The First Six Months: Big Changes - Month Four

May 24 19:05 2017 Sally Michener Print This Article

This article covers the following topics: The Fourth Month: Big Looks, The Master Skill - Binocular Vision, "My Baby's Not Doing That," Reach out and Touch Someone -- Accurately, Moves of the month, Pre-teething Signs, Fun and Games with a Four-month-old, Three Favorite Four-month-Baby Poses, Gitche-gitche-goo, Language Development, Four to Six Months, New sounds,  Help your Baby to Be a Good communicator, Precious Recordings,  Social Signals, Decoding Social Signals, Social gesturing Begins, But What About Spoiling?  There will be two more parts to this article, be sure to keep an eye out for them.


The Fourth Month: Big Looks

Now the real fun begins. The social,Guest Posting motor, and language skills that started in the previous stage really blossom during the next three months, which we call the interactive stage.

The Master Skill -- Binocular Vision

As you become a veteran baby watcher, you will notice that each stage has one important skill that, once mastered, has a snowball effect in helping baby better develop other skills. Binocular vision is the master skill of the fourth month. Baby can now use both eyes together, giving him better depth perception -- the ability to judge accurately the distance between his eyes and the things he sees. Imagine what baby had to put up with in the previous month. After swiping at and missing targets for three months, baby can finally get a consistent fix on a toy and grab it accurately.

When you baby develops binocular vision, here's what he can do with it. First, he tracks better. Watch him hold a visual fix on a toy or person moving from side to side, a full 180 degrees. And, while tracking his head begins to catch up with his eyes so that both begin to move together.

"My Baby's Not Doing That"

There will be time when you feel, "My baby's not doing that yet!" Don't worry. Nearly all babies go through the milestones we discuss, but they may not always be "on time." The month-to-month progression is more important than the timing. Enjoy the sequence of development and don't focus on which month you are reading about.

Gazing begins.
Gazing is more than seeing. It includes the sense of sigh plus the ability to move the head and eyes to keep a visual fix on a moving target. To see if your baby has mastered this skill, try the mutual gazing game: When baby is in the quiet alert state capture his attention with a visual fix. Then slowly tilt your head. Watch him tilt his. Rotate his body and notice he turns his head to keep his favorite face in view. This is gazing -- a powerful visual skill that captures all who lock into baby's eyes.

Note: One of the most exciting things about our four-month-olds development is the way he reaches for me with his eyes. He expresses thanks with his eyes. He turns his face and eyes toward me. They are so expressive and adoring. He appears to be fully aware of me as his source of love, nourishment, and well being. He craves my presence and totally enjoys our togetherness. It's a love affair, full-blown. I recognize the love his eyes as one more emotion that he's capable of expressing.

Favorite colors.
Besides being able to see more clearly, babies widen their color preference. While black and white were the favorites -- and may remain so for a while -- your baby may begin to show an increasing interest in colors. Babies prefer natural colors, like the reds and yellows of flowers, and they still shun pastels. To encourage baby's interest in color, continue to contrast light and dark colors -- alternating red and yellow strips, for example.

Reach Out and Touch Someone -- Accurately

The development of binocular vision is a prelude to an important hand-eye skill - visually directed reaching, meaning the eyes lead the hands to grab the desired object or person accurately. Watch your baby's eyes follow his hands as he reaches for a toy. It seems as if hands and eyes are finally saying, "Let's move together to improve our aim."

Hand play.
One of the most intriguing developments of this stage is increased interest in hand play. Now that baby's eyes have clear depth perception, he may constantly play with his favorite and ever-present toys - his hands. Sucking on fingers and fists now becomes a treasured pastime. To relieve gum soreness, the beginning teether gnaws on his hands as readily available teething objects.

Gathering in.
Most babies do no yet reach accurately with one hand. Dangle an interesting toy in front of your baby's face within reaching distance. Rather than reach out with one hand and pinpoint accuracy, he will most likely embrace the toy with both hands as if gathering it in toward himself. Sometimes he'll miss the toy entirely, and his embracing hands will meet and continue on to the mouth. Now move the toy while he is reaching for it, and he'll probably miss it or turn away because you have violated his rules of reaching game. Hold the toy still, At this stage most babies cannot yet make in-flight corrections to grab moving toys accurately.

Safety Tip:
Beware of the reaching and grabbing tendencies of the for-month-old. Keep baby beyond the reach of harmful objects, such as hot beverages or sharp and fragile items. Never hold a hot beverage while holding a baby, not matter how careful you plan to be Babies have lightning-fast reaches.

