Something really starts to become obvious by around 5 months, when babies love to socialise and spend time interacting with other people. They know just how to get the best responses and even the most serious adult can warm to a baby’s charms. Apart from being a strong survival skill, these early attempts at engaging others attention are building blocks for learning social skills. Try not to see the hours you spend with your baby as being wasted. Babies have brains which are literally moulded by the love and stimulus they receive.
You may be back at work by now, or planning to return. This can add another dimension to an already busy life. The key to successfully combining work and parenting is organisation and trying not to be all things to all people. The cost of this is inevitably exhaustion and resentment, especially when it all comes to a crashing stop. Give yourself permission to be assertive when negotiating part-time work, lactation breaks, flexible hours and leave when your baby will (inevitably) become unwell and need you.
Never question that what you are doing is worthwhile, both when it comes to your paid work and caring for your baby.
Feeding and Sleeping
Your baby may be looking at you when you eat, watching intently as you place a fork or spoon into your own mouth and chew. Try to avoid feeding them solids too early though; milk still needs to be their primary source of nutrition at this age and will meet all their nutritional needs. If you are breastfeeding aim not to be too regimented when it comes to offering your baby the breast. At 5 months they will know when they are hungry or just want the comfort of sucking from you.
At 5 months your baby will be rolling easily so keeping them on their back during sleep will become impossible. But continue to always place them on their back for sleeping. Once they can roll easily both ways when you are watching them, then you can stop wrapping them for sleeps. Wraps can become a safety hazard if they are still used once a baby can roll both ways.
If you’ve been breastfeeding your baby to sleep until now, you may find they will only settle by feeding. If this is not a problem for either or you, keep going as you are. However, if you are finding your baby is waking as they transition from one sleep cycle to another and then look to be fed back to sleep, you may want to try separating their feeds and settling.
Bottle-fed babies at 5 months generally still need around 5 bottles/24 hours. If you need to increase the volume you are offering your baby, make sure you still prepare the formula as directed on the formula tin. Using the correct number of powder scoops to water will help prevent your baby from becoming constipated and overweight.
Five month old babies tend to be happy babies. They are often cuddly, easier to hold because they can support their own head and respond readily to stimulation. You’ll feel as if you’re getting something back this month as your baby learns just how to capture yours and everyone else’s attention within a short radius. They really are “sensory traps” and it is likely you’ll find yourself fascinated by their little ways and mannerisms.
At 5 months they can also become very cranky when they are tired, bored, unhappy or just don’t know what they want. Your baby’s temperament will be obvious by now. They could be calm and placid, easy to “read” and care for or, they could be more sensitive and need frequent reassurance from you to help regulate their emotions. Your baby really is a separate little individual to you and although you may feel absolutely entwined with them, they are their own unique person.
This is a very vocal time, with lots of squeals and gurgles, coos and laughs. Many 5 month old babies are at their most delightful first thing in the morning, after they have been fed and are feeling especially bright after sleeping. Try to make the most of these times and ignore the myriad of tasks which you could be concentrating on. Lying on the bed and just talking and playing with your baby is a lovely thing to do. They will be smiling readily at you now and will look for your responses. When they hear your voice they will turn and look for you, focus on your eyes and smile in recognition. They’ve come a long way in 5 short months.
Notice your baby reach for things which are just out of their grasp and see the look of intent and concentration of their face. Try not to make it too easy for them; early challenges like this promote movement and help them to learn how they can control their own body and what they need to do to make it move.
Your baby will be able to keep their head and back in alignment as you gently pull them to sit up. Rolling is another big developmental step at 5 months, when rolling back to front and front to back becomes a very clever game. Lots of floor time every day will help your baby to perfect this important skill.
Your baby will be getting longer with every week which passes. Their early newborn, curled up appearance has well and truly passed and they may seem to be all limbs at 5 months. Ask your early childhood nurse how your baby is tracking on their percentile charts. Head circumference, length and weight are all parameters of growth and each is equally as important as the other.
You’ll find your baby may grow a lot one week and be almost stable the next. Percentile charts are an excellent way of recording growth over time and provide an objective comparison with other babies of the same age and gender.
Try not to be too fanatical about cleanliness when it comes to your home environment. There is lots of research which supports the view that a little dirt in our homes is a good thing because it helps to prime our immune systems. Adopting a relaxed attitude when it comes to hygiene can be a challenge for many parents, particularly mothers. Sensible precautions go a long way towards helping adults to stay healthy.
Play and Interaction
Try not to get too caught up in the commercial traps of buying the “best” or most “educational” toy for your little one. You and your partner, their siblings and other loving people will keep them entertained for hours. A few brightly coloured, safe toys which can be chewed and sucked on are always popular. You’ll find your baby gravitates towards their favourites.
This can be the age when babies develop a real attachment to a particular toy or comforter. These “transitional love objects” can mean so much in the early years of childhood and are not an indicator of emotional sensitivity or other future problems. Just be aware of the safety issues around your baby sleeping with something which could potentially cover their face and obstruct their breathing. Teddies, soft toys, blankets and fabric covered toys can pose a risk to safety.
What About Mum?
Try to move every day, it will help you feel (and look) better and give you more energy. Pushing your baby in their pram or placing them in a sling and just going for a walk may be the last thing you feel like, but you will be so glad if you do. Try not to isolate yourself from other people in your community. Go to the local shops, the library, the park or the local mother’s group. When you communicate with other adults and have your own social needs met, this will create a positive flow on effect on how you care for your baby.
The early months of exhaustion have hopefully settled and you have found some balance and predictability in your life. This does not happen overnight. Bit by bit, you will find that caring for your baby has become a little easier and you will be feeling more confident and comfortable with caring for them.
There can be a lot of anxiety and concern in the early months; worry about feeding, sleep, health and “doing the right thing” can all impact on the enjoyment and pleasure of caring for our babies. But by five months you’ll find much of this early stress eases, freeing up your energy for other things.
Your Sleep Needs
Many babies still need at least one feed overnight at 5 months. If your friends look fabulous because their babies are sleeping through the night, don’t despair if you don’t share their happiness. The time comes, commonly after 6 months when the majority of babies sleep for a longer, uninterrupted period overnight. If you are still finding you need a little nap in the afternoons, avoid feeling there is something wrong with you. Just having some quiet time, for 1/2 an hour or so and lying down can be enough to recharge energy to get through the late afternoon and evening.
Speak with your G.P. about contraception if you haven’t already- unless of course, you are planning another baby so soon. Your fertility may be back to normal, especially if you are not breastfeeding. The general recommendation is to allow 12 months at least between pregnancies to allow for full recovery and return of all body systems to their normal state.
Try to make contact with friends and family you haven’t had much to do with since the baby was born. A phone call, text or an email only take a short time but can be enough to feel as if you are back in touch with the adult world.