Baby development: 4 - 8 months

Baby development: 4 – 8 months

Paediatric occupational therapist Amy Faulkner guides us through a baby’s physical and mental milestones in the 4 to 8 months of their life.

A baby’s first year is a time of rapid development. It is an important opportunity to lay down good foundations of development for your baby and refine their skills in all areas. Milestone charts are helpful as a guide, however they should not be used as a definitive tool to assess your baby’s development. All babies are individual and develop skills at different rates. The important thing is that you can see your baby progressing and that they are showing signs of developing new skills month by month.

Gross motor skills

It is important to offer your baby plenty of opportunity to lie and move down on the floor or on a flat surface. Your baby should be encouraged to move and stretch while lying on a play mat, in their moses basket, or pram. When supervised, your baby can lie on their back, tummy and in a side lying position.

Sit: approximately six months

By now, baby has developed coordination of their back and tummy muscles to work in harmony to keep them upright and to manage their head control. Initially babies will not have ‘saving reactions,’ which is their hand going out to save themselves from falling over. So always keep plenty of pillows and play mats about when working on independent sitting skills.

Hand skills

6 months:

Your baby’s hand skills are becoming more coordinated and stronger, although they are still not refined. They can transfer toys from hand to hand, hold an object in each hand, hold and bang a spoon. They tend to grasp with their whole hand and sometimes with fingers in a scissors like grip.

Play suggestions include play bricks to bang together, stacking rings and cups, and wooden blocks. Your baby may be weaning onto some solid foods around now and food can be a very motivating way for your baby to refine their hand skills; exploring and sticking their fingers in purées or chewing on a piece of baby biscuit.

Remember – these milestones are just a guide. Each baby develops at his or her own rate, so don’t worry if not everything is ticked off by the book!


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.