Moves of the Month

Rolling over.
When your baby rolls over depends more on baby's temperament than motor maturity. Very active babies, who enjoy stiffening and back arching, are apt to roll over sooner. When lying o his tummy, the active baby may practice push-ups and torque his head to one side, surprising himself when he flips over. Mellow babies are content to lie and gaze at visual delights. The flip around less and are likely not to roll over until five to six months Most babies at this stage roll from tummy to side or from side to side, and they usually first roll from tummy to back before rolling from back to tummy.

Pre-teething Signs

Though you may not see those pearly whites for several more months, your baby may now begin to feel them. Here are the usual signs that baby senses teething discomfort:

* Drooling begins, accompanied by a pink raised rash around the tips and chin (drool rash) and often looser bowel movements (drool stools) and a similar rash around the anus. For the next few months expect a constant case of wet mouth.

* Baby may massage his gums with his tongue and suck on his favorite teethers -- fingers and fist.

* Baby may chomp on your nipples or slide his sore gums over your nipple to massage his gums.

Fun and Games with a Four-month-old

Grab-and-shake games.
Offer baby rattles, four-inch (ten-centimeter) rings, rag dolls, and small cuddly blankets.

Sit-and-hit games.
Dangle an interesting toy or mobile within baby's reach. Watch him punch at it or try to gather it into his arms.

Kick toys.
Pom-poms, a helium balloon on a short string, rattles, and pleasant noisemakers can be attached to baby's ankles for him to activate with his kicking. He can also kick at mobiles or balls within range -- all under supervision, of course.

Finger games.
Under supervision, give your baby piles of yarn to explore with his fingers. Change the texture by using different kinds of yearn. Tying six-inch strips of yarn loosely to baby's fingers helps him realize that he can move each of these interesting appendages separately. Later, lightweight puppet figures can be attached to the dangling yarn.

Safety Tip:
Never leave baby unattended with a piece of string or yarn or a balloon. Keep string or yarn shorter than eight inches (twenty centimeters). Make a safe (yarn pile" by typing a dozen six-inch =strips together at their centers.

Three Favorite Four-Month-Baby Poses

Head-up -- chest up.
Get out the cameras. The classic four-month-baby pose is here: head up ninety degrees, upper body propped up resting on elbows with chest completely off the floor, and eyes searching from side to side for admiring photographers.

Sitting all propped up.
Sit your baby on the floor, and he may momentarily prop himself up with both arms before falling forward on his nose or toppling sideways -- be there to catch. At four months of age baby's lower back muscles are usually still too weak for baby to sit erect. To determine if your baby is developing a sense of balance yet, hold him in the sitting position by his hips and momentarily leg go. Baby may thrust out his hand to catch his fall as he leans sideways, indicating he is developing a sense of balance.

First stands.
Hold baby in the standing position. By four months most babies can bear all their weight for a few seconds before collapsing. Continue holding his hands, and baby will often pull back up to a standing position. Watch baby's face showing delight in his newly found standing skill; arms will also flap in delight. (Early standing does not cause bowed legs, despite grandmother's warnings. Babies only stand for a few second. It's lying the curled-up fetal position all night that contributes to curled legs.)

Sofa sitting.
Sit baby in the bend of a sofa pillow. He may spend five to ten minutes looking around and enjoying this new posture and vantage point.

Rolling games.
Drape baby over a large beach ball and roll it slowly back and forth. This helps him develop balance.

Peek-a-boo.
This old favorite can be played by hiding behind a piece of cloth or cardboard or popping up from behind a couch. Be sure to talk to your baby and make exaggerated faces: "Where's mommy? Here I am!"

Pull-up games.
Hold a thin bar, such as a golf club or baton, in front of baby's chest. He will grab on, tighten his grip, and gradually pull himself up.

Mirror play.
Babies love to sit or be held in front of mirrors, enjoying their own movements.

Gitchee-gitchee-goo.
Tickling games that use tactile and vocal gestures get you both laughing.

Language Development, Four To Six Months

Baby's language in the early months was hard to decode. Now baby becomes a better communicator. During this stage baby learns that language is fun, and she also learns how to use sound and body language to affect caregivers.

