By four months of age, your baby will probably have a daily routine for his feedings, naps, baths and sleeping. This routine provides predictability that helps your baby feel secure and you to budget your time and activities. This schedule should be flexible to allow for spur-of-the-moment activities.
– Over the next few months, your baby will learn to coordinate his emerging perceptive abilities (vision, touch and hearing) and his increasing motor abilities to develop skills like grasping, rolling over, sitting up and later crawling.
– Your baby will not just react by reflex, as he did during his earlier months, he will now choose what he will and will not do. For example, as a newborn, he sucked on almost anything placed in his mouth, now he has definite favorites. In the past he merely looked at a strange new toy, now he mouths, manipulates and explores every one of its new qualities.
-Often at this age, your baby will go through a period of show offmanship, smiling and playing with everyone he meets. Take advantage of his sociability to acquaint him with people who will help care for him in the future, such as babysitters, relatives or child care workers. This will not guarantee clear sailing through the stranger-anxiety period, but it may help to smooth the waters.
– Your baby is beginning to develop a strong attachment for you and the other people who regularly care for him. He now associates you with his own well-being and will distinguish you from other people. Even if he does not cry out for you, he will signal this new awareness by curiously and carefully studying a stranger’s face.
-Your baby is beginning to establish muscle control. This will include moving his eyes and head to follow interesting objects as well as pushing up on his arms and arching his back to lift his chest. These new movements, involving all four extremities, will not always work in a very coordinated manner.
-Your baby’ s physical coordination is improving and he will discover parts of his body that he never knew existed. Lying on his back, he will soon grab his feet and toes and bring them to his mouth. When sitting up, he may slap his knee or thigh. Through these explorations, he will discover many new and interesting sensations.
-Your baby is squealing, laughing and vocalizing many different sounds. You are watching your baby’s personality develop as he is increasingly interactive. This is very exciting and fun to watch.
-Your baby is beginning to understand the function of different body parts. For example, when you place his newly found feet on the floor, he may first curl his toes and stroke the carpet or wood surface, but soon he will discover he can use his feet and legs to practice walking or just bounce up and down. This will not cause your baby to become bowlegged. Your baby may enjoy an Exersaucer, or Jolly Jumper for short periods of time. This places him in new positions and offers new and interesting ways to interact and opportunities to manipulate toys and objects with both hands free.
-Many babies are ready for food between four and six months. You may elect to withhold the introduction of food until after six months, if you or your baby is not ready.
-Most studies show that there is no advantage in reducing allergies by waiting more than four to six months to introduce foods.
-There is no necessarily right or wrong way to introduce foods. Multiple books have been written on the subject and each one offers a different approach. The main thing is whether you and your baby are ready. Introducing solids should not be stressful. It should be fun and offers a new way to interact with your baby while offering our baby new sensations to explore.
-One of the first foods to introduce is cereal. It may be rice (I personally don’t use rice cereal) barley, oatmeal or mixed. It should be mixed as follows:
One teaspoon of cereal mixed with either expressed breast milk or formula.
The consistency of the cereal should be slightly more thick than the breast milk or formula alone.
– It may be best to feed your baby while sitting in an infant seat, facing you. It is fun to watch his reaction to the introduction of cereal, similarly as you subsequently introduce new foods.
– Your baby may not know what to do with the cereal. Initially, spitting it out, not swallowing it, or just letting it sit in his mouth. Continue to offer the cereal once or twice a day until your baby is more comfortable with the feeding process. You may then increase the number of feedings to two to four times a day. Preferably, offering the cereal at the same time as nursing or bottle feeding. You may offer anywhere from one to six tablespoons of cereal per feeding.
-Once your baby is able to comfortably eat larger amounts of cereal, you may introduce other foods. There is no necessary proper method to introduce foods. You may offer vegetables, fruit or any combination of different foods. You may offer one at a time or introduce them as a group. Most typical introductory fruits and veggies are not likely to cause any reaction.
-The goal is, as you introduce solids, is to offer increasing textures and to add spices. For example, if you use prepared baby foods, you may introduce Stage 2 and 3 foods which have more texture and offer greater variety of choices. If you prepare the foods, as your baby becomes more comfortable, puree the foods less so that there is more texture to the foods. You may also add spices to prepared foods to add more variety and taste to the foods. You may consider adding spices such as cinnamon, garlic, basil, cilantro, nutmeg, oregano among others. Your baby explores his environment with his mouth and you are encouraging this with new tastes to his foods.
-Whether you introduce solids now or later, the ultimate goal is to develop healthy eating habits.
-As your baby takes larger amounts of food, his breast milk or formula intake may decrease. This is fine as long as your baby is taking at least 16 to 24 ounce per day.
-Do not feed your baby honey or corn syrup until 12 months of age because of the risk of botulism.
-Your baby is increasingly more aware and interested in his surrounding environment. He will attempt to reach and grab things in his immediate vicinity. This will include hot pots, foods, or liquids, such as the hot cup of coffee, or tea, you may be holding in your other hand, or on the table in front of you.
-If your baby does get burned, place the affected area under cool water immediately and remove overlying clothing. Cover the area loosely with a bandage or clean cloth, and call your pediatrician immediately.
-You should lower the water heater temperature to 120 to 130-degrees Fahrenheit to protect your baby from burns.
-Do not leave your baby alone on a bed, changing table, or sofa as he may roll over.
-Infant toys should be too big to swallow, unbreakable, and free of small detachable parts or sharp edges, because your baby will put objects into his mouth.
– Your baby may use sunscreen as early as four months of age. You should use a sunscreen approved for infants with UV-A and B protection of at least SPF 30. Sunscreen requires, at least 15 to 30 minutes to become effective. Place a small amount on his thigh before applying it elsewhere to check that your baby does not adversely react to the sunscreen. Infant-only car seats should be placed in the back seat, ideally in the middle of the back seat, but most important, in a position where it fits securely.
-Most cars use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system to secure the bottom of the safety seat to a point located between the car’s seat cushion and seat back. This was devised to make installation easier because it does not require the use of the car’s seat belts.
-If using the car’s seat belts, the car seat should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or forward and backward at the belt path. If the seat wiggles or moves on the belt path, the belt needs to be tighter. Be sure to check the tightness of the safety seat before each use.
-Your baby’s head should be at least 2 inches below the top of the safety seat. Infant only seats are usually designed with a 3-point or 5-point harness. The harness should always be placed in the slots and should always be at or below your baby’ s shoulders. The chest clip should be level with your baby’s armpits.
-All harness straps should fit snugly, especially over the shoulders and thighs. Straps should always lie flat, never twisted.
-Dress your baby in clothes that keep his legs free. This will allow you to buckle the latch crotch strap properly between his legs. If it is cold outside, harness your baby and then cover him with a blanket.