From the warm darkness of a mother’s womb, your little one is suddenly faced with a blinding world of voices, sound and light at birth. Over the next few months, they will develop at a rapid pace - with more than 1 million new neural connections forming every second - to say their first word, take their first step and so much more.
Gulf News speaks to Dr Afra Jamal Ahli, Specialist in Family Medicine and Fellow in Maternal and Child Health at Dubai Health Authority, to find out about all the developmental milestones they are expected to reach.
Will I be worried if the child is not sitting without support at 6 months? No - there will be a range. The child will be expected to sit at 6 months without support, but if the child is not sitting at 9 months without support – it means that there is a red flag that I need to investigate.
Milestones for babies are divided by category into social and emotional, language, communication, cognitive, and finally, movement, and physical development according to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Attaining these milestones can happen within a normal range, and tracking them can help identify if there are causes for concern in your baby’s health.
Social and emotional development milestones for a six-month-old baby
1. Recognition of familiar faces
At 6 months, your baby knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger. They can identify the person.
In a 2020 study, psychologists at US-based Emory University found that human brain connections that selectively respond to faces, found behind the ear, are already highly connected in babies aged 2 months and less. They start becoming selective for faces in the first few months.
2. Responding to others’ emotions and play
Find your little one being entranced by new faces and giggling more often? At this age, they respond to others’ emotions, often seem happy and also like to play with others.
Dr Afra says, “If you laugh in front of them, they also laugh back to you, especially if they are happy. Smiling starts earlier at around the age of two months.”
3. Like to look at self in mirror
She adds that, generally speaking, babies will also enjoy looking at themselves in mirrors.
Language and communication milestones for a six-month-old
“At this age, they try to talk but there aren’t any specific words that they can bring out,” says Dr Afra. They string vowels together to make sounds like ‘ah’, ‘eh, ‘oh’ and begin to make consonant sounds as well (“m” or “b”)
They also like taking turns with their parents to make sounds. However, she adds, if the child is not babbling, that is a cause for concern that a pediatrician would need to look out for.
She adds, “But is it 100 per cent? No, we need to watch out for the child every 2 to 3 months to check if they are trying to pronounce words or not.”
5. Responding to own name and other sounds
Babies will start to react to their name being called at this age.
“If they hear a sound that attracts them, they will directly change their way of sitting to check where these sounds are coming from,” says Dr Afra. If your baby does not respond to sound at this age, visit your pediatrician as it is a red flag.
6. Making sounds to indicate happiness or displeasure
Whether it’s a gleeful squeal at a new toy or low growls at pain from colic, your baby can now start to express themselves more precisely.
Cognitive (skills) milestones for a six month old
1. Looking around at things
They try to look around at things nearby, “Anything with different colours may alert them,” says Dr Afra.
To check for vision ability, she adds that the child should be able to look directly at you and if you are moving, the child will move with you. If not, you should visit your pediatrician to check for signs of vision problems.
2. Discovery by mouth and passing things from one hand to another
6-month-old babies are expected to grasp and bring things to their mouth.
Dr Afra says, “If you try to give them a toy, they try to put it in their mouth as part of discovery. They usually hold things and try to move them between hands also.”
3. Showing curiosity and reaching for things
The silent wondering gaze of infants are always a general topic of delight for the family – and now you will find them reaching out for new and exciting objects that are out of reach, sometimes glasses on the faces of strangers and brightly coloured accessories.
Physical development milestones for a six month old
1. Rolling over to the front or back
According to Dr Afra, flipping starts at the age of 4 months, but should be fully developed at 6 months. If not, she stresses the need for investigation.
They can either roll over on to their abdomen or their back.
2. Beginning to sit without support
Sometimes there can be a pillow or you can be holding your child to support their attempts to sit up. Some children are able to pull themselves up to a sitting position without holding or support, and others are able to pull their head up to 45 degrees, but there is a range.
“Will I be worried if the child is not sitting without support at 6 months? No - there will be a range. The child will be expected to sit at 6 months without support, but if the child is not sitting at 9 months without support – it means that there is a red flag that I need to investigate,” says Dr Afra
3. When standing, supporting weight on legs and might bounce
When you bounce your child while holding them up straight, they will show signs of supporting their weight with their legs as they touch the floor.
4. Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
While on their hands and knees in crawling position, your baby may rock back and forth.
How can I support my child to help reach these milestones?
Parents should help their children in multiple ways, says Dr Afra. Spending a set amount of time daily with family members, playing and talking with sisters, brothers and parents is necessary.
She says, “I put some toys of the same age that the child can use, building blocks, some teddy bears that they can use, especially the ones that brings out sound. These things can help the child to bring out their pronunciation and language.”
- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.