Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

Your 5-Month-Old

If you can believe it, the middle of the year is approaching! Your baby's mind is twinkling with consciousness and all the great work you've been doing to respond to her and and make her feel secure is paying off. You'll know this because she will eventually start to show signs of independence. The classic example of this is when your baby can eventually crawl away (looking back to check you're there, of course) to explore the world.

Eat

Even though 3 out of 4 moms in the U.S. start out breastfeeding, by 6 months between 50 and 80 percent (depending on the state) have stopped, and many more are supplementing with formula. Why do breastfeeding rates drop off so far shy of the 1–2 years recommended by major health advisors like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization? The reasons are many, says lactation consultant Wendy Haldeman, R.N. The big ones are:

1. Returning to work

2. Cultural norms and moms being told (even by their pediatricians, in some cases) that there are no nutritional advantages to human milk after 6 months

3. Peer and family pressure to wean

4. Night weaning too early

That means enlisting support if you're trying to make it to the one-year mark, or further. Join a nursing moms support group, talk to fellow breastfeeding moms who have successfully kept their supply up while working and politely change the topic when a friend or family member expresses dismay that you're still breastfeeding.

Pediatrician Yael Wapinksi says most babies peak in milk consumption around 30–32 ounces a day, give or take, so if your baby is bottle feeding, that will be her rough benchmark for the rest of the year.

Time to think about all the delicious flavors and foods you can start introducing to your baby! Talk to your doctor about the right time to start, but most experts recommend 6 months for the tasting to begin. At this point, solid food is not a nutritional "must," but more of an introduction to flavors and textures.

Sleep

At this age, most babies need about 11–12 hours of nighttime sleep and take 2–3 naps per day (depending on the length of the nap), says Los Angeles sleep consultant Heather Turgeon.

Your baby should be able to sleep a good stretch of the night, says Turgeon. Some babies wake up to eat at this age, but the overall night should be getting easier, not harder. If you're working hard to put your baby to sleep after the age of 5 months, you might be "over-helping," says Turgeon—which is a super commonplace for parents with babies at this age.

A healthy, realistic expectation for a 5-month-old when it comes to sleep? "Most 5-month-old babies are capable of putting themselves to sleep at bedtime and waking 1–2 times in the night to be fed," Turgeon says. They wake for feedings, but they can go back to sleep again smoothly. "If you're still bouncing, rocking or feeding all the way to sleep, you might be getting in the way of your baby's natural sleep and self-soothing abilities." That's when most of her clients call, says Turgeon. "They've gotten themselves stuck in a habit that they know is hindering sleep, but they can't figure out how to back away without being too harsh."

Play

What's one of the most common anxieties in parents in the first six months? "Parents often worry that they're not doing enough or using the appropriate toys to encourage their child's development," says pediatrician Yael Wapinski. She says a lot of parents come into her office worried that they don't have the right games or gadgets to boost brain growth.

"A baby doesn't need any specific 'prop' for development at such a young age," she reassures her patients. "It is just as important to talk or sing to your child as to give them a specific game." Go for simple toys without too much in the way of flashing lights and sounds. Your baby is a little scientist and all she needs are basic materials—a wooden spoon and a salad bowl will do—your company, fresh air and nature. She will do the rest.

Milestones

  • Most babies at this age can sleep a stretch of 6–8 hours continuously.
  • At 5–6 months, many babies can roll over and stay sitting up without being propped.

LOOK AHEAD: Your 6-Month-Old

Photograph by: Getty Images

More from baby