Your 24 Week Old Baby
Your 24 week old baby is six months old!
Already half-way through the first year of life, she is around twice her birth weight.
She is now developmentally ready to eat foods apart from breastmilk or formula and she is probably mobile, rolling from front to back and the reverse with ease and getting ready to crawl – or maybe even achieving that skill already!
She can now sit mostly or fully unsupported, pass a toy from one hand to the other and makes recognisable sounds which are the precursors to her very first words.
Your 24 week old baby understands simple, predictable patterns of behaviour, and enjoys songs, stories, rhymes and simple games. She is ready now to tackle the second half-year – a time of teeth, independent mobility, exploring foods and early speech.
Her rapid growth – both physical and mental – means she is still regularly waking at night. She probably needs support to return to sleep, with breast or bottle feeds the most common way to resettle babies under 12 months. With the eruption of at least eight teeth to be expected in the next 24 weeks, you can expect teething discomfort to become an increasing factor in night waking.
Feeding Your 24 Week Old Baby
Around six months, the majority of babies are developmentally ready to begin the transition to solid foods. Despite conflicting information, you might hear, the recommendations are very clear and unchanged:
“In Australia, it is recommended that infants be exclusively breastfed [or formula fed] until around 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced. It is further recommended that breastfeeding be continued until 12 months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire.” — NHMRC Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012.
This is in line with the World Health Organisations recommendations for all countries:
“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.” — World Health Organisation Infant Feeding Guidelines.
There are no separate guidelines for formula fed babies, who also begin solids around six months. However, after 12 months of age, formula is no longer needed, including toddler formula.
If you have already started solids, perhaps on medical advice, you probably introduced smooth foods created by pureeing fruit and vegetables into a near-liquid form. These foods are designed to slip past your baby’s natural tongue-thrust reflex, which were intended to protect young infants from inappropriate items being swallowed.
Starting solids around six months means that reflex is no longer present and you can skip the purees and move straight to actual solid foods, without pureeing or mashing them first. Many people refer to this as Baby-Led Weaning, while others think of these solid pieces of food as “finger foods”. But it's simply the stage which follows purees and mash in alternative methods.
When you begin solids, your baby will be learning how to use her lips, tongue, gums and jaws in new ways. She'll work out how to move food around in her mouth, break it down and swallow it. You can expect to have some mess during this learning period.
Choosing a simple, easy to clean highchair, with minimal nooks and crannies will make clean up time much easier. You'll find larger bibs more effective than the dribble bibs you may have been using up until now. Some bibs are more like an art smock and cover baby’s arms as well, which can mean less laundry for you. Stiff plastic “pelican” bibs can be a bit cumbersome on small babies, and suit older babies and toddlers better.
A plastic mat (also known as a splat mat!) under the highchair will make clean up even easier. Lots of wet wash cloths at the ready mean you can quickly wipe face and hands once your baby has finished eating. Forget about bowls and plates to begin with – it's easier for your baby to pick pieces of food straight off her high chair tray.
Even cutlery is optional at this early stage. Although spoons are ideal with foods like yoghurt or soup, babies also enjoy dipping fingers of toast or pieces of fruit into runny foods, and using those as a spoon replacement. The more she uses her hands and fingers to feed herself, the better for her hand-eye coordination and fine-motor control.
Sleep and Settling
The transition from a milk-only diet to a mixed diet containing milk and a growing range of family food is a challenge for your 24 week old baby’s digestive system. You can expect some disrupted sleep as your baby wakes due to this new process. Combined with waking due to teething, crawling, and the brain development during the Wonder Weeks, you might find your 24 week old baby wakes several times each night, and may need extra support to return to sleep.
This demanding period can peak at around 8-10 months, as most babies tend to crawl between 7 and 11 months. You cannot stop your baby waking due to these internal disruptions, but it helps to know they are at a normal stage. The easiest option is to go with the flow, and breastfeed or comfort your baby back to sleep, rather than focusing your energy on so-called “self-settling”. Sleep training is not going to stop a baby waking for these reasons, and you are not spoiling your baby by soothing her distress.
Play and Development
Your 24 week old baby is probably rolling very well now, and can cover a lot of ground quickly. She needs lots of floor time to exercise the muscles which will enable her to crawl in the coming months.
As the central nervous system continues to develop from the top down, she is gaining control over her lower body, and will enjoy bringing her feet up to her mouth to suck and chew! Give her time with her bare feet to enjoy this sensory experience.
The repeated movement of her legs this way will help prepare her hips for the movements of crawling. This strength will also help power her from lying down to a sitting position – another important stage coming up soon. Being able to get herself into a seated position will also lead into crawling, and later, pulling herself up to supported standing. For now, sucking on her toes is a fun game!
Teeth will begin to make an appearance soon, if they haven’t already. The lower incisors, in the centre of the bottom gum, generally arrive first. Don’t be alarmed if you are breastfeeding, as these teeth generally cause no problems – your baby’s tongue sits between these teeth and your breast when she feeds, protecting you from there sharp edges. Lots of things to bite and chew will help relieve any pressure in the gums as they erupt and also soften the sharp edges.
While you can buy special toys labelled “for teething”, many of your baby’s existing toys serve the same purpose. “Teethers” which you can chill in the fridge also offer cold as comfort. The use of gels, drugs, drops or powders is usually not needed with these simple first teeth, but might help with discomfort as the more complex teeth arrive later. The first eight teeth – four upper and four lower – come through relatively easily, although your baby might be distressed by the process.
Signs parents associate with teething – raised temperature, runny nose, reddened cheeks and sore ears – are not always recognised as so by doctors, who encourage a check up to rule out infections which can have similar symptoms.
Once your baby’s first taste of solids has been captured and the photos shared with family and friends, what next? How often should you offer family foods? Find out in our article How Often Should I Give My Baby Solids?