You have officially made it 6 months as a parent—and while that’s a very big deal, let’s be clear: you are under no obligation to celebrate with a half-year birthday cake or photoshoot. But then again, any opportunity you have for cake is always a good idea, right?
6-Month-Old Baby Milestones
Six months old marks the start of some of the “big” milestones for your baby, like sitting up or maybe even crawling. And while this is an exciting time to watch your baby grow and develop, it’s also important to remember that all babies will reach milestones at their own pace, so don’t get too caught up in worrying if your baby is taking her sweet old time getting there.
Be aware of the milestones and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, but also be sure to let your little one develop on their timeline, not yours. Here are some of the milestones to look for with your baby this month:
- Responds to their own name (looks at you, smiles, etc.)
- Likes to look at self in mirror
- Responds to familiar people
- May start to display hesitation around strangers
- Baby talk is jabbers with consonants, such as “mmm” or “bbbbb”
- Actively tries to get objects out of reach
- Can roll from front to back and back to front
- Can sit without support for periods of time
- Begins “scooting” when on stomach, may go backwards before forwards
At 6 months, your baby will also receive their next well-child visit, where your doctor will perform a complete physical assessment, check some of the important milestones, and administer any vaccines your baby is due for. Make sure you compile a list of any questions or concerns you have before your visit.
Your Growing Baby
Here’s what to expect during month 6 for growth and feeding:
How much should a 6-month-old baby weigh?
By 6 months, your baby should have at least doubled their birth weight. So, if your baby weighed around 7 pounds at birth, they should have crossed the 14-pound barrier by now. Up until 6 months old, most babies have been packing on about 1 to 2 pounds per month, but around 6 months old, that tremendous rate of growth does start to slow down a bit. You can still expect your baby to grow about 1 pound per month from here on out, however.
According to the World Health Organization’s infant growth charts, the average weight for a 6-month-old baby girl is just over 16 pounds, while boys will weigh in over 17.5 pounds. It’s important to remember that it’s not your baby’s weight that matters as much as their own individual growth chart, so be sure to keep your baby’s well-child check-up this month to let your doctor monitor their own individual growth.
How much should a 6-month-old eat?
At 6 months old, if you’re nursing, you should continue to breastfeed on demand—your baby will most likely be nursing between 6-8 times a day, but sometimes more, especially in times of growth spurts or for comfort feeding, like if your little one is teething. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months.
Bottle-fed babies will most likely be eating around 5-6 ounces of formula or breast milk per feeding, about 5-6 times per 24-hour period. Even when you do introduce solids, it’s important that you always offer the bottle or breast first so you can ensure your baby is getting the optimal amount of nutrition he or she needs.
Is it time for solids?
It’s the moment you have been waiting for—by 6 months old, your baby may be ready to try solid foods! The AAP recommends that all babies are exclusively formula or breast milk fed for the first 6 months of life, which means that your baby can start solid foods at 6 months.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that although your baby might be ready for solids at 6 months, that doesn’t mean you have to start solid foods at 6 months on the dot. Some babies may need more time before they’re ready, and still others may have already started. All 5 of my children actually started solid foods much later than 6 months, most of them around 8 months, so don’t feel pressured to start your baby on solid food until both of you are ready.
How can you know if your baby is ready to try solids?
When it comes to solid foods, the goal is to evaluate if your baby has the proper motor skills to move food to the back of their throat and swallow.
The AAP offers the following guide to help you decide if it’s time:
- Can your baby hold their head up? Good head control is crucial—your baby should be able to sit up and hold their head up on their own.
- Is your baby interested in food? If your baby is watching you eat, opening their mouth when food is nearby, or reaching for your food, your baby might be ready.
- Can your baby move food to the back of their throat? If your baby just dribbles the food out of their mouth instead of swallowing it, they may need a little more time and practice to move the food to the back of their mouth.
What foods should you give your baby first?
If you’re thinking about the old-school “rules” of rice cereal and veggies only first, throw those out the window—when it comes to giving your baby their first foods, the AAP now recommends that you start with real food. Rice cereal doesn’t really have any nutrition or advantage for babies, so feel free to start with whatever food makes sense for your family.
The only real “rules” you should follow when introducing solid food to your baby is to make sure that you puree all the food, or use prepared baby food, to minimize any risk of choking. Then, as your baby gets older and used to eating, you can move up to more diced and textured foods. Some ideas for appropriate first foods might be:
- pureed banana
- pureed avocado
- pureed sweet peas
- pureed sweet potato
And as for making sure you introduce vegetables before fruit so your baby doesn’t always prefer sweet, the AAP has debunked that—babies, like all humans really, will naturally prefer sweet, so there’s no advantage to giving veggies first. But, of course, it’s always a good idea to introduce your baby to a wide variety of healthy foods.
Special Considerations At 6 Months
As your baby hits that half-year mark, you may start to have more questions this month. Here are a few things you may be wondering about your six-month-old.
- What should I do if my baby is on her stomach in her crib? If you’re putting your baby to sleep on her back, per the safe sleep guidelines, but you are finding her on her stomach when she wakes up, you may be worried about her safety. It’s completely understandable why you might be concerned and the good news is, by 6 months, your baby’s risk of SIDS drops considerably. Most doctors will tell you when a baby starts moving on their own, there isn’t much you can do to stop them. Just be sure that you are following all safe sleep guidelines, including always putting your baby to sleep on their back and making sure the crib is completely clear of blankets and stuffed animals.
- What about food allergies? Unless you have a history of severe food allergies in your family, you don’t really have to worry about introducing common allergen foods, like eggs, to your baby. There is no evidence that waiting to introduce allergen foods has any benefit, but if you are concerned about the risk, talk to your doctor. You can also introduce new food slowly, and wait 3-4 days before giving another new food, in order to monitor for a reaction.
6-Month-Old Baby Sleep
The good news is, by 6 months old, most babies are physiologically capable of sleeping through the night. That means that their brains are capable of developing the correct circadian rhythms to sleep all night, and that they don’t physically need the nighttime feedings for growth anymore.
The bad news, however, is that just because your baby is capable of sleeping through the night, doesn’t mean that they will. All babies are different and everything from an illness to teething to growth can disrupt nighttime sleep. To help you and your baby get the most rest possible, you can try following a 6-month-old baby sleep schedule that looks like something like this:
- Wake-up, breakfast, play time
- Morning nap
- Lunch and play time
- Afternoon nap
- Post-dinner bath and bedtime routine
Taking Care of You
Your baby may be six months old and reaching a whole new level of developments and milestones, but it’s still important that you don’t lose sight of taking care of your needs right now too.
Postpartum depression can affect mothers all the way through their baby’s first birthday, so be aware of your mental health and make time for the things that matter to you, from your favorite hobbies to simply spending 10 minutes alone browsing your favorite store.