Publications - Bulletin #4223, Month 6-7
The Growing Years
Reviews by Pam LaHaye, Extension parent educator; and Kate Yerxa, assistant Extension professor.
How baby is changing
Teething often begins during the sixth month. Baby may drool more than usual and be uncomfortable and fussy. Teething rings can soothe sore gums. Try rings that are cold or warm, smooth or bumpy, and different shapes.
Teeth yet? If your baby has her first tooth, it’s time to head to the dentist for a checkup. Cavities are the number one preventable childhood disease! Nighttime breastfeeding and nighttime bottle feeding can lead to early childhood caries (also called tooth decay and baby bottle mouth). You can use a damp cloth to wipe her gums and teeth after feedings. Ask the dentist to show you the best way to clean her gums and baby teeth.
Your baby may be able to roll from his stomach to his back and then over to his stomach again, with a rest in between. Some babies can cross a room this way.
Baby’s legs are strengthening. He probably loves to stand up while you hold him under his arms. He may bounce up and down. These exercises help his legs prepare for crawling and walking.
Some babies will begin learning to sit up. Be sure that he has soft surfaces to fall on. Keep an eye on him; he may get stuck in an uncomfortable position.
Is your baby showing more fear of strangers? This is a good sign. It means he can tell people he knows from people he doesn’t.
Hold your baby when he meets people. Let him get used to them slowly, especially child care providers. You could have the new person hand him a favorite toy.
For single parents
If you are tired, lack time for yourself, and feel overburdened, then you are a pretty normal single parent!
All parents need support to help them through these challenging first years. You are not alone. Over one fourth of U.S. children live with a single parent.1 There are single parent support groups, in which parents meet to share experiences, make new friends, and share parenting ideas.
If you’d like to find a group of other single parents who may be looking for support, call “2-1-1,” visit www.211maine.org, under single parent or support, or ask at your local clinic or community center.
Set aside time each week for what you like to do. You have your own needs, apart from those of your child. When you care for yourself, you are able to take the best care of your baby!
Changing child care
There are many reasons that you might change your child care provider. You may find one that is of higher quality or that is more convenient. But what will your baby think about the change?
Babies need more regularity and sameness in their lives than the rest of us do, especially when it comes to the people who meet their everyday needs.
A baby needs to trust the people that she is with each day. This trust is the basis for good relationships later. Your baby will form this trust with you and others who meet her needs, including child care providers.
This is important: baby needs to feel secure in every place she spends time.
When baby has many different child care providers, she may have a hard time forming close bonds. She needs a provider who will care for her needs quickly and sensitively, someone she will learn to trust.
Try to find a provider who enjoys your baby and will be available regularly. If you need to change providers for a good reason, that’s okay. Baby will adjust. But try to limit the changes.
Babies love babies
When you are around town, you will meet other parents with their babies. Notice how much the babies like to look at each other. Babies really like other babies.
Make a date to meet another parent and baby at the park or at your home. Make it a fun time. See what the babies will do with each other.
It’s great to watch another parent and baby together. You can learn a lot just by watching, and they learn from you. Sometimes it’s just fun to laugh together about the good times and the hard times with a baby!
Find a local playgroup where parents get together and the babies can play.
Your baby wants you to know:
How I grow
- I turn and twist in all directions.
- I sometimes sit up for several minutes.
- I creep backwards and forwards with my stomach on the floor.
- I hold on to an object with one hand, and then put it in the other hand.
- I hold one building block, reach for a second one, and look for a third one right away.
- I grab for an object when it drops.
- I keep very busy doing something all the time.
How I talk
- I still babble a lot, but I have more control of sounds.
- I may begin to understand some words by your tone of voice.
How I respond
- I pick up things, shake them, and then listen to the sound they make when I drop them.
- I play games with people I know.
- I get upset when I’m around grown-up strangers, but I’m friendly to children that I don’t know.
- I coo, hum, or stop crying sometimes when I hear music.
How I understand
- I know that I have to use my hands to pick up something.
- I look at and study things for a long time.
- I turn objects upside down just to get another view of them.
- I turn when I hear my name.
- I may have one favorite toy or blanket.
How I feel
- I haven’t learned how to control my feelings yet.
- I complain and howl when I don’t get my way.
- I giggle, coo, and squeal with joy when I’m happy.
- I may develop food likes and dislikes.
How you can help me learn
- Take me to see other babies.
- Blow soap bubbles for me to watch on a sunny day.
- Give me things to play with that make noise. A crinkly paper bag or some blocks that I can bang together are great.
- Float a toy in my bathtub for me to play with. I’d like something to pour water out of, too.
