By Chris Woolston, M.S.
Your 6-month-old still has a limited social life. He can recognize his mom and dad, and he enjoys it when someone plays with him or talks to him. But at this age, he doesn't give much thought to other people.
His notion of "love" may be primitive, but he still needs plenty of it. You should comfort him when he cries and give him lots of cuddles. At this age, it's impossible to spoil him. He just needs to know that you're there for him. Don't worry if he's not always in the mood for cuddling. Some babies are just naturally less affectionate than others. But if he absolutely refuses to cuddle under any circumstances, you should tell his doctor. This isn't normal.
You are more to him than just a walking security blanket. You're also a tour guide to the world. Your baby is becoming more interested in his environment, and he needs your help to explore. He wants go along on walks and trips to the grocery store. He also wants to you to bring him toys and show him how to use them. You'll be stimulating his mind while you strengthen your bond.
As you've undoubtedly noticed, your baby already has his own personality. He may be reserved or outgoing, gentle or rowdy, happy or irritable. At this point, his personality is largely inherited; there isn't much you can do to shape it. Instead of trying to change his personality, you should adapt to it. If he acts shy and reserved, give him a little extra attention but don't force him to play with other children. If he's grumpy, he may need plenty of cuddles and soothing words. And if he's strong-willed, now's the time to practice your patience. You'll need plenty of it in the coming months and years.
Your baby is finding new ways to interact with the people around him. Most notably, he's learning how to express his moods. This is an age for belly laughs and sad faces. He can growl when he's mad and clap his arms together when he's excited. Clapping may be one of his favorite activities. After all, it's an exciting time -- for both of you.
American Pregnancy Association. First year of development. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/firstyeardevelopment.html
Virginia Cooperative Extension. Understanding growth and development patterns of infants. June 2001. http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/family/350-055/350-055.html
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby. From Birth to Age Two. 2003. Little, Brown and Co.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. 2009. Bantam Books.
Last Updated: March 11, 2013
May 18: Health Headlines
Making news this week: Hysterectomy and heart disease, alcohol misuse, ringing cell phones and blood pressure.