New Sounds

Watch baby's wide-open mouth. Here comes the "ah," then the mouth circle closes a bit, and "ah" change to an "oh." Once baby realizes her sound-changing power is affected by simply altering the contour of her mouth, she doesn't want to quit. Baby stretches out these sounds into long strings of "ah-oh-ah-oh" and long, drawn-out vowels, "eeeeeee," especially during exciting play or in anticipation of the pleasurable event of nursing. Notice baby's short catch-up breaths between these long strings of sounds.

Cue sounds.
Try to associate certain sounds with specific needs. If "ah-ah-ah" and "eeeeeee" means "I want to feed," listen and respond. Baby will soon learn the sound value of various vocalizations and be more motivated to keep talking.

Loud sounds.
Not only does baby realize she can make different sounds and longer sounds, now she can make louder sounds by pushing more air through her voice box. Watch baby take a deep breath, and out come the hollers. Soon baby learns which sounds have shock value. Attention-getting yells and protests seem to trigger a more rapid response from listeners. Baby is not being deliberately annoying. She is just trying on new sounds to see which one she likes best and is testing which ones shake up her audience. She will soon learn that pleasant sounds get a pleasant listening response. You can help baby modulate her hollers by answer a yell with a whisper. Baby will get the message.

Laughing sounds.
When excited during play, baby pushes air through those quivering little vocal cords so fast that laughter is full of squeals. Want baby to laugh more? Playful tickles, gitchee-gitchee-goos, and silly sounds are likely to invoke laughter. You are your baby's favorite comedian. You're playing to an audience of one, and you can count on lots of laughs. Remember, as silly as baby's silly sounds sound to you, your silly sounds sound just as silly to baby. Laugh together.

Raspberries.
First on the top-ten baby sounds between four and six months is a variety of bubble-blowing sputters affectionately known as raspberries. These delightful baby sounds occur when baby blows air through the saliva-filled mouth against pursed lips. As baby approaches teething time, expect many of the sounds to take on a wet and sputtering quality.

First babbles.
Sometime between four and six months babies start to make the earliest of true language sounds -- babbling, the sounds produced when baby combines a vowel sound with a consonant and repeats it over and over "ba-ba-ba-ba"). Babbling will be most noticeable in the next stage of language development from six to nine months.

Help Your Baby to Be a Good Communicator

Enjoying language not only helps baby learn to communicate better, it also helps you to communicate better with your baby. Try these early language lessons.

Familiar openers.
Open dialogue with familiar words such as your baby's name, and repeat them frequently with a musical quality in your voice. By four months, most babies respond consistently to their names. At this age baby will also notice words that obviously refer only to him, such as "cutie" or "sweetie." Baby recognizes the unique tone of voice that you reserve for him. If you want to know how important baby's name is to him, try this test: Talk to your baby from behind without using his name; then speak the same sentence beginning with his name. Baby will turn toward the speaker more consistently if addressed by name.

Attention holders.
Babies tune in to conversations and can tune them out as well. Use opening words such as "hi" and "hello" to engage baby's attention and hold it through the conversation. When you notice your baby's gaze begin to wander, repeat these opening cue words to reengage baby.

Matching.
Engage your baby in a face-to-face dialogue. Start with a very open-mouthed, wide-eyed, expressive "ah." Wait for your baby to open his mouth and perhaps mimic the sound. Then slowly circle your lips down to the "oh" sound as see if baby matches the sound. The ability to match your sounds indicates that speech is an intelligent activity that your baby recognizes and voluntarily attempts to reproduce.

Labeling.
Give names to familiar toys, persons, or household pets. Start with one-syllable words such as "mom," "dad," "ball," "cat." When your baby's gaze indicates that he is interested in the cat, teach him the name for it. First use an opening phrase -- "Hi, baby!" -- to engage baby's attention. Once baby turns to you and locks in on your gaze, slowly turn your gaze toward the cat, allowing baby to follow your eyes. When both of you are looking at the cat, point and exclaim, "Cat!" in a very excited tone. During this state of development baby may associate the label "cat" with the whole sequence of events -- your steering his gaze toward the cat, your pointing at the cat, and your saying the word "cat." He probably will not turn toward the cat if you give him only the label without the accompanying directing gestures. In the next development state, from six to nine months, baby may turn and point toward the cat as it walks by with no cures other than your saying the word "cat."

