When your little guy hits the big six-month mark, you can expect to see some behavioral changes. Not only does he play harder during the day, but his sleeping habits start to even out as well, giving you some relief when it comes to nighttime feedings. Of course, not everything automatically gets easier when your babe turns six months old. Since he still can't talk, your infant uses crying to communicate his needs. Now that he's older, he might even realize he can use tears to get what he wants. That's okay! With time, you'll be able to interpret your baby's cries to give him what he needs—and to know when he's faking. Either way, inconsolable nights are inevitable, so keep these tear-free solutions on hand to quell any crying spells.
- Toys and games. Baby dolls, furry critters and an engaging mama can distract your tearful tot during a fussing fit. "Babies are more alert and active at this age, so surrounding them with toys may start to work," says parenting expert Holly Klaassen. "With high need babies however, at this age they still need to be held and/or entertained a majority of the time. Playing interactive games like peekaboo are great, or really any game where the parents is actively involved. Fussy babies often need your help to be entertained...they're less likely to snap out of their fussiness when playing by themselves." When your baby fixates on a wailing jag, it can be hard to make him happy. Keeping him occupied with play works wonders for a quieter house.
- Stick to a routine. Babies love predictability in the day, which is why your little guy sometimes throws a fit when you're doing something out-of-the ordinary. For instance, if your baby's overstimulated because you're at a noisy family party, pull out a favorite toy or apologize and return back to the things your little one loves at home. Sometimes, a simple drive back to familiarity can help him feel comfortable and calm once again—just tell grandma that you'll come back another time.
- Sign language. By now, your child wants to communicate, but doesn't actually know how to tell you what he wants. It's the perfect time to start baby sign language—he'll be ready to tackle basic motions around eight months of age. To start, choose three basic signs, like milk, food, and bed. Then, sign the word whenever you say it. If you're consistent, eventually your baby will catch on and start signing back, which can help curb miscommunication and meltdowns later on. Don't overload your little guy with a ton of different signs—keep it basic for the best chance of success. Remember, you should always say and sign a word; just signing could interrupt language development by teaching your child to sign instead of using words.
- Watch for tell-tale cues. While you love to play with your baby and show off all of his new party tricks, keep an eye out for signs that weeping's on the way. Babies tend to get fussy when they're tired, so look for signs of fatigue. "Be attentive to subtle behavioral cues such as baby looking away during play with you, sneezing, becoming a little pale, droopy in the limbs and/or face," suggests Theresa Kledzik, an infant developmental nurse specialist. "These are early indicators of overstimulation. If you can intervene at this point, and give baby a little break from that exciting peek-a-boo game then he can have a better chance of regaining regulation." If your babe's on the verge of tears, it's time to pull out the tools in the parenting arsenal; quiet time, extra hugs and kisses, snacks, breastmilk or a bottle can help stop whimpering before it starts.
- Be firm at bedtime. Listening to your baby cry at night can be heart-wrenching—but giving into his demands easily only sends the message that screaming is the only way to get what he wants. If you want more shut-eye at night, it's fine to let your older baby fuss a little before bed so he learns to put himself to sleep. If he's still sobbing after 10 minutes, head into his room and offer a pat on the back and some hushed words, but don't take him out of his crib. Head back out and repeat the drill, increasing the time between visits, until he falls fast asleep.
- Check for medical issues. If your baby is wailing way more than average and you never get a reprieve, it's hard on both of you. While all babies cry, your little one shouldn't look like he's in pain or be completely inconsolable. Excess crying can warrant a trip to your pediatrician to check for underlying issues, such as painful reflux. In fact, a study published in a 2009 issue of Food Allergy found that colic—the clinical name for excessive infant crying—is often related to food allergies. If your baby's whimpering has shifted with lifestyle changes, such as introducing new foods to his diet, make an appointment with your doctor to check for allergies or other ailments.
Life's hard when you can't express yourself with words; crying is the only way to get your point across! Luckily, your baby is on the cusp of communication, so the guessing game won't last for long. By keeping your little one occupied and comfortable, you can ensure that screaming and tears won't be a major part of your daily routine.