Your 24 week old baby – in months
Your 24 week old baby is almost six months old! It’s been nearly six months since your little one was born. Can you believe it?
She’s already half-way through the first year of life. And just look how she’s changed – from the tiny little bundle you first met to the super active, smiling energetic little bear she is now!
She is about twice her birth weight by now and developmentally ready to eat foods other than breast milk or formula.
She is probably mobile, too, rolling from front to back and the reverse with ease and getting her legs and body ready to crawl. Maybe she’s even achieved that skill already!
She can now sit, mostly or fully unsupported, pass a toy from one hand to the other and make recognisable sounds, which are the precursors to her very first words and the early stages of talking.
Your 24 week old baby understands simple, predictable patterns of behavior and enjoys songs, stories, rhymes and simple games. She is now ready to tackle the second half-year – a time of first teeth, independent mobility, exploring new tastes and early speech.
Her rapid growth – both physical and mental – means she still wakes regularly at night. She probably needs support to return to sleep; breast or bottle feeds are the most common ways to resettle a baby 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
At about six months of age, the majority of babies are developmentally ready to begin the transition to solid food. Despite conflicting information you might have been given, 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 solids 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 Organization’s 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 food 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 can also begin solids around six months. However, after 12 months of age, formula (including toddler formula) is no longer needed, and regular milk can be given.
For more information, see BellyBelly’s article Is Toddler Formula A Waste Of Money?
If you’ve already started solids, perhaps on the advice of your child’s doctor, 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 is intended to protect young infants from inappropriate items being swallowed.
How do I know if my baby is ready for solids?
Starting solids around six months means the tongue-thrust reflex is no longer present and you can skip the purees and move straight to solid foods, without pureeing or mashing them first. Many people refer to this as ‘baby-led weaning’ and others think of these solids as ‘finger foods’. Either way, it’s simply the stage of feeding that follows purees and mash.
The lack of tongue-thrust reflex is just one sign of developmental readiness. In order to maintain safety, you should also consider others before introducing solid foods.
Your baby needs to be able to sit upright, unaided, with good head and neck control. She must also be able to grasp, pick up and bring food to her mouth and show a natural curiosity for foods.
Related reading: 6 Steps To Introducing Solids… The Simple Way!
When you introduce 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 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 might have been using until now. Some bibs are more like art smocks; they 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.
A plastic mat (also known as a splat mat) placed under the highchair will make clean up even easier. Have lots of wet wash cloths at the ready, so you can quickly wipe your baby’s face and hands once she has finished eating. Forget about bowls and plates to begin with; you’ll notice it’s easier for your baby to pick things up directly from her highchair tray.
Even cutlery is optional at this early stage. Although spoons are ideal for foods such as yoghurt or soup, babies also enjoy dipping fingers of toast or pieces of fruit into runny foods and using them as a spoon replacement. The more your baby uses her hands and fingers to feed herself, the better for her hand-eye coordination and fine-motor control.
How much should a 6 month old eat?
To start with, your baby will be eating only very small amounts of solids at a time. Remember that, at this stage, additional foods are supplementary to milk feeds. Babies’ milk feeds will still provide the majority of their nutritional needs. For the first few weeks, they might only eat a spoonful or two of these new foods; this is completely normal.
Introduce one single-ingredient food at a time. If your little one has any allergies or reactions, this will make it easier to identify the cause.
Start feeding your baby solids once a day to begin with. Be sure to feed her as usual and then offer solid foods after th milk. That way you know she’s receiving all the nutrition she needs, regardless of whether or not she eats the solids.
Once your baby is a bit older – at around 9 months – you can try giving foods first, followed by milk.
When 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?
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 because of teething, crawling and the brain development that occurs during the Wonder Weeks, you might find your 24 week old baby wakes several times each night, and might need extra support to return to sleep.
Unsure about Wonder Weeks? Here’s what you need to know: Wonder Weeks – How They Help You Understand Your Baby.
This demanding period can peak at 8-10 months, as most babies start crawling between 7 and 11 months. You cannot stop babies 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 focus your energy on so-called ‘self-settling’. Sleep training will not stop a baby waking for these reasons and you are not spoiling your baby by soothing her distress and putting her at ease.
Related reading: Sleep Training | 6 Risks To Consider First.
Play and development
Your 24 week old baby is probably rolling very well now and able to cover a lot of ground quickly. She needs lots of floor time to exercise those muscles in her body that will enable her to crawl in the coming months.
As the central nervous system continues to develop from the top down, she’s gaining control of her lower body and she’ll 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 in this way will help prepare her hips for the movements involved in crawling. This strength will also help power her from a lying to a sitting position – another important stage coming up soon.
Being able to get herself into a seated position will also lead to crawling and, later, to pulling herself up to supported standing. For now, though, sucking on her toes is a fun game for your little one.
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 their sharp edges.
Giving her lots of things to bite and chew will help relieve any pressure in the gums as the teeth erupt and will also soften the sharp edges.
Although you can buy special toys labelled ‘for teething’, many of your baby’s existing toys serve the same purpose. Teethers that you can chill in the fridge also offer cold as comfort.
Gels, drugs, drops and powders are not usually needed with these simple first teeth; they might help to relieve 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 such by doctors, who encourage a check up to rule out potential infections, which can have similar symptoms.
Recognising developmental delays
The timing of your baby’s development will be unique to her. Individual babies will achieve their milestones at their own pace. It’s important to remember that you cannot force readiness.
The term ‘developmental delay’ is used when a child takes longer to reach a certain milestone than other children of their age.
Who is at risk of developmental delays?
Some babies are more likely than others to experience developmental delays.
The following risk factors increase the chance of developmental delays:
- Premature babies. If you had a preterm birth and your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), your child is more likely to experience delays in development
- Complications during labour and birth. Birth complications, such as low birth weight or oxygen deprivation during birth, are common causes of developmental delays
- Genetic conditions – for example, Down’s Syndrome, or muscular dystrophy
- Visual problems. Visual difficulties can make it harder to coordinate movements or balance; therefore, delays can be related to your baby’s vision
- Hearing problems or frequent ear infections. Hearing problems can make it harder for your baby to react to, copy and mimic sounds, which affects speech and language development
- Malnutrition or neglect. Severe neglect, malnutrition or deprivation disrupts the way a child’s brain develops; this affects normal development.
When to talk to your baby’s doctor
All babies will reach their milestones at slightly difference times. Some babies will have a good reason for taking slightly longer than other – for example, it’s common for babies born early to take a little longer to catch up, compared with babies born at full term.
For the most part delays are minor and usually resolve themselves in time. If you’re concerned your baby is significantly behind in their development, always speak to your doctor and ask for advice.