Your 5-Month-Old Baby’s Development

Major milestones and everyday tips for your baby at 5 months old

The fifth month of your baby’s life is very much a month of transition for both you and your baby. Most doctors and experts measure a baby’s milestones at 4 months and 6 months, so there is a wide range of physical, developmental, and cognitive milestones your baby will reach during this time. Here is what you can expect from month five.

5-Month-Old Baby
Illustration by Josh Seong, Verywell

Your Growing Baby

By 5 months, your baby should have more than doubled their birth weight. Some babies may have even added an extra pound or two to that number and some babies may be just approaching the benchmark. All babies develop differently, but on average, your baby will gain an additional 1–2 pounds this month and add close to 0.8 inches in length.

Babies will have rapid growth during their first year of life, but sometime around the fifth or sixth month, that growth does slow down. For example, your baby may have doubled their birth weight by 4 or 5 months, but will take until a full year to triple their birth weight.

Developmental Milestones

Keep in mind that your baby, at 5 months old, may just be starting to hit some of the following milestones, or may have already passed them. Babies all develop at different stages and if your baby was born prematurely or has any special needs, they may be on a different timeline. Here are some of the developmental milestones you can look for this month.

Body

  • Rolls over from front to back
  • Sits with support. Your baby may even start pushing up to a sitting position on their own later on this month.
  • Bears weight on legs
  • Reaches for and holds a rattle
  • Holds up head and chest on their own
  • Pushes to elbows from stomach
  • Actively attempts to reach objects that they spot
  • Follows objects with eyes
  • Chews on their hands

Brain

  • Cause and effect. Your baby is learning that actions, such as dropping food off of the high chair or kicking their legs, can cause a reaction. Your baby might enjoy those reactions so much they will repeat them over and over (and over) again.
  • Object permanence. Between 4 and 6 months, your baby will discover that objects don’t permanently disappear when they are out of eyesight. This might also mean your little one will cry when you leave the room.
  • Better eyesight. Your baby’s eyesight won’t be 20/20 until they reach 6 months of age or more, but every week brings an increased clarity of vision for your little one. This month, your baby will enjoy looking at more patterns, shapes, and colors.
  • Smiles at people and recognizes familiar faces.
  • Enjoys playing.
  • Mimics facial expressions such as smiling or frowning.
  • Babbles and tries to mimic language, like cooing.
  • Cries in different ways, including a hunger cry, a bored or frustrated cry, and a sleepy cry.
  • Responds to affection with a smile.

When to Be Concerned

Although every baby will develop differently, if your little one is displaying any of the following signs or symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor about them or discuss them at your baby’s 6-month well-child check-up:

  • Has crossed eyes
  • Has gained less than 50 percent of their birth weight
  • Is unable to hold their head up
  • Is not able to sit up at all with support
  • Can’t bring hands or other items to their mouth
  • Does not seem to respond to or is uninterested in your face
  • Has a soft spot that appears to be bulging
  • Doesn’t watch items or people as they move
  • Isn’t smiling

A Day in the Life

Your 5-month-old baby’s day will most likely begin bright and early, depending on when they go to bed and how long they sleep at night. A sample day in the life of a 5-month-old baby might look like:

  • 7 a.m.—Wake-up, breakfast, and playtime
  • 9 a.m.—Snack and nap
  • Noon—Lunch, more awake, and playtime
  • 2 p.m.—Another 1.5-hour nap
  • 4 p.m.—Playtime and snack, possibly another short nap
  • 6 p.m.—Feeding
  • 7-8 p.m.—Bedtime

At 5 months old, some babies do sleep through the night, which might mean between eight and nine hours at night. So, if your baby is going to bed for the night at 7 p.m., they could wake up “for the day” around 4 a.m.

Baby Care Basics

If your little one attends daycare, you may soon encounter the question that every parent will face at some time or another: Is your baby too sick for baby care?

Answering that question is never an easy one and it’s especially difficult depending on your workplace environment. Your job may not be supportive for parents, you may be docked pay if you have to stay home with a sick baby, or if you have a partner, an ill baby might bring up some challenging conversations about who stays home and who goes to work. 

In general, your baby should stay home from daycare if they:

  • Have a fever
  • Have a rash and fever
  • Are fussy and irritable, requiring constant attention
  • Have a constant cough or difficulty breathing
  • Have an infection causing vomiting two or more times in 24 hours
  • Have bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that is leaking out of the diaper
  • Have a specific illness that is known to be contagious, such as whooping cough, hepatitis A, E. coli, salmonella, shigella, tuberculosis, etc. Keep your baby home until they are no longer contagious.

Your child does not usually have to stay home from daycare if they have a simple cold without a fever—even if they have a cough and green or yellow runny nose. That is good news for most parents, since cold symptoms commonly last 10 to 14 days and the average child can get five to six colds a year.

