Baby Development Milestones – 4 months to 6 months
As your baby becomes more alert and mobile, each day is a new adventure with new experiences. Each interaction with you and others, as your baby sees more of the world, adds to their development.
It is worthwhile reminding you at this stage that your baby is an individual – the natural inclination is to start comparing where your child is at relative to others (parental anxiety will definitely rear its head!) so just note that they are developing according to their own timeline. Guidelines, however, are good for identifying potential areas for increased interaction which can help with your little one’s development and of course they provide conversation points to bring up in your paediatric visits.
Physical Skills and Motor Development
Your baby will likely be able to sit up with only a little help and will use their hands to support themselves while in a sitting position. While laying down your baby is now able to roll over in both directions – from tummy to back and from back to tummy. Keep an eye on them as this movement can lead to rolling off surfaces if you’re not careful.
When they are on their tummy they are likely reaching for toys with both hands and, while lying on their back, your baby is likely reaching for their feet with both hands. They will also use both hands to explore toys.
Additionally, they will be able to support themselves on their hands and knees. While in this position, they start rocking back and forth in preparation for starting to crawl – they may crawl backwards before moving forward. Some other indicators of your little one learning to crawl are your baby rolling about or shuffling on their bottoms. Some will take off at six months while others might take 10 to start moving – some others might even skip the crawling stage altogether. Just keep an eye out for what your baby is up to support them as much as possible.
Tummy time is a crucial part of development from 4 – 6 months. The more tummy time your baby has, the stronger their arms and legs will be and the easier they will find moving around. Incorporate tummy time into the daily routine if you haven’t done so already as it will help achieve milestones
Most excitingly you will see them start to develop their leg muscles in preparation for walking at a later stage. Watch as they pull themselves up with the support of surfaces – they are now likely able to support weight on both legs while standing. Help them build these muscles by providing access to safe furniture/toys/objects that will provide them with something to hold onto.
Your little one is also starting to work on their next challenge – their hand-to-eye coordination. Stacking blocks is a great way to help them develop this skill and is a pretty fun-filled activity with your little one.
They continue to use their mouths to feel an object in conjunction with their hands. At this stage, babies are fascinated at touching textures and use their hands and mouth to explore the world. They are also able to transfer objects from hand-to-hand. Encourage them to explore by providing safe toys which are differently textured – things around the home will do as well as they will enjoy feeling water running through their fingers, scrunching up a ball of paper or even running their hand along the blades of grass.
A benefit of continuing to expand their sense of touch is that it is great practice for weaning when they would begin to try differently textured food and it will also help their attention span and curiosity.
Your little one will still enjoy looking at him or herself in the mirror and looking around at things. Where previously the big and bold movements with bright colours attracted them, they are now honing in on the finer details and will at things such as earrings, the nose of a teddy bear or the printed butterfly on the top you’re wearing. They will attempt to grab these things with their fists so watch out for your hair, necklaces and earrings.
Animal noises are a huge ‘Yes’ for playtime with your child as they love hearing different sounds and are starting to identify and connect which animals make which sounds. Picture books with animals are great stimulation and him/her will enjoy you making noises along with you showing each animal to them one by one.
While your baby needs plenty of stimulation, quiet times are also important – at least a few minutes at a time – when they can play by themselves. This is great practice for teaching them how to amuse themselves.
Speech and Language Development
He/she will be mimicking gestures such as nodding for “yes” and shaking the head for “no” – they will definitely understand the word “no”. While singing a familiar nursery rhyme they will take their cue from you – they will anticipate what comes next both from memory and due to the expectant tone in your voice and your body language.
One syllable sounds such as “da” or “ma” – or other consonant-vowel combinations, will likely be repeated over and over (“dadada” or “mamama”). Some might even combine two syllables in a more complex sound – such as “nada” or “mana”.
Keep up a running commentary of everything you’re doing with your baby as talking to them is a key part of their development. Start naming everything around you and even count the steps of the stairs as you ascend or descend – repetition is key as it all gets stored in their brain waiting for the moment that they connect the dots and can say it back at you.
Social and Emotional Development
Stranger anxiety is normal from this age as they begin to know the difference between a familiar face and someone they don’t know. They may become clingy and cry if anyone but you come near to them.
Your little one will respond to other’s emotions and will often seem happy – they will make noises to express their happiness or displeasure. Since your baby enjoys playing with others, especially with family playing games like peek-a-boo, encourage a bit of socialising – baby groups and playdates are a great way to get them used to meeting new people.
From about 6 months, you might also be starting to think about weaning your baby onto solids. This is a fantastic and important bonding experience as they experiment and get exposed to new tastes, textures and even the colours of food. Have fun with introducing them to this new stage, incorporating sounds and positive emotions into the experience.
There are no set timelines for infant development – some develop faster than others in certain areas while their counterparts are developing other skill sets. Each baby is different and although you can encourage them, they will do things in their own time and at their own pace.
If you haven’t already, it’s now time to ensure that your little one has a safe place to roam around. Stick with your routine if you’ve developed one or find one that works for both of you.
They’re probably still teething – bibs, wipes and extra clothing are a must. They’re also probably needed for other occasions as your child will find themselves getting messy from other activities such as mealtime. And watch out for the hands as they grab anything – especially shiny objects like jewellery. If you have long hair its worthwhile starting to tie it up.
Development guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. However, should you be truly concerned due to your baby being far behind the curve, it is worthwhile just getting in touch with your paediatrician just to get him or her checked out and reassure yourself. Remember – even if you had nothing to worry about, while you worry your little one is picking up on your stress which can affect their level of comfort and temperament