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It’s normal for babies to become more independent as they grow up. So, if your baby doesn’t reach for you anymore, does this mean there’s something wrong? Probably not! Most likely, the reason is that they are now preferring to explore their environment on their own instead of relying on you. Don’t worry, though-this change in behavior is completely within the expected limits and will be just fine.
If your baby hasn’t reached for you by the time they’re 6 months old, ask your doctor or a child development specialist. It may be nothing to worry about, but it could also be a sign of a delay in development or one of the early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This post will help explain why it is completely normal for babies to act differently, and provide tips on how parents can respond so that both baby and parent can continue to thrive.
At what age will my baby start reaching for me?
At around 2-3 months most babies will start reaching out. Most likely, it won’t be so much an attempt to get closer to you as it will be a way of showing you all the amazing things they can do! Reaching out and grasping objects with your hands is a significant developmental milestone.
Grabbing at things and placing them in the mouth is what babies enjoy doing most at this stage, so it’s important to provide your little one with lots of safe, tasty teething toys.
By 5-6 months your little one is likely to have reaching for specific things mastered, and has probably realized that reaching for you will result in you picking them up!
What if my baby isn’t reaching for me by 6 months old?
It can still be normal if your baby hasn’t reached for you by 6 months – they might express their desire for objects and people through their crying or other sounds or seem to be a ‘content’ baby who doesn’t want anything aside from a reliable feed.
If you’re concerned that your baby hasn’t started reaching for you by 6 months old, speak to your pediatrician or developmental specialist who can offer advice specific to your child.
While most children meet developmental milestones at similar times, it is still normal to be outside of that range. I know that I personally never really crawled – I did a bit of a bum shuffle and then went straight to picking myself up to get walking. Until around 14 months I literally just sat on my bum. I am considered neurotypical and have no physical issues. (apart from getting old, now!)
Why is my baby not reaching for things?
There are a few reasons why your baby may not be reaching for anything:
- They’re content with what they have immediately around them, so they don’t need to strive for anything beyond reach. – They’re busy exploring their environment and don’t need you just yet. Sometimes we can put our own emotional needs onto our children, and assume that they will want us as much as we want them! This is normal, but remember that your child needs to explore at their own pace.
- They have a physical or developmental issue – If your child isn’t reaching for you by the time they’re 6 months old, it’s always worth checking with a pediatrician or specialist as soon as possible – there are some issues that can be resolved easily if caught early on.
- They are overwhelmed – If you’re talking to them or playing with them too much, they may feel overwhelmed by the attention and want to have a moment of calm instead.
- They’re nervous or shy – This is a very common reason, especially if your baby isn’t reaching for you but is still seeking comfort from you when they’re upset or tired.
- They just prefer to look – If you’re doing something fun, like playing peekaboo behind a pillow or being their favorite cousin’s shadow – they may just be content to look at what’s happening. Look for other ways that your baby likes to interact with others and observe if they are particularly interested in listening to music, singing along, hearing stories etc.
Could it be a sign of autism if my baby doesn’t reach out?
Many children with autism will not reach to be picked up by their parents in the way that other children would. This could be a sign that your child does have autism or it could simply be something completely unrelated to any developmental disorders.
One of the early signs of autism is limited eye contact, so if your baby struggles to make eye contact with you it could also have a knock-on effect to a lack of them reaching out for you or anyone else.
Don’t be overly concerned, though – lots of children with autism develop a different method of communication as they get older. If you remain alert to the early signs and check with your pediatrician, there’s no reason why you won’t have a happy child!
Is it my fault my baby doesn’t reach for things?
Again, this could be a sign that your child does have autism or it could just be that they’re experiencing normal developmental stages and you’ve been making them wrong.
No, reaching out is a common behavior for babies with autism. However, it’s important to remember that all children express themselves differently and not to compare your child’s behavior with other children you know unless they are their siblings.
If my baby doesn’t reach for me or I can’t play with my baby at all, what should I do
What can I do if my baby isn’t reaching for me?
Take a deep breath! Remember that this is a sign of normal development. Instead of trying to control all of their playtime activities, start giving them some space and time to explore on their own.
Some children like playing with their parents consistently, but for others it can be overwhelming. If your baby is very shy or nervous, try spending time with them when they are calm and content – usually after a feed or nap.
You can also encourage your little one to reach for objects by placing toys close to you, and leaving a gap between the toys and them. You may find that they will try to reach for it from a few inches away, encouraging them to move towards their toys. Start playing with the toys yourself, and point to them or use other gestures to get your baby’s attention. Respond to any of your baby’s efforts to each the toys with sounds or encouraging words.
In conclusion – speak to your child’s doctor if you are concerned
It is normal for a baby to become more independent as they grow up. If your child doesn’t reach out when you try and pick them up, don’t worry! There are many reasons why this could be happening – from being overwhelmed by attention or shyness, to preferring the freedom of looking at what’s going on around them rather than interacting with people.
Don’t forget that all children express themselves differently so it isn’t necessarily a sign of autism if your baby doesn’t play in the same way as other babies their age do. The most important thing is not placing too much emphasis on milestones but instead recognizing that every child develops at their own rate and in different ways.