Your child should also stay home from daycare if they have any of the following conditions:

  • Pink eye with discharge, impetigo, or strep throat (unless they have been treated with antibiotics for 24 hours)
  • Head lice or scabies, until after the first treatment has been applied
  • Chickenpox until six days after the rash started or until the rash is all crusted over

You usually don't need to stay home from daycare for other common conditions, like a rash without fever, warts, or ringworm.

Feeding & Nutrition

At 5 months old, you may consider introducing solid baby food to your baby or you may continue to wait until your baby shows signs that they are ready. Your little one does not need any other nutrition other than breast milk or formula for the first six months of life. But every baby develops differently and your baby may be ready to give solid food a try this month. How will you know if your baby is ready? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends looking for the following signs:

  • Your baby is able to hold their head up.
  • Your baby opens their mouth when food is nearby.
  • Your baby moves food from a spoon into their mouth.
  • Your baby is at least 13 pounds or has doubled their birth weight.
  • Your baby shows an active interest in food, such as reaching for a spoon or watching you eat.

You can also use this month to start preparing for solids by making your own baby food. Making your own baby food might help you save money and gives your baby a fresh and nutritious option. However, there are many great options for baby food that are also available to purchase, so if you don’t have the time or resources to make your own, buying is fine too!

If you decide to make your own homemade baby food, avoid giving your baby too much of food containing beets, carrots, collard greens, spinach, and turnips. These vegetables can sometimes have high levels of nitrates, a chemical that can cause low blood counts (anemia).

The amount of breast milk or formula that your baby will drink does depend on if they are eating solid foods and how much. If your baby is just starting to experiment with solids, for example, they will still rely primarily on breast milk or formula for their main source of nutrition. Between 4 and 6 months, babies will typically drink 4–8 ounces of formula at every feeding or will nurse every three to five hours.

Sleep

At five months, the average baby will sleep about 11.5–14 hours every 24 hours. The total amount of sleep will include two or three naps during the day, with each nap lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Some babies are more natural “catnappers” and others will need a longer stretch. By five to six months, many babies start sleeping through the night, which means they stay asleep for eight to nine hours.

As your baby starts sleeping longer at night and begins rolling over this month, you will have more concern about the safety of your little one at night. Most babies at this age begin rolling from their stomach to their backs, but not from their backs to their stomach yet. Always remember to put your baby to sleep on their back, not their stomachs, and never leave your baby unsupervised for tummy time.

Health & Safety

Your baby should have had a check-up last month for the 4-month-old well-child check-up. Missed that visit? Don’t worry—it’s not too late to schedule a well visit this month. The 4-month-old check-up is especially important because your baby will receive their second “big” round of immunizations, so be sure to catch them up this month.

If you’re on track for your well-child visits and immunizations, your baby won’t have another check-up until 6 months—unless, of course, your baby gets sick or you have any medical concerns.

If your child gets sick and has a fever of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you should call your pediatrician. It's important to note if your child has any other symptoms accompanying the fever, such as fussiness, difficulty breathing, or a change in appetite and behavior.

When evaluating how to treat a fever in a 5-month-old, you should consider what symptoms your baby has and what the cause of the fever is. Most times, fevers in babies are a sign their immune system is working and do not necessarily need to be treated. Instead, keep your baby comfortable with light clothing, such as a onesie, give them a lukewarm bath, or bring their fever down naturally.

If medication is advised by your child’s doctor, you can give your baby the recommended dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol), which will be based on your baby’s weight. Babies cannot have ibuprofen until they are 6 months old and babies should not ever have aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.

Must Knows

This week, keep the following in mind as you prepare for your baby’s half-birthday!

  • Morning time is the best time: It's often the time of day when your baby is the most active, awake, and happy. If you can, make the most of your mornings together by bringing out some special toys or just enjoy talking to each other before you head into your daily routine.
  • Get down on the floor: Your baby will learn about the world around them from the ground up, which means you should join them at their level—literally. Plop down on the floor with them, encourage them to roll over or try new skills, or just blow raspberries on your baby’s tummy and relish those baby giggles.
  • Play some music: At 5 months old, your baby is like a sponge, absorbing all kinds of information about the world from the environment around them. The groundwork for language begins this month, so along with talking and reading to your baby, play music in your home too. There’s no need to make it all “baby” music either. Anything with a beat is good to go!
  • Give your baby some downtime: You know how even as an adult you can get overwhelmed by life and just need quiet, maybe a darkened room, and some comfy blankets? Babies are no different! And in fact, babies probably have even more need for downtime than adults, since their brain is literally being inundated with new information, new sounds, and new skills 24/7. Your baby needs downtime to rest, recover, and grow, so enjoy some snuggles if you’re both feeling overwhelmed.
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