- Read nursery rhymes and stories to me. Sing me lullabies.
Remember that all babies develop at their own pace. Look for your child’s growth in each area. Then you can encourage each new skill.
Child guidance: discipline is teaching
Babies this age cannot obey or disobey parents. Their minds are not developed enough for them to know right from wrong. However, they may do things that are unsafe or that you think are wrong.
For the next year or so, parents need to help infants learn how to behave. Discipline really means teaching, not punishing.2
If you are a warm and loving parent, your baby will learn to trust you.3 The more baby trusts you, the more easily she will accept the occasional limits that you set. She will want to do the right thing to please you. Research with older children shows that discipline works best for parents who have a warm relationship with their child.4
Here are some ways to teach your baby what is acceptable:
- Praise your baby when she does things that you like. Infants like adult attention, such as words, hugs, or smiles. The more positive you are when baby is good, the more she will tend to listen when you disapprove.
- Ignore misbehavior (such as spitting food) if it is not harmful. Don’t look at, smile at, or scold the baby.
- Pick the baby up and move her to somewhere safe if she is doing something dangerous. For example, take baby away from a stairway, put her in the middle of the room, and say, “You can crawl here.” This is redirecting.
- Remember to praise baby for doing something that is okay after you have ignored or redirected her.
- Baby-proof your home to prevent problems so that baby has safe places to explore and move around. A curious baby won’t learn very much in a playpen. Help her by preventing problems while she learns to move and live safely in her environment. For example, put a gate on the stairs. Move the vase to a higher shelf. See The Growing Years Month 5–6 for safety ideas.
- Make your baby’s world interesting. If she has fun things to explore, she will be too busy to get into trouble. For example, when you visit another house, take interesting toys to hold her attention.
- Teach your baby to do things right. If she pulls the cat’s hair or yours, show her how to pet gently.
Children learn by watching parents
When raising their children, many parents either do what their parents did or do just the opposite. Have you thought about why you copy some things and reject others?
Even though your baby is only 6 months old, she is learning from your example. That is why it is so important to think about the examples and patterns you set, even at this early age.
Some patterns that influence your child’s life are:
- how you talk to each other,
- how you work out your problems, and
- how you show your feelings.
Remember: you are the most important influence in your baby’s life.
First aid for infant choking
You may see an infant choke on food. Or you may suspect choking if an infant collapses while eating or putting things into her mouth.
Signs of breathing difficulty are wheezing, gasping, choking, and grasping the throat.
An infant with a completely blocked airway cannot breathe, cough, or cry.
If the airway is almost completely blocked, then there are high-pitched noises when inhaling, great difficulty breathing, and very weak or no coughing. Use the same first aid steps for a completely blocked airway and an almost completely blocked airway.
Follow these basic steps to remove an object from the airway of an infant—do not do this if baby can breathe, cough, or cry.
Back blows—Lay the baby on top of your arm, with her head lower than her chest. Support baby’s head with your hand around the jaw and under the chest. Rest your arm on your thigh. Give five blows rapidly between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Then turn the infant over.
Turning the infant over—Place your free hand on baby’s back, and sandwich the child between your hands and arms. One hand holds the chest, neck, and jaw while the other hand holds the back, neck, and head. Holding her between your hands and arms, turn her face up. Rest your arm on your thigh, so her head is lower than her chest.
Chest thrusts—Push on the chest five times with two fingertips on the sternum (breastbone). Your fingertips should be one finger width below an imaginary line between the baby’s nipples. Your hand should come in from the side, as shown here, so that your fingertips run up and down the sternum.
If the baby is still choking, repeat above steps, and call for help.
Five back blows with heel of hand.
Turn baby over between your hands.
Five pushes on the chest with two fingertips.
The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association teach parents and other concerned adults what to do if people of any age start choking, stop breathing, or need CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Brain death from lack of oxygen can begin in just four minutes. Ambulances often take longer to arrive.
The instructions on this page are not a substitute for taking a class and practicing the techniques.
For more information on learning what to do if your infant’s breathing or heart stops, call your local American Red Cross chapter or American Heart Association office.
Much of baby’s first year is spent learning how to listen. Through listening, your infant learns about the world, makes sounds, and learns to talk.
In Maine, infants are generally tested for hearing problems before they go home from the hospital. If you think your child has a hearing problem, tell your doctor right away.
A hearing problem interferes with a baby’s ability to communicate and to learn.
A lot of language learning happens in the first five years, so it is very important to treat problems early. Don’t wait until your child begins school.
