This is the sixth part in our series, a guide for new parents and how to take care of your baby. This section focuses on babies at 4-6 months old, their physical and mental development, sleep, teething and weaning.
The first 4 months of your baby’s life have flown by, and you now have a baby that is vocalising, rolling, kicking and grabbing too! Here’s what to expect from a 4-6 month old baby.
At 4-6 months, your baby will begin to play
While your baby embarks on their voyage of discovery, it is important to allow them time for solo play and investigation, with you keeping a distant, watchful eye. They will love toys that are diverse in all areas: different fabrics, sounds, colour and shapes. Tummy time is still important for building up the muscles in preparation for crawling.
Placing a few cushions behind and beside your baby can help them experience the sitting posture, although make sure you keep an eye on them as they do this! Generally speaking, babies can sit unsupported from around 7 months, but will still require a ‘soft landing’ surface as they may topple when over-reaching for a toy for some time yet. Be aware of everything in their environment for safety from now on, as once they start to roll they can be amazingly mobile very quickly. They may also become frustrated when their desire for exploration exceeds their level of dexterity.
Going outside with a 4-6 month-old baby
Your baby will love outings in strollers, engaging with every new and exciting event as you go out and about. Groups and social activities will be much more interactive, but remember to stay alert for your baby’s ‘sleepy clues’ and try not to take the baby out if they are tired, as they may quickly become fractious and emotional.
Keep in mind the ‘developmental leap’ phases when your rapidly exploring infant suddenly develops an anxious phase, increased fussiness or goes into meltdown unexpectedly.
How much sleep should my 4-6 month old baby be getting?
Up to 5 months old, your baby will require around 15 to 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. From 5-6 months, this will reduce to approximately 15 to 16 hours.
Your baby will continue to need 2 or 3 naps a day which will vary between 45 minutes to 2 hours. As a rule of thumb, the longer the nap, the more likely the baby will reduce the number of naps they take from 3 to 2, although this varies from baby to baby.
Up until 5 months, awake periods between naps will be approximately an hour and a half to 2 hours. After the 5 month mark, awake periods between naps will increase to 2 to 3 hours.
If you are lucky, your baby may begin to start sleeping through the night. Regular daytime feeding may assist this. It is important to recognise, however, that there are no guarantees that a baby will sleep through the night until they are fully weaned at around 6 to 7 months old.
When will my baby’s first tooth come in?
In general, the first tooth will emerge when your baby is 6 months old, potentially happening sooner. It is worth noting that the teeth are already there, fully developed under the gums, and will shift prior to eruption which can cause your baby discomfort. These ‘pre teeth’ weeks can be the most troublesome, so offering some homeopathic teething granules (especially at bedtime, or for any night waking) can help.
Feeding my 4-6 month old baby
When should I start weaning my baby?
The NHS guidelines are clear: a baby receives all the nutritional requirements in the first 6 months from milk alone. That said, some babies do get hungry before this time! A few indicators that this may be happening are:
- A baby who previously slept through the night starts waking in the night appearing hungry, or wakes much earlier in the mornings
- The baby may take a full milk feed, but still seems hungry or unsatisfied
- Daytime feed frequency may increase
Your baby will already be showing an interest in the food that you eat, so be guided by your baby when you start weaning. However, bear in mind that it is not recommended that you start weaning before 4-5 months old, and the earlier you start, the more slowly you will proceed.
When should I start reducing the amount of milk I give my baby?
The amount of milk that you give your baby should not be reduced until they reach 6 months. Therefore, if you start weaning your baby at 5 months old, you should only offer them a few spoonfuls at one meal for the first few days. After you’ve consistently mastered getting a few spoonfuls in, you can gradually increase the amount so that by 6 months, your baby will be introduced to the concept of three meals a day.
When this third meal is offered, you will be reducing the milk intake so that your baby is on three solid meals per day and approximately 550ml of milk. It is likely they will have an early morning bottle of milk and some milk mixed in with breakfast cereal. A mid-morning or mid-afternoon bottle, followed by one at bedtime, should fulfil this quota.
How should I feed my baby?
If your baby is ravenous, don’t immediately present spoonfuls of food, as they will be expecting milk. Instead, offer a little milk to begin with, before offering a few spoonfuls of food.
Sit them securely in their usual recliner chair and offer a little puréed food on the end of a spoon. Take it slowly and be prepared for some foods to be rejected several times; it is often more to do with the unexpected texture of the food or the spoon in their mouths than the food taste itself. Remember, this is a whole new experience for them.
Baby-led weaning is one weaning route that some parents choose to take, although this does not commence until the baby is able to sit unsupported in a high chair. In this approach, the puréed phase is omitted and a range of chopped foods are offered for the baby to help themselves to. If you consider this method, it is important to read appropriate literature and watch recommended visual guides to ensure safe practice throughout.
Babies should remain on an infant formula milk until at least one year old, but pasteurized milk products, such as fromage frais, yoghurt, cheese and full fat milk in cooking are fine to implement.
Certain foods are contraindicated for up to a year, so ask your Health Visitor for a leaflet on the up-to-date recommendations, as they can change periodically.
Transition from bottle to beaker often occurs at around weaning time, when boiled water is offered after some weaning food. Find a soft tipped beaker that is suitable for babies 4 months+, and gradually conduct this transition when you feel the time is right for you and your baby.
Your baby’s development
As you increasingly meet with other families, it can be tempting to compare your baby’s development with other infants of a similar age. If you catch yourself doing this, remind yourself that all babies are individuals, with their own temperament and personality, so will develop more quickly in some areas than others. Comparison is unnecessarily anxiety inducing; instead, enjoy your baby and allow them to grow and mature at their own pace, all the while developing your own special parenting style.
Looking for a night nanny, maternity nurse, lactation specialist or baby sleep consultant to help you through the first 4-6 months after birth? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up today to find the best postnatal support for you.
This blog is the sixth in our ‘A New Parents' Guide to Baby Sleep and Routine’ series.
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