As your baby reaches the halfway mark in her first year, she's quick to laugh and more interested than ever in the world around her. But don't be surprised if her antics screech to a halt when strangers are around.
What to expect:
"Usually at 6 months, babies get into what we call canonical babbling," says Kenn Apel, Ph.D., co-author of the book Beyond Baby Talk: From Speaking to Spelling. That includes repetitive syllables such as ba-ba-ba-ba. But despite the primitive sounds, don't underestimate what's happening inside your baby's head. "Babies are understanding a lot before they can talk," Dr. Apel says.
"[If] you say things in a low or more stern voice, you can see them crying or responding in a little more of a stressed way," says Thomas M. Seman, M.D., a pediatrician and president of North Shore Pediatrics in the Boston area. "Kids respond better to a higher voice." Babies this age can also soothe themselves a little better.
"From about 6 months, children develop stranger wariness. They are relaxed and outgoing when close to familiar people with whom they feel safe," says Thomas Odinak, M.D., a pediatrician at Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Fairfield, Connecticut. "When others approach, they become uncertain and insecure, and will likely clam up or cry. This phase will pass as they come to understand which 'strangers' can be trusted."
Between 6 and 8 months, babies start experimenting with noises that sound like words, Dr. Apel says. "Parents get very excited because it sounds like the real deal," he says. "The babies aren't saying anything meaningful; they aren't using language or speech. They're playing with their mouths."
How to help:
Narrate some of Baby's regular activities, such as diaper changing, baths, and feeding times. "Repetition is good, using the same kind of language, so that they get used to the kind of things you say during certain times," Dr. Apel says. "It makes it easier for Baby to learn the code."
If you haven't done so already, make reading part of your daily routine. "She might not sit for more than one or two pages, but she can be learning a lot about what you do with books," Dr. Apel says. Singing and nursery rhymes are also great activities. "It's playing with language, and playing with language is always important," Dr. Apel says. "It eventually helps her see language as a tool or toy."
You can foster your baby's social development by exposing him to other kids and making the most of your time together, Dr. Seman says.
When to worry:
Babies in the fifth and sixth month love to be involved socially, Dr. Seman notes. "When you look at things like autism, you see even in kids this age that [a] social piece isn't there," he says. "If they're going to be held, they'd prefer to look away from the parent instead of at the parent. If they're crying they might prefer to sit by themselves instead of being held. So the times to worry are when kids aren't making any noises -- no babbling or no laughing, do not like to be consoled, do not like to make eye contact, or children who don't show any sign of wanting to interact with their caregivers."
Don't freak out if:
Your baby hasn't uttered anything that sounds like a real word. Infants develop at different paces, and babies who were born prematurely might also reach milestones a little later.
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