Most parents overdo the whole milestone thing in the fifth month. Stop stressing out and focus on the three (just three) developmental moments that really matter.
Babies develop at their own pace, and the emergence of 5-month-old baby milestones will look a little different for every infant. Still, as the months roll by some parents may find themselves feeling a little competitive, secretly pleased if their baby is developing “faster” or quietly worried if they seem to be falling behind their peers. But that’s not how baby developmental milestones work. They’re not specific goals that all kids should hit at a given moment. At every age, it’s more about a child’s own developmental rhythm: Some 5-month milestones may come sooner than others. But it’s important to consider the progress of your whole, complex little person, rather than focusing on specific milestones or moments.
To help parents track how their child is developing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics overhauled the pediatric milestone checklist in February 2022, This process included adding developmental milestones for 15-month-olds and 30-month-olds, and revamping other milestone charts to reflect things most children (75% or more) can do by a certain age. To help parents track milestones on their own, the CDC has released a free Milestone Tracker mobile app, for iOS and Android devices, a Digital Online Checklist, and a PDF checklist that parents can download and print. But the CDC doesn’t include a check list for 5-month-olds, so here are some things to look out for as your baby nears the midway point of their first year.
The 5-Month Baby Milestones That Matter
By 5 months, your baby will be doing more of what they did at 4 months — except they will be doing it louder and with more strength. You might find yourself looking for new skills, but know that things are going to accelerate pretty soon, so cherish this time before your baby starts becoming more mobile.
5-Month Milestone #1: Baby Is More Vocal
When a baby reaches 5 months, the hesitant burbling they likely started at 4 months should start to sound like straight-ahead babbling. You’ll start hearing lots of ooo’s and ahhh’s from your kid. You may also hear consonants mixed in, giving you the occasional “mama” or “dada.” If you want to count those as their first word, you can, but know that your kid has not attached meaning to the random “dada” yet — though this is baby talk in the sense that they’re trying to get your attention.
Along with this vocalization, you may notice your child taking time to listen as you talk before responding with their own wild babble. You can take advantage of their pauses to make your interaction sound more like a conversation, which should help them get their head around communication.
Red Flags: It’s fine to have a kid who doesn’t babble on and on. But if your 5-month-old is not babbling at all, and hasn’t attempted to start, you will want to bring it to the attention of your pediatrician.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: A child who babbles, but babbles infrequently, may just be a bit cautious about making noises. If you want more babble, you can talk to your baby more.
5-Month Milestone #2: Baby Works Their Core
Around 5-months your baby is starting to work on the skills that will eventually get them ambulating around your home in their preferred mode. In order to become more mobile, your child will need to work on the muscles in their core. Many of their daily activities will find them crunching, scrunching, and wobbling their way to stability. Parents should feel free to encourage this behavior.
Many babies are able to sit up unassisted at 5 months, but it will be very wobbly and for super-short durations. Some babies may have discovered the ability to roll from front to back, though only in a few cases will they be able to roll back to front. Most babies will also be able to push themselves up from their tummies and lunge for objects that interest them. When 5-month old babies are on their back you might see them straining as if trying to sit up.
Red Flags: At 5 months, it’s important to tell your pediatrician if your baby seems listless or floppy. You’ll also want to note if your baby’s movements seem overly jerky, or if they appear to prefer one side of their body to the other. An inability to uncurl their legs or press down when their feet are placed on a flat surface may also be a concern.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: If your baby is not rolling over at 5 months, don’t worry about it. Here’s a fun fact: In some cultures babies are never given the opportunity to roll over, at all, in the first year of their life. And yet they figure out how to get around just fine. If your baby is moving, appears strong and seems happy then there’s no need for angst.
5-Month Milestone #3: Baby Gets Grabby
At 5 months old, most babies are becoming more and more aware of how to use their hands. Their dexterity is getting better, as is their reach and grip strength. They should be able to snag objects pretty easily now, which opens up interactive activities to do with your 5-month-old. But this development also makes neckwear, beards and long hair prime targets.
Another fun quality about the newfound grabbiness is that whatever your 5-month-old baby grabs will be brought straight to their mouth for investigation, which makes sense considering the wealth of sense organs in the face. But along with the grabbing and slobbering there will also be lots of dropping, both to figure out what gravity is all about and to get an understanding of the noises and parental reactions that occur when an object hits the ground.
Red Flags: Babies who have jerky movements, who don’t seem to be aware of their hands, or are unable to coordinate their limbs may need extra attention from you and your pediatrician.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Babies will put anything and everything in their mouths. Don’t freak out about it unless it’s very small or very dirty. Also, you should expect grabbing and pulling — which includes the hair — but know they’re not doing this to be mean. The same goes for repetitive behavior like dropping and then crying about dropping a toy. It’s all exploration and it’s all very normal.
The Baby Milestones That Matter
There are fewer developmental milestones in the first year of your baby’s life than you might think. Here’s your month-by-month guide.
- The Only 1-Month Milestones That Matter
- The Only 2-Month Milestones That Matter
- The Only 3-Month Milestones That Matter
- The Only 4-Month Milestones That Matter
- The Only 5-Month Milestones That Matter
- The Only 6-Month Milestones That Matter
Non-Milestone Moments in Baby’s Fifth Month
Your 5-month-old should be sleeping about 15 hours a day and if you’ve talked about it with your pediatrician you might be able to start offering solid foods. Some babies may still push the food out with their tongue, so follow their lead and go with the solid foods that your pediatrician recommends.
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