Sometime between 4 and 6 months your baby will be ready to start on the exciting journey of learning how to eat. This section gives practical baby feeding information; when to start, what signs to look for, what to start with and how to start! It's important you look for the appropriate signs before starting solids to make sure your baby is ready.
There are loads of benefits to bringing up kids in New Zealand. One of them is the Well Child Programme and the great range of support for new parents you’ll receive through Plunket.
Founded more than a century ago, Plunket was developed to help kiwi kids get a great start in life and provide support to new parents and families. Fast-forward to today and they’re still at it! A partnership of health professionals and volunteers are there to assist families nationwide. Their services include stationary and mobile clinics, new mothers’ groups, toy libraries, playgroups, and child safety initiatives.
One of the most important services that Plunket offers is the Well Child Programme. This includes in-home visits and checkups for your baby, plenty of advice and support for new parents, as well as help for the rest of the family adjusting to the needs of a new member. And the really brilliant thing is this service is free for all New Zealanders.
You can call Plunket any time you need to on 0800 933 922. Their phone line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they’re always happy to help.
There’s something really comforting about having an expert on hand – especially once you arrive home with your new baby and start putting into practice all the things you’ve learnt!
Here are the times you’ll receive a visit from a Plunket Nurse as part of the Well Child Programme. Don’t forget these visits are free for all New Zealand families, and if you need extra visits beyond the ones listed here, you simply need to contact your Plunket nurse to discuss it and she’ll be able to schedule them for you.
You can prop your baby up in a sitting position from early on, but they won’t be able to sit by themselves until they have head control.
At about four months, your baby's neck and head muscles will be stronger and they'll be able to hold their head up when they're lying on their tummy. Next comes a little mini push up, and then by about five months they'll be able to sit up by themselves for a moment without your help. Around seven months is when you can expect them to sit up unsupported.
There’s an entire industry out there devoted just to baby products. Here’s a list of the essentials.
There are manual types, which need you to squeeze a handle, and automatic types that run off batteries or mains power. You can also get single (one breast) and double (both breasts) options, so you’ll be able to find one that suits. All breast pumps will come with an instruction manual explaining how to use, clean and store your breast pump. You can buy breast pumps from retail stores, pharmacies and the internet. Your midwife, well child or Plunket nurse or GP will also know where you can buy them from.
There are different varieties available, and there isn’t a set rule around what you should use. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. Go for something that you find easy to clean and that your baby likes – you may end up trying several different types while you figure out what works best.
You can also get different teats with one hole or multiple holes for faster flow. Single holes are good for encouraging sucking in younger babies, while older babies may need multiple holes versions.
They usually don’t cost a fortune, you can get plenty of different versions and will save you a lot of time cleaning your baby and changing their clothes after a meal.
There are large and small sizes (larger ones are better if your baby is learning to feed themselves) plastic versions, cloth versions and different closures like snap buttons, strings or Velcro.
Finding what works for you might take a bit of experimenting, but there’s no shortage of choice. Try to choose something that’s soft on your baby’s skin and that you can easily clean. It’s a good idea to have several so you can go a few days without doing a load of laundry if you need
You can buy microwave steam sterilisers as well as sterilising solution. Whatever you opt for make sure you read the instructions that come with them as they can vary between manufacturers. Don’t forget you can also sterilise equipment with the old fashioned boiling method.
Plates and cups
There’s no shortage of options here, you’ll be spoilt for choice with plastic baby plates and spoons. They’re handy because they’re light and won’t break when they’re dropped, and the spoons are gentle on gums and new teeth.
Take a look at the Wattie’s Baby Basics range. They’re all designed with your baby’s development and safety in mind. There’s a full selection that’ll take you right through their toddler years.
There are many nursing pads options such as disposable and merino to keep your nipples dry and protected. It might be trial and error to find what works for you.
This one isn’t essential, but it’s definitely something to think about. An electric handheld blender is ideal for small amounts of food – you can puree just what your baby needs so there’s no waste.