Expansion of baby-initiated language.
Expansion carries labeling one step further. When baby initiates interest in a familiar object, gazing at the cat walking by, for example, expand on his interest by exclaiming, "There's cat!" Expansion capitalizes on a well-known principle of education: Learning that is initiated by the baby is more likely to be remembered. Follow through on other baby-initiated cues. When baby sneezes, quickly exclaim, "Bless you!" After many repetitions of this response, baby will turn toward you after a sneeze, anticipating your "Bless you." Expansion and following through reinforce baby's emerging sense of competency, making him feel that his primitive language has value. Therefore, he has value.

Echoing.
Another way to capitalize on baby-initiated language is to echo the sound back to baby. Mimicking the sounds that baby produces further reinforces that you hear what he says and are interested in his sounds -- therefore you are interested in him.

Taking turns.
Remember that dialogue has a rhythm of listening and responding. Try to develop a rhythm in your conversation with your baby. Encouraging him to listen is an important part of language development. Taking turns in conversation fosters attentive stillness, an important quality in learning language and the state in which baby is most receptive to learning how to communicate. Taking an active part in helping your baby enjoy language not only helps baby to learn to communicate better, it also helps you communicate with your baby. Learning about your baby helps you learn from your baby.

Mutual gazing.
Watch your baby orient his head toward yours, smile, wiggle, vocalize, and with these cues invite a social exchange. Baby is now able to initiate, maintain, or stop a social interaction by simply moving his head.

Mutual gazing is a potent interpersonal magnet. Adults seldom hold a mutual gaze for more than a few seconds, except perhaps when falling in love. Parents and babies, however, can remain interlocked in a mutual gaze for much longer. I have seen babies gaze at their caregivers, trancelike, for up to thirty seconds. Babies nearly always outlast their caregivers at the blinking game, holding their eyes focused and motionless much longer than the adult.

Social Signals

The ability to engage and disengage a caregiver or to direct caregivers toward meeting his needs is one of the most fascinating social interactions of the four-to-six-month stage. Now baby can tell you what he needs, not with words but with body language that requires careful listening.

Decoding Social Signals

Here's an exercise to help you learn to interpret your baby's early signals. List your favorite social signals in one column, your interpretation of these signals in another, and how baby reacts to your response in the third column. After a few months of practicing this exercise, you will be well on your way to becoming a keen baby watcher. For example:

Social Signals
* Leans toward me, eyes wide open, waving arms in embracing motion.

What Baby's Trying to Tell me
* "Let's play!"

How Baby Responded
* We "talked" nonstop for three minutes.

Social Signals
* Makes short, breathy, staccato cries.

What Baby's Trying to Tell me.
* "I'm going to cry unless you pick me up right away."

How Baby Responded.
* He quieted as soon as I picked him up.

Social Signals
* Smacks lips and clutches at my blouse,

What Baby's Trying to Tell me
* "I want to nurse."

How Baby Responded
* He chowed down.

Social Signals
* Fusses and arches back when held

What Baby's Trying to Tell Me
* "I want to be put down on the rug to kick and play."

How Baby Responded
* He just wanted to be put down on the floor to kick.

Social Signals
* Fusses when put down on rug

What Baby's Trying to Tell Me
*"I want to walked around and held in a baby carrier."

How Baby Responded
* He quieted when I put him in the sling."

Social Gesturing Begins

Gesturing is another exciting body-language behavior that begins during this stage. At this point baby's gesturing cues may be very subtle, such as noodling his head toward a desired object or turning his body toward the bed when you approach it. In a later stage of development baby will gesture better with his hands and arms.

The better you listen and respond, the better baby learns to "talk." The feeling "I'm understood" is a powerful builder of baby's self-esteem.

But What About Spoiling?

"IUs baby manipulating me?" you may ask. Once upon a time there was a school of misguided baby-care "experts" who taught vulnerable new parents that responding so quickly to baby's needs would spoil their babies, that babies would be clingy, dependent, and manipulative. That school is now closed. Volumes of research have disproved the spoiling theory. Responsive parenting turns out secure, independent, less whiny children. Put the fear of spoiling out of your mind.


There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

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Sally Michener
Sally Michener

Here at ring sling baby carriers we know your baby is precious and worth keeping close. Our ring sling baby carriers help you make the most of life while making the most of your baby's. Please visit our website ring sling baby carriers to see our broad selection of Hotslings adjustable pouch, Rockin Baby pouch, Rockin Baby ring sling, Seven Every Day Slings and Lil Cub Hub convertible sling baby carriers and find the right print and style for you and your baby.

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