Posted: May 22, 2012 8:00 AM
Your 6-month-old is doing truly amazing things: from sitting up, to reading your lips and getting started on her first solids. Find out essential developmental milestones, important safety issues and how to establish a reassuring daily routine.

So, your baby is 6 months old. Isn't this a delicious age? For it's at this half birthday that your baby is generous with his smiles and loves to babble all day long.

Ready to eat?

One of the greatest milestones you'll embark on is introducing solids. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed their breastfeeding and introduction of solids guidelines to encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.

Now that your baby can sit with support, has excellent head control and is showing interest in what you're eating -- she is ready for some food.

Traditionally, rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula was offered as a first food. However, there's good reason to think beyond rice cereal and go straight for a whole grain, fruit, or vegetable mashed and mixed with breast milk or formula. As Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician who has spear headed the White Out Now movement says, "Think mashed up or puréed avocado as a first food."

Exciting milestones

Your baby is getting stronger now and is likely rolling over, perhaps getting around this way. She can now sit with support and may be able to hold herself momentarily before toppling over. She loves seeing the world from this new vantage point.

Be wary, these new developmental leaps mean you must be vigilant about baby proofing your home. Keep small choking hazards out of reach. Gate those stairs (top and bottom) and be sure to secure heavy furniture to the wall.

She's talking! Sure it may sound like ba-ba-ba or da-da-da, but her babbles mean something. Read to your baby every day, talk to her throughout your daily activities, avoid having the television on in the background and invest in face-to-face time. A recent study revealed that babies start lip reading at this age to assist with language acquisition.

Good habits

Now that you and your baby have gotten to know each other, establish a reliable daily routine. Prioritize sleep by establishing relaxing nap and bedtime routines. She needs about 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period which will include two naps per day. Fortunately, most 6-month-olds start to sleep for longer stretches as their sleep cycles mature.

Keep in mind that while SIDS drops dramatically at 6 months old, sleep precautions should remain in place for their full first year. So, always back to sleep (yes it's okay if they roll over on their own), no extra blankets or fluffy bedding -- and no crib bumpers.

Dr. Mom's bottom line:
All babies are different, so avoid the temptation to compare. Ask your pediatrician if you're worried about your child's development. Most of all, bask in this truly delicious and magical age.

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