From 0 to 6 months
Bringing your new baby home is a special event. And over the next 6 months, you’ll have many more milestones in your baby’s development to treasure. From that first smile to that first spoonful, this article tells you what you can expect and what to look forward to.
What’s been happening in their first month of development?
Over the last 4 weeks, you may have noticed some considerable changes, not only in your baby’s appearance but in their response to their surroundings too. They may have started to react to everyday sounds like the doorbell or your phone ringing. These are good signs that they are growing physically and mentally.
Muscle development at 1 month
As your baby develops, their muscles will become stronger. Around this time most babies will still struggle to lift their head, but as their neck and upper body strength improves, they’ll learn to lift it slightly when lying on their tummy, progressing to propping themselves up on their arms, holding their heads up, and looking around.
The natural grasp reflex they were born with is strengthening too and their hands will automatically grip anything you put into their palm1.
LCPs-Food for thought
The Department of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life1. If you are breastfeeding, your baby will get all the nutrients they need to develop for the first six months of life directly from your breast milk. That is why your diet is so important.
Research shows that two long chain polyunsaturated acids (LCPs) in particular – AA (Arachidonic Acid: Omega 6) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid: Omega 3), found naturally in breast milk – are important for the development of a baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system1. During pregnancy, eating more LCP-rich foods, like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, can encourage better visual and brain development and movement skills.
The beauty of bonding
Your 1-month-old baby will love physical contact with you, so massage, cuddles and gently moving their arms and legs are good ways to soothe them. It’s useful to remember that not all babies develop at the same rate, and there’s a wide range of what’s considered ’normal’. Your baby may be ahead in some areas and slightly behind in others but if you’re worried about specific delays, talk to your baby’s healthcare professional to put your mind at ease.
What’s been happening over the last 4 weeks?
Now that your 2-month-old baby recognizes your voice and your partner’s, they will take great comfort in hearing it. In fact, it will probably be their favorite sound. As their personality starts to emerge, you will get an understanding of their likes and dislikes. And you may notice that they need less sleep and are awake for a little longer each day.
Physical development at 2 months old
Babies develop physically from head to toe: first by strengthening their neck muscles to support their head, followed by their shoulders, chest and lower back. The legs are the last to develop.
Your baby’s body is continuing to straighten out, which means less trapped wind. And if they are not yet lifting their head briefly when lying flat on their tummy, they soon will be.
Grasping and clutching objects
As your 2-month-old baby discovers their own hands, their instinctive grasp reflex lessens. This allows them to explore different objects, using a wider range of movement. They are likely to be fascinated by anything new, so encourage their hand–eye coordination with a variety of baby-safe objects they can get to grips with.
Learning to communicate
Your baby doesn’t need to form words in order to communicate; simple noises, gurgles and coos in response to your voice come instinctively, and in time, you will know what they mean. Your baby may even turn his head towards your voice as you are speaking.
Feeding their development
Breastfeeding is key for their development. In fact, night feeds continue to play an important role in your 2-month-old baby’s development. They provide the nutrition needed for growth, while enabling your body to produce prolactin, the hormone that maintains your milk supply2.
You may find your baby begins to feed for longer but less frequently. They may also require more feeds during the day than at night or vice versa – either is normal, so follow their lead. Your supply of breast milk will naturally adapt to their demands.
Coping with colic
Colic is a common feeding problem at this age. Unfortunately, the cause is unknown but it may be due to swallowing excess air during feeds, which can lead to trapped wind. Or an immature digestive system which has difficulty digesting milk. The symptoms, such as excessive crying for two–three hours at a time and bringing the knees up to the chest, can be distressing for both mum and baby.
What’s been happening this month?
Your three month-old baby may seem much more attentive now and able to express themselves. Plenty of stimulation will keep their mind and body learning at this stage of their development. By now, your baby may be able to ‘smile talk’, meaning they can start a ‘conversation’ by aiming a broad smile at you and gurgling to catch your attention. At other times they’ll watch your face until you give the first smile and then beam back an enthusiastic response.
Their grip is becoming stronger too and you’ll soon be able to tell when they’re excited by their gurgling and arm waving.
Their strengthening muscles
Soon you’ll notice that your baby can support their own head; this is due to muscle development in their neck. They’ll also start to kick their legs vigorously when they’re lying on their tummy.
Their hands will still prove an endless source of fascination and they may try to stretch and reach for objects – although they won’t quite be able to grasp them yet.
Your baby’s developing senses
At 3 months old, your baby will be using their increasingly effective senses to explore the world around them. As they gain control of their vision, they may be able to follow objects with their eyes3. Soon they’ll be able to recognize familiar faces, even at a distance. Human faces are one of a baby’s favorite things to look at, especially their parent’s and their own. Install a baby-safe mirror at eye level and see how your baby watches themselves. You may also catch them gazing out of a window or at a picture on the other side of the room. And their developing hearing may mean loud noises now startle them.
Communication skills at 3 months old
Soon your baby may begin to experiment with sounds, starting with letters like P, B and M, which they can make easily with their lips. It’s because of this that lots of babies learn to say ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ before anything else.
Feeding their development
It’s important that your baby gets all the nutrients they need for their rapid growth and development. The best way to ensure your baby gets enough milk is to respond to their hunger cues. If their appetite suddenly increases, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to start weaning; they may just be going through a growth spurt. The Department of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that breast milk should be the sole source of nutrition for the first six months of life and then as a continuing source of nutrition with a mixed diet up to two years of age and beyond1. This is because the digestive system at three months of age is not yet mature enough for solid food – even purées.
The best way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is to listen to them. If they want to breastfeed more frequently, your body will adapt and produce more milk.
What’s happening in the fourth month?
