When your baby is between the ages of 3 and 6 months, you may feel like every day you meet a new baby.
Developing in leaps and bounds, your baby is growing from a sleeping, eating machine into a sleeping, eating machine that has the ability to investigate, absorb, and react to the world around them at warp speed.
While every child develops at a different pace, here are the progress points you should note in order to update your pediatrician about your baby’s growth.
What’s most important to look out for at 6 months is object manipulation. As any gym bunny knows, this requires a marked improvement in core strength!
Is your baby capable of handling, transferring, grabbing, and reaching for objects that interest them? These actions look like:
- reaching with one hand
- transferring objects between hands
- using a raking grasp as well as the pincer grasp
- sitting with, and then without, the support of her hands
- rolling both ways (front to back, back to front)
The most important sensory developments at this stage are auditory. It’s all about the ability to express and distinguish emotion, whether that’s joy or sadness.
The visual and language behaviors you should look for are:
- increased ability to distinguish color
- improved ability to track objects
- matured distance vision
- responds to own name
- distinguishes emotion by tone of voice
- responds to sounds by making sounds
- uses voice to express joy or displeasure
- babbles to get attention
Emotional and cognitive
These milestones are often the most gratifying for parents. At last, baby laughed at your joke! (Well, sort of.)
Since personality is only just starting to manifest, the behaviors you’re looking for truly are uniform. With that in mind, if they’re not happening, it’s generally a good idea to bring it up with your pediatrician even at this early stage. Things to look for include:
- finds partially hidden objects
- explores with hands and mouth
- struggles to get objects that are out of reach
- engages in social play
- interested in mirror images
- responds to others’ emotions
- fears loud or unexpected noises
What to ask your doctor
While teething can and does begin at this stage (gulp), the biggest red flag as a parent is if your baby doesn’t generally express joy at each new discovery, sound, and person. Babies love new things at this stage, so long as they aren’t startling.
Therefore, even if you have a quieter baby, if they are constantly unhappy, it’s a good time to reach out to your pediatrician. This may help identify any cognitive or emotional issues that pop up early on, as well as give you the support you need. Some good questions are:
- What are some natural remedies to teething?
- How should I respond if baby’s teething throws off their sleep schedule?
- My baby seems miserable for no apparent reason. Is it teething or something more?
- My baby is manipulating objects well, when should I start baby off on their first food?
When to call your doctor
If any of the above developmental milestones aren’t reached by 6 months, it’s an appropriate time to call your doctor. For example, if your baby doesn’t reach for toys, or doesn’t babble at all, contact your pediatrician.
In addition, here are some other red flags to bear in mind as you care for baby:
- sits with a rounded back
- struggles to hold head up
- arches back and stiffens legs when pulled into a sit
- holds arms back and stiff legs in a supported stand
- avoids eye contact
- does not respond to sound
- does not smile or laugh
- does not hold own bottle during feeding
What you can do to support baby
This is the time in your baby’s life that any serious developmental issues usually manifest. Most of the time, the parent knows earlier than anyone if something feels off. The best thing you can do is trust your instincts.
Rather than hold off on contacting your pediatrician because it feels too early, this is precisely the time that early detection and intervention can do loads of good to give your baby the best chance to tackle whatever your family is faced with.
If your baby is healthy, parents agree that this period requires patience, love, and lots of encouragement of small activity. It gets your baby ready for their next steps — crawling and walking!