The table shown below will help you follow your child’s progress. It lists how children should behave at different ages. Look at how your child responds to the types of noises that are listed in the “Question” column of the table.
If baby doesn’t respond to noises in ways similar to the behaviors in the table, you should consider getting his hearing checked. But remember that a tired, hungry, or sleepy baby may not respond the way he would if he were awake and calm.
The Maine Newborn Hearing Program
Established by law in 2000, this program requires hospitals to tell new families about the importance of newborn hearing screening. If the hospital does not offer hearing screening for your newborn, staff must help you arrange to have it done somewhere else — generally before the child reaches 3 months. If your child’s hearing has not been tested, contact your pediatrician, or visit maine.gov/dhhs/boh/cshn/hearing_screening.
|Baby’s responses to noise at different ages|
|3-6 months||What does baby do when you talk to him?||Awakens or quiets to sound of parent’s voice.|
|How does baby react to your voice when he can’t see you?||Typically turns eyes and head toward the source of sound.|
|What does baby do when you drop a saucepan behind him?||Shows signs of being startled.|
|7-10 months||When baby can’t see, how does he react to: familiar footsteps, the dog barking, the phone ringing, someone’s voice, or his
|Turns head and shoulders toward sounds even when he can’t see what’s happening. Such sounds do not have to be loud to cause a response.|
|11-15 months||Can baby point to or find familiar objects or people when asked to? Examples: “Where is Jimmy?” “Find the ball.”||Shows understanding of some words by behavior. For example, points to or looks at familiar objects or people on request.|
|Does baby respond differently to different sounds?||Jabbers in response to a human voice, is apt to cry when there is thunder, and may frown when scolded.|
|Does baby enjoy listening to some sounds and imitating them.||Imitation means that baby can hear sounds and match them.|
Car safety seat
Many babies outgrow their infant car safety seat when they reach about 20 pounds. Check the weight and height limits on your car seat.
You will need a convertible car seat next. Maine requires baby to ride in it facing backwards until at least age one and at least 20 pounds. This recommendation can prevent neck injury in a crash.
After age one, you can turn the seat to face forward. Babies and children must ride in a proper car seat until they reach 40 pounds (about age 4). Check the weight limits printed on the seat. All children under age 12 must ride in the back seat, if possible.
Planning baby’s meals
By this age, your baby is probably enjoying mealtimes with the family, and may want to try what is on your plate. If he is showing interest, he’s ready to start trying solids. He’ll still be breastfeeding or drinking formula, but you can supplement with small snacks and samples of solid food at meals. Start with one meal that is at the same time the rest of the family is eating and see how your baby responds. If you are breastfeeding, we recommend that this continue to be the primary food source that is supplemented by meals and snacks. If your baby seems to have a big increase in demand for feeding, it’s because he is hungry. Try supplementing with more solid foods, and continue to breastfeed for the whole first year or longer.
If your baby has been introduced to eating baby cereal and puréed vegetables, you can start giving him some soft mashed fruits, such as bananas, peaches, apricots, prunes, plums, pears, or apple sauce. You can also mash canned fruits packed in juice or water (not syrup). Start out slowly—one new mashed fruit at a time—as you did for cereals and vegetables.
Between 6 and 12 months, you can start giving him water or juice in a cup. Babies under one year do not need juice because breast milk and formula have all the vitamin C that they need. If you give him juice, know that it is a source of sugar for your baby. Limit juice to only 2 to 3 ounces (less than 1/2 cup) per day.
Building good food habits
Did you ever stop to think why you don’t like some foods?
Food habits are usually formed during childhood. If a variety of food is offered in the early years, most children will eat a variety of foods throughout life.
Children copy their parents, brothers, and sisters. If your baby sees her family eating healthy foods, she probably will, too.
Ways to help your baby develop good eating habits
- Provide a pleasant, relaxed meal time.
- Feed her with the rest of the family, even though she’s still eating baby food. Baby will feel like she belongs and can see family members eating different foods.
- Feed her as much as she wants to eat but don’t force her to eat more than she wants. Your baby’s appetite will vary from day to day. Avoid making meals a battleground.
- Give her a variety of foods. She may be eating baby cereal and puréed or mashed vegetables by now, and may be ready for soft fruits and apple or pear juice.
- Serve foods that are right for baby’s age. Some foods often fed to older children are not appropriate for babies, such as pizza, hot dogs, french fries, or dishes made from a mixture of foods and condiments, such as casseroles. These foods tend to be high in salt; they also contain a mixture of ingredients that baby may not have tried before, and she may have a reaction to one of them.
