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27 June 2006

The sixth month

You're halfway through the first year - here is what you can expect.

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What we will look at

  • What your baby can do
  • Is your baby ready for solids?
  • How to introduce solids
  • Preparing your own baby food
  • Bottle or feeding cup?
  • How much sleep your baby needs
  • Sleeping problems
  • What you can do to help your baby

What your baby can do:

  • Holds head steady when upright
  • Raises chest supported by arms when on stomach
  • Rolls over
  • Pays attention to a very small object
  • Squeals in delight
  • Reaches for an object
  • Smiles spontaneously

Is your baby ready for solids?
The World Health Organisation recommends that solids should be introduced from about six months. Speak to your babycare advisor if your child was born premature.

The following signs may show readiness:

  • He/she shows an interest in your food
  • Tries to grab food you are holding
  • Your baby requires more than seven breastfeeds/milk feeds in 24 hours.
  • He changes his regular sleep pattern and wakes more frequently at night for three to four consecutive nights
  • He no longer has the thrust reflex with his tongue
  • He does not gag when things (toys, spoon etc.) are put into his mouth
How to introduce solids The great moment has arrived and you are probably relieved by the prospect of not breastfeeding all the time. What can you do to help your child get used to his new culinary delights?
  • Don’t feed him when he is tired or in a bad mood.
  • Don’t try to feed when you are in a hurry. Feeding takes time (and patience!).
  • Invest in a high chair which is sturdy and has restraining straps. If your child cannot sit up, you should consider postponing the introduction of solids.
  • Always stir heated food well and test the temperature on your wrist. This is especially important if you microwave the food.
  • Start with small amounts. Your baby will show you when he’s had enough to eat.
  • Introduce one food at a time to check for any negative reactions such as allergies.
  • Give protein and carbohydrates at lunch and supper.
  • Bibs: you will soon find out that feeding times are messy times. Use bibs from the start to get your child into the habit of wearing them. You may also want to cover the floor with newspapers.
  • The correct spoon: any small spoon will do but preferably use a plastic coated one which is gentler on the gums.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your child rejects solid foods. Wait two weeks and try again.

Click here for a list of good foods to try. Also see our list of foods to avoid.

Prepare your own baby food
It is a lot cheaper to make your own baby food. Here are a few pointers:

  • Always wash your hands before handling food or feeding your baby.
  • When you introduce a new food, prepare it without any other ingredients.
  • Don’t add sugar, salt or fat.
  • Steam, pressure cook or waterless cook food.
  • Peel vegetables and fruit unless they are organically grown.
  • Mash all food. Make it progressively lumpier.
  • Prepare large quantities at a time and freeze small portions for later.

The bottle or a feeding cup?
If your baby is used to comfort sucking from a bottle, start to introduce feeding cups from this month. If you leave it too late, your baby will find this habit hard to break.

How much sleep does your baby need?
A baby between six and twelve months needs approximately fourteen hours sleep per day, mostly at night.

Sleeping problems
By now you are probably getting used to getting up at night and getting by without a good night’s sleep.

Here are some techniques you could try to help your baby sleep better:

Moving him to your room:
When your baby wakes up, pick him up and put him in your bed or on a mattress next to your bed.

Settling:
When your baby wakes up, don’t feed him and avoid picking him up. Rather use other methods to get him to sleep (patting, singing, soothing music). Your baby will soon start to disassociate waking with feeding.

Gradual withdrawal:
Don’t go to him immediately. Wait five minutes and then settle him. The next time he wakes up, wait ten minutes before you settle him. Gradually increase the time period.

Important points to remember:

  • Don’t introduce a sleep training programme when you are under stress at work and need your sleep – holiday times are best.
  • Enlist your partner’s support.
  • Some babies wake up because they are hungry. Increase his daytime food intake and make sure his diet is adequate.
  • Be consistent with routine (such as bath, supper, drink, nappy change, bed). This will help your baby to identify the triggers of bedtime.
  • Darken the room before bedtime.
  • Avoid excessive stimulation before bedtime. Reading to your child is a good alternative to energetic games.
  • Try to stay calm. Your baby will sense your anxiety, frustration and irritability.
  • Whatever you try, be consistent and persevere!

What you can do to help your baby:

  • Give him finger foods to improve fine finger movements and encourage chewing (even if he doesn’t have teeth).
  • Give him a spoon to practise feeding himself.
  • This is a good time to introduce building blocks. Teach your baby how to stack one block on top of another.
  • Encourage him to roll over by placing an interesting object next to him and helping him to roll over to reach it.
  • Give him a wooden spoon and upturned pot to make his own music.
  • Repeat his name often.
 
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