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Baby Care: Your 5 Month Old Baby

Feb 24, 2022 | 3 Minutes Read

It’s around 5 months that babies begin to love to socialize and interact with other people. They know just how to get the best responses and even the most serious adult can warm to a baby’s charm. Apart from being a strong survival skill, these early attempts at engaging others 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 molded by the love and stimulus they receive.

Feeding and sleeping at 5 months old

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. This a great sign of maturity but avoid feeding them solids too early (unless your healthcare provider recommends it). Breastmilk or formula still needs to be their primary source of nutrition at this age and it will meet all their nutritional needs. If you are breastfeeding, there is no need to be too regimented when it comes to offering your baby the breast. At 5 months they will know when they are hungry.

Bottle-fed babies at 5 months generally still need around 5 bottles every 24 hours. If you need to increase the volume you are offering your baby, still prepare the formula as directed on the formula can. Using the correct number of powder scoops to water will help prevent your baby from becoming constipated and overweight.

Your baby should be easily rolling over. Once they can roll, there is no need to roll them back onto their back. Continue to position them on their back for sleep when lying them down and make sure the crib is empty of blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows.

If you’ve been breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or rocking your baby to sleep, you may find they will only fall asleep when these activities are being done. 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 are looking to be held or fed back to sleep, you may want to begin lying baby down while they are drowsy but still awake. Creating a bedtime routine that is consistent and calming can help your baby learn to self-soothe themselves to sleep, and then go back to sleep on their own when they lightly awaken through the night.

Behavior at 5 months old

Five-month-old babies tend to be happy babies. They are often cuddly, easier to hold because they can support their own head, and quickly respond to stimulation. You’ll feel as if you’re getting something back this month as your baby learns how to capture everyone’s attention. You will be enthralled by their adorable expressions and mannerisms.

At 5 months they can also become very cranky when they are tired, bored, or just don’t know what they want. Your baby’s temperament will be more apparent by now. They could be calm and quiet and easy to care for or they could be more sensitive or fussy and need frequent reassurance from you to help regulate their emotions. Your baby really is a separate little individual with their own unique personality.

Developmental milestones at 5 months old

This is a very vocal time, with lots of squeals, gurgles, coos, and laughs. Many babies at this age are the happiest first thing in the morning after they have been fed and are feeling especially alert after sleeping. Try to make the most of this time and ignore all the tasks you feel you should be working on. Lying on the bed and just talking and playing with your baby is a lovely thing to do. They will be smiling at you now and will look for your responses. When they hear your voice, they will turn and look for you. They will focus on your eyes and smile in recognition. They’ve come a long way in 5 short months.

Notice your baby reaching for things that are just out of their grasp—and the look of concentration on 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 play time on the floor everyday will help your baby to perfect these important skills.

Growth at 5 months old

Your baby will be getting longer with every week that passes. Their early newborn appearance has passed and they may seem to be all limbs at 5 months. Ask your pediatric healthcare provider or nurse how your baby is tracking on their percentile charts. Head circumference, length, and weight are all parameters of growth; each is equally as important as the other. Percentile charts are an excellent way of recording growth over time and provide an objective comparison with other babies of the same age and sex.

Keeping well at 5 months old

Your baby will be between immunizations this month but if you missed their 4-month vaccinations, make an appointment for them now.

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 clean but 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 and children stay healthy. Parents should not overlook their own vaccinations either, especially for whooping cough.

Play and interaction at 5 months old 

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-colored, safe toys that can be chewed and sucked on are always popular. You’ll find your baby gravitates towards their favorites.

This can be the age when babies develop a real attachment to a particular blanket or stuffed toy. These favorite transitional objects can mean a lot in the early years of childhood and they are a sign of healthy development. Having a favorite blanket is not an indicator of emotional insecurity or other future problems. Just be aware of the safety issues around your baby sleeping with something which could potentially cover their face or obstruct their breathing. Teddies, soft toys, blankets, and fabric covered toys can pose a risk to safety.

What about mom?

Try to exercise at least a bit every day. it will help you feel (and look) better and give you more energy. Pushing your baby in their stroller or placing them in a baby carrier and just going for a walk may be the last thing you feel like doing, 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 to a local mother’s group. When you communicate with other adults and have your own social needs met, it will create a positive mood and make caring for your baby easier.

If you are feeling depressed, exhausted, anxious or just worried about yourself, talk to your healthcare provider. Some women may develop postpartum depression or an anxiety disorder after giving birth and there are things that can be done to help. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is an evidenced-based tool that many providers use to help diagnose this and can offer some objective, clear guidelines on your emotional health at this time.

Your emotions
You may find you’re on more of an even keel now. The early months of exhaustion have hopefully lessened, and you have found some balance and predictability in your life. This does not happen overnight. Day by day, 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 have a negative impact on the enjoyment of caring for our babies. But by 5 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 yet share their happiness. Your time will come—commonly after 6 months when most babies sleep for a longer—to have an uninterrupted period overnight. If you are still finding you need a little mini-nap in the afternoons, avoid feeling there is something wrong with you. Just having some quiet time for half an hour or so can be enough to recharge and get through the late afternoon and evening.

Your relationships
Speak with your obstetrician or midwife about contraception if you haven’t already—unless of course you are planning another baby soon. Your fertility may be back to normal, especially if you are not breastfeeding. The general recommendation is to have at least 12 months between pregnancies to allow for full recovery and return of all body systems to their normal state.

Try to connect with friends and family you have not seen since the baby was born. A phone call, text, or email only takes a short time but can be enough to help you feel you are back in touch with the adult world.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.