letting your baby cry it out might feel totally unnatural. From Ferberizing to the No-Cry Sleep Solution, you have tons of options to choose from.
- Don't take a hard line on training just yet. Experiment with different techniques to see what works for your family. "If a parent has been consistently with one sleep method for 7-10 nights and seen no improvement then they should stop and see their doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be interfering with their child's sleep," suggests pediatric sleep consultant and family therapist Kim West. "Depending on the age of the child and 'what happened' they should take a break and revisit sleep training several weeks or months later, and perhaps try a different method."
Parrot Communication. Don't be surprised if your tiny talker starts echoing everything that you say. While he can't enunciate just yet, he can mimic the sounds you make in your words, especially if they're short like "eh" or "ga". He'll use these new communication skills to try and "chat" on his own; he might even yell when you're not paying attention.
- Give your baby plenty of parrot practice. While imitation is a form of flattery, it's also a major form of beginning communication, and it's a fun game you can play together. Say a few short words or start babbling to see if your little one is interested in joining in the conversation.
- Say the right words back to your baby. If he points at a dog and start babbling, you can say "Yes! That's a dog!" to help start to slowly expand his vocabulary. Narrate the daily stuff that you do in short, understandable sentences, like "Mommy is going to feed you. You eat carrots!"
Your baby's blossoming into a personable, funny little guy, and you're only halfway through his first year! You started parenting feeling clueless, but as your little one's grown and changed, you've rolled with the punches. Keep the camera close by for the "firsts" coming along as your baby continues developing throughout his first birthday.