Your 4-month-old baby has been developing dramatically, and you will notice plenty more over the next two months. Now they are able to learn from you, hearing your voice and seeing how you do things is as important as ever to enhance their developing skillset.
What to feed your 4-month-old baby
While you may be tempted to satisfy their increased hunger with a first taste of puréed food, it is worth remembering your breast milk is the best nutrition. It brings all nutrients your baby needs until 6 months. It is a complete nutrition that helps to protect your baby against illness. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months old1.
The importance of LCPs is clear to see
When it comes to your 4-month-old’s nutritional needs, two LCPs in particular – AA (Arachidonic Acid: Omega 6) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid: Omega 3), found naturally in breast milk – are still vital to ensure the continuing development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. Including salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and other LCP-rich foods in your breastfeeding diet can help encourage your baby’s visual and brain development and movement skills.
What’s happening in the fifth month?
During this month’s phase of rapid development, you may see your 5-month-old baby learn or perfect a number of skills necessary for later life.
Your baby’s developing strength
At 5 months old, your baby will be developing a better grip, and will be able to grab and grasp whatever is within their reach.
As their natural grasp reflex gradually turns into more controlled hand and finger movements, they’ll be able to explore objects by holding and shaking them with their hands rather than simply sucking on them. However, they won’t have learnt how to let go of them yet4!
Their arms, upper body and neck are getting stronger too, which means they will soon be able to sit up, wriggle and roll around.
Ways to stimulate your baby’s development
Your 5-month-old baby will learn through play, and the floor is the ideal place to do this. Placing them on their tummy with toys just out of their reach will strengthen their tummy muscles and encourage them to roll over.
Filling a lidded plastic container with dry rice or pasta will give them something to hold and shake. This is a good way for them to practise using their hand and finger muscles and will help them understand the consequences of dropping it.
And remember that your baby will love to concentrate on you by smiling, laughing and imitating you. They may quickly get bored with their favorite toy, but they’ll never tire of your attention.
What’s happening this month?
Your 6-month-old baby is about to reach a significant development milestone – their first taste of ‘solid’ food. If you are breastfeeding, this may feel like the beginning of a new phase, as your baby starts to rely less on you for their nutrition. However, your breast milk is still a very important part of the diet while solid foods are slowly introduced over the next few weeks and months.
Weaning at six months coincides with the natural depletion of the iron stores your baby was born with. Therefore, it is important to replenish them with an iron-rich weaning diet alongside your breastmilk.
Your baby’s developing brain
By six months, your baby will usually be able to roll over from back to front. And, if you hold them while they are standing, they can take weight on their legs5. Now they are sitting up unaided, they may turn their head from side to side, which might seem like a disadvantage when you are trying to manoeuvre a spoon into their mouth!
Your baby might respond to, and imitate, your facial expressions and sounds. As their memory and attention span increase, they’ll begin to pick out components of your speech and hear the way words form sentences. All of this will help their brain grow and develop in preparation for speech.
Their strengthening back muscles
Many babies spend their sixth month perfecting the art of sitting up. Between the ages of four and five months, they may be able to sit in a slumped position, but will often topple over5.
As they start to use their arms to prop themselves up, things get easier. And, once their back muscles are strong enough – usually at around six months – they will rely less on their arms for support, and finally be able to sit upright on their own5.
Pumping up their iron levels
Iron is especially important for your 6-month-old baby’s brain development and immune system. It plays a vital role in the function of the nervous system, enabling nerve cells to transmit information, and brain processes to develop6.
Filling up on iron
To ensure your 6-month-old baby gets enough iron, try to include purées made of foods such as lean red meat, chicken, eggs, peas, beans, lentils and leafy green vegetables in their weaning diet. Once they can manage more complex textures, oily fish such as salmon and sardines, and lightly poached dried fruit like apricots, provide a good source too.
The reference nutrient intake (RNI) for iron is 4.3mg a day for six-month old babies.6
Feeding your 6-month-old iron-rich foods combined with those high in vitamin C can help their body absorb iron more efficiently. Red or green peppers, kiwis, bananas, oranges and strawberries are good sources of vitamin C.
Healthy habits start here7
As well as providing an increasing variety of nutrients, your baby’s weaning diet can help to encourage an appetite for, and a willingness to try, a wide range of foods as they grow. Be adventurous and offer lots of different tastes and textures as you move through the weaning stages. It can make the process more fun and interesting for both of you, and you may be surprised by some of your baby’s preferences. Remember though, it can take up to ten tries for a baby to accept a new taste. So if they show signs of not liking a certain food, don’t give up. Offer it several more times – it may even become a favourite.
- WHO. Breastfeeding [Online]. Available at: www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/
[Accessed April 2014]
- NHS UK. Breastfeeding: The first few days [Online]. Available
days.aspx [Accessed April 2014]
- American Optometric Association. Infant vision: Birth to 24 months of age [Online].
Available at: www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-
vision/infant-vision-birth-to-24-months-of-age [Accessed April 2014]
- NHS UK. Birth-to-5 development timeline [Online]. 2011. Available
at: www.nhs.uk/Tools/Documents/Birthto5developmenttimeline.htm [Acces
sed April 2014]
- Parenting. Month-by-month guide to baby's milestones [Online]. Available
at: www.parenting.com/article/month-by-month-guide-to-babys-milestones [Accessed
- Department of Health. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for
the United Kingdom: Report of the Panel on Dietary Reference Values of the
Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy [Online]. 1991. Available
at: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iFkgAQAAIAAJ [Accessed April 2014]
- Schwartz et al (2011) Development of healthy eating habits early in life: review of
recent evidence and selected guidelines. Appetite 57:796-807
Now that you can change nappies with your eyes closed and have mastered the first stage of weaning, discover what’s coming up over the next few months in your baby’s development. From exploring the world on all fours and making those first words, to taking on life as a toddler.