Caring for Your 6-Month-Old

6 Months

Caring for Your 6-Month-Old

Family Adjustment

  • As your baby’s personality is emerging, try to keep older siblings involved in a way that is helpful to you and lets them feel included in the attention the baby is receiving.
  • Find ways to spend time alone with each child and with your partner.

Nutrition

  • Exclusively breast-fed babies require supplemental vitamin D (400 IU/day), which is available at most drug stores/supermarkets.
  • Babies should not receive fluoride supplementation during the first six months of life, whether they are breast-fed or formula-fed. After that time, breast-fed and formula-fed infants need appropriate fluoride supplementation if local drinking water contains less than 0.3 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride.
  • Bottles should be held, not propped, for babies.
  • Babies this age need to nurse/feed three to five times during the day.
  • When babies show signs of readiness (being able to sit with some support, showing an interest in what others are eating, not feeling full after a feeding, being able to turn away when full), it is time to introduce solid foods.
  • Mixing cereal in a bottle does not teach the baby how to eat. Only feeding with a spoon will accomplish this.
  • Start by mixing rice cereal and formula, breast milk or water in a bowl with a baby spoon. The mixture should start out thin and runny. As your baby gets better at eating, make it thicker by adding less liquid.
  • Each new food is introduced one at a time, with two to three days between each.
  • Avoid giving juice, soda, tea, coffee and other flavored drinks.
  • Try to encourage regular mealtimes for your baby, preferably together with the family.
  • As babies learn to eat, they will enjoy feeding themselves. Begin with very soft, mashed foods and progress to finger foods, such as Cheerios or crackers.
  • Babies at this age like to put almost everything in their mouths. Beware of foods, such as nuts, raisins and other foods, that could present a choking hazard.

Elimination

  • Regular, easy-to-pass, soft yellow stools at least once daily are normal at this age.
  • With the addition of solid foods, your child’s stool may become thicker, less frequent and may change color. Speak with your child’s doctor if you are concerned about the consistency or frequency of your child’s stooling.

Baby Care

  • Bathe your baby in a small tub/bathinette, using warm (not hot) water and gentle soap, as frequently as every day. Always remain with your baby during bath time.
  • Routines are important regarding sleeping and feeding schedules.
  • Babies may start teething at this age. Use a baby toothbrush or washcloth to clean your baby’s teeth.

Growth and Development

  • Most 6-month-olds smile, laugh and love social interaction. Talk to your baby, and prioritize face-to-face interaction. At this age, babies love to see themselves in a mirror.
  • Singing and cuddling with your baby will build trust and closeness.
  • Read to your baby daily to promote language skills. Board books and soft books with pictures and nursery rhymes are good for reading and learning how to safely hold a book. You can point at and identify items pictured in the book. Follow your baby’s cues for “more” and “stop” instead of worrying about finishing the story. Even a short time reading every day has a strong influence on language and reading skills.
  • “Tummy time” helps your baby develop strong muscles in the neck and back that will soon allow the baby to sit up.
  • By six months old, most babies purposefully reach for items. Place age-appropriate toys within your child’s reach to promote this new skill.
  • Most 4- to 6-month-olds can support their heads and bodies well enough to play in a stationary jumper, such as an ExerSaucer or Jolly Jumper. Ask your doctor if your baby is ready for these toys. Baby walkers with wheels are dangerous and not recommended.

Safety

  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Co-sleeping, sleeping with your baby, increases the risk for SIDS. Infants should sleep in a crib with a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Keep bumper pads, pillows, blankets, loose bedding and soft objects, like stuffed toys, out of the crib.
  • Most babies can roll at this age, so do not trust your infant if propped on a sofa or lying on a changing table or bed.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in a tub or on any high surface.
  • Supervise pets and siblings when around the baby.
  • Lower the crib mattress so that when your baby soon learns to pull up to standing, the crib railing will still provide a safe barrier.
  • Babies learn to stand by pulling up and supporting themselves on surrounding items. Sometimes, these items can present danger. For instance, if a baby pulls on a tablecloth, any cup with hot liquid resting on the table can spill and present a burn risk. Likewise, a bookshelf or TV that is not secured to the wall can tip over and present an injury risk.
  • Keep the living environment (including the car) smoke-free, and keep small items (choking hazards) and hot liquids (burn risks) away from the baby.
  • All infants this age must ride in a rear-facing five-point harness car seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Baby proof your home. Some babies this age will soon crawl or scoot around on their own. Block stairs with a door or baby gate to prevent falls. Cover electrical outlets and tuck away loose cords (lamp, TV).
  • Babies this age put just about everything in their mouths. Batteries (especially “button” type) and magnets pose great danger to children if swallowed. Keep these items and other choking hazards out of your baby’s reach.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.

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