- Avoid sweets. Sweetened foods may fill up baby without providing essential nutrients. Therefore, avoid feeding baby commercially prepared baby food desserts, cakes, cookies, candies, and sweet pastries. Do not add sugar, glucose, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, honey, or other syrups to baby’s food or beverages.
Fathers and babies
Today, more fathers are taking an active role in raising their children. These fathers play with, feed and change, and form a warm, nurturing bond with baby.
Research shows that having positive male relationships is important for a developing child.5,6 This is true for uncles, grandfathers, and other adult males, especially when no father is present.
Some men may feel awkward caring for a baby at first. But you can learn quickly, and it’s hard not to enjoy the feeling of a little one depending on you, smiling at you, or falling asleep on you chest.
Learning about emotions
Parents want to raise children who are responsible and moral. To accomplish this, you can teach baby how to recognize his own and others’ emotions. Here are ways to help baby learn:
- Pay attention to your baby’s emotions. How is he feeling?
- Name the emotion. Tell baby when he seems happy, angry, afraid, frustrated, etc.
- Be sympathetic when baby experiences negative emotions. Let your baby know that you understand why he feels this way. You might say, “You seem frustrated because you can’t climb the stairs, and you really want to. But you can crawl in the living room.”
Parents may fear that discussing negative emotions may make their baby grow up to be unhappy. In reality, children who learn about emotions are better able to calm themselves and cope with their negative feelings.
By talking about emotions with your baby now, you will set the pattern for your child’s emotional learning in the future.
1 Fields, J., 2003. America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2003. Current Population Reports, P20-553. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
2 Zeijl et al, 2006. “Attachment-based intervention for enhancing sensitive discipline in mothers of 1 to 3 year-old children at risk for externalizing behavior problems: A randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology 74, no. 6: 994–1005.
3 Honig, A.S., 1991. “Socialization and discipline for infants and young children.” Early Child Development and Care 66: 65–73.
4 Bender et al., 2001. “Use of harsh physical discipline and developmental outcomes in
adolescence.” Development and Psychopathology 19, no. 1: 227–42.
5 Bronte-Tinkew, J., J. Carrano and L. Guzman, 2006. “Resident fathers’ perceptions of their roles and links to involvement with infants.” Fathering 4, no. 30: 254–85.
6 Brown, G. L., B. A. McBride, N. Shin and K. K. Bost, 2007. “Parenting predictors of father-child attachment security: Interactive effects of father involvement and fathering quality.” Fathering 5, no. 3: 197-219.
Alfond grant can jump-start your child’s college fund
The Harold Alfond Foundation will invest $500 in a NextGen college investing account for each Maine resident newborn born on or after January 1, 2009. A NextGen account naming the baby as beneficiary must be opened before the baby’s first birthday to receive the grant. These funds can be used for college, or any type of qualified training after high school.
In addition, families with children not eligible for the Alfond Grant may be able to take advantage of other Maine NextGen benefit programs offered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). For more information or to sign up, call 800-228-3734 or visit 500forbaby.org.
Traveling With Baby Checklist
Refer to this checklist when preparing to travel long distances with your baby. You won’t need everything on the list, but it will serve as a reference. Pack up in advance, so you have plenty of time to review the list and double-check that you have everything you need.
|Bottles of formula or expressed breast milk–more than what you think is necessary in case of delays.|
|Cooler with ice packs to keep expressed breast milk or prepared formula cold during your trip. If you are using powdered formula, remember to pack water to mix with the formula.|
|Breast pump, if you use one (or if necessary).|
|Containers or zip-top bags of dry finger foods that are easy to clean up, like baby cereal.|
|First aid kit & medicine|
|Baby’s medicines (in original bottles)|
|Baby acetaminophen (pain reliever/fever reducer)|
|Baby’s doctor’s phone number|
|Plenty of diapers|
|Talcum-free baby powder (remember to shake onto your hand, then put on baby)|
|Changes of clothes for yourself and baby|
|Clothes for different weather, as appropriate (extra layers, cold weather gear, winter hat, sun hat)|
|Small, age-appropriate toys|
|Extra pacifier, if baby uses one|
|Baby’s favorite book|
|Portable tape or digital player with baby’s favorite music or story|
|Sling or front carrier|
|Plastic bags to store soiled items|
|He or she, him or her? This series gives equal time to both sexes. That’s why we take turns referring to children as “he” or “she.” Keep in mind that we are talking about all children when we use “he” or “she.”|
Months 1 through 36 of The Growing Years are reproduced and adapted with permission from the Parenting the First Year series published by University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension. All rights reserved.
To contact us about The Growing Years, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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