At around month four, your baby will be developing an understanding of the basic sounds of language. You can encourage them by mimicking the sounds they make and initiating a few of your own. That means loads of baby talk conversations! This’ll help them interact and recognize more sounds.
Four to six months old: developmental milestones and behaviour
This age is jam packed with fun stuff - you'll really start to notice a little personality developing.
Here's a chart to help you track some of the important milestones at this time, so make sure you have your camera ready to go!
Remember, every baby is different so don’t worry if your baby has other plans and doesn't follow this pattern very closely.
With any luck those broken nights you had in the early days will have gone. As your baby grows, they’ll feed less often at night and sleep for longer stretches. By about four months they’ll most likely spend twice as long asleep at night as they do during the day. That could add up to a blissful eight hours of sleep for you both.
There are plenty of things you can do to help teach your baby good sleeping habits too; here are a few useful ones.
Your baby is born with a sucking reflex, and when it comes to feeding this is what they’ll use for their first few months of life.
The other reflex your baby has is an extrusion reflex. This is when they'll push any food placed on their tongue out the front of their mouth.
This is completely normal, and doesn't mean they don't like their food - it just means they're not capable of swallowing it yet. Somewhere between four and six months the extrusion reflex should disappear, and it's from this point that you can look at giving your baby new types of food
Teething is a big milestone for you and your baby. Some babies may not feel a thing, while it can be pretty uncomfortable for others. Don’t be surprised if your baby gets a bit upset when those pearly whites start coming through. It does vary, but the average age for a baby to get their first tooth is around six months old. The first ones to appear are usually the two bottom middle teeth, followed by the two top middle teeth. The last teeth to make an appearance are usually the second, or back, molars in the lower and upper back of the mouth. Most children will have all their baby teeth by about two and a half. There are 20 in total, 10 at the top and 10 at the bottom.
You need to start caring for your baby’s teeth as soon as they arrive. You can use a small soft baby toothbrush with a smudge of toothpaste. At this age the main thing is to get your baby used to the routine twice a day. One brushing should be at night before your baby goes to bed.
No one is safe from decay. It can affect all of us, even your baby’s teeth. It is a mix of what you eat, how well you take care of your teeth and genetics. Here are a few ways to keep baby’s teeth in tip top shape.
What’s in the bottle - if using a bottle only put milk (breastmilk or formula) or water in a bottle, not juice or other sweetened drinks.
Just hanging out - if using a bottle try not to leave your baby with a bottle in his or her mouth for a long time, and encourage them to drink from a cup as soon as possible. A cup can be introduced from 6 months of age.
Sweets and treats - babies don’t need these and should not be given them until they are at least one year of age. After that, sweet foods may be offered as occasional treats and if offered, offered at the end of the meal. Between meals offer raw fruit, sandwiches, cheese, crackers, rather than dried fruit and sweet biscuits.
Get a pro involved – as soon as your baby's teeth come through it's wise to enrol your baby to see a Dental Therapist. Talk to your Plunket nurse about how to set up an appointment.
Wouldn't it be great if you were handed an instruction manual that told you what to expect in life! Especially with a new baby – it’s tough knowing what is supposed to happen when it's all a brand new experience. Here are a few things to expect during the early months.
It’s about time for your baby’s first smile. Have your camera charged and ready to go. Keep smiling at them, as it’ll encourage them to smile back. Your baby should also be able to focus on your face at this time.
Hopefully you’re getting plenty of smiles by now. Your baby will also be trying to lift his or her head up, and they’re likely to react to loud noises. With any luck your baby’s sleeping pattern will be a little more settled..
Your baby is smiling and laughing. They’ll also be more alert and getting stronger.
Your baby’s head control is starting to improve and this is important for when you’re introducing solids. You might find they can roll from side to side too.
Don’t forget that every baby is an individual, so don't be concerned if their progress is a little different to this.