The sixth month is a time for breakthroughs and discoveries. Your baby will develop skills that will open a new world of opportunities: opportunities to move, opportunities to learn, and, yes, opportunities to cause trouble. As she's testing her newfound abilities, you'll be put to the test, too. You need to encourage and challenge her, but you also need to keep her safe.
This is the age when many babies first learn the joys of sitting up by themselves. Before the sixth month, your baby may have been able to sit with a little help. Once she got there, she probably needed to prop herself up with her arms. As the days go by, the muscles in her back and neck are getting stronger, and her sense of balance is improving.
Milestones in balancing
Watch for the day when she can pick up her hands without toppling over. She'll suddenly realize that she can sit upright AND use her hands to play with her toys. You'll practically be able to see the light bulb glowing over her head.
Some babies need a little extra time to find their balance. Don't be alarmed if your baby still seems wobbly after six months go by. But if she can't sit up even with help, you should consult with her doctor to determine whether there is any cause for concern.
Babies who are new to this sitting business are bound to topple over every now and then. You can take some of the pain and frustration out of these falls by surrounding her with pillows or a horseshoe-shaped nursing cushion. As soon as she's sitting tall, you'll have to take a new approach to babyproofing. If there's a mobile dangling over her crib, it's time to take it down or make sure it's well out of reach.
This is the also the age when your baby can no longer be trusted to stay in one place. She can now roll over in either direction. And as her arms and legs get stronger, she'll start scooting forward. You can encourage her to move by putting exciting toys just beyond her grasp. Watch her progress closely, but always assume that she can move faster and farther than you realize. If you haven't done so already, now's the time to cover all of the electrical outlets and put all of the cleaning products, house plants, sharp objects, and other potentially dangerous things up high or behind locked doors.
Small object alert
You'll have to be especially careful to keep her away from small objects. Although she still can't make a pincer movement with her thumb and index finger, she just might be able to scoop up a button or a quarter. And once she picks something up, it's probably headed straight for her mouth. Make sure none of her toys have parts that can break off or are small enough to swallow.
Your baby's senses are getting stronger too, especially her vision. The fuzzy shapes of infancy are starting to come into sharper focus. Take her for walks around the house or around the neighborhood and point out things as you walk by. Give her interesting books and toys to look at. It's a good time to present her with an unbreakable mirror, perhaps one that hangs in her crib. The antics that go on in that mirror will definitely be the best show in the house.
American Pregnancy Association. First year of development. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/firstyeardevelopment.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 Company.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. 2009. Bantam Books.
American Academy of Pediatrics, HealthyChildren.org. Physical Appearance and Growth: 4 to 7 Months. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/pages/Physical-Appearance-and-Growth-4-to-7-Months.aspx