3-Month-Old Baby: The Developmental Milestones and Guidelines

Medically reviewed by Katie Mena MD on August 31, 2016Written by Lindsey Gudritz on August 31, 2016

The first three months of your baby’s life probably feel like a whirlwind of change, but it’s important to remember that baby has their own changing to accomplish.

By the three-month point, you should be observing a few key developmental milestones. While every child develops at a different pace, here are the progress points you should note in order to update your pediatrician about your baby’s healthy growth.

3-month milestone

Movement

3-month milestone

What’s most important to look out for here at three months is active movement versus reflexive movement. As an infant, your baby’s movements will be instinctive and involuntary more than intentional and voluntary. Voluntary movements look like:

  • raising the head and chest when lying on stomach
  • supporting the upper body with arms when lying on stomach
  • stretching and kicking legs
  • pushing down on legs when placed on a firm surface
  • bringing hand to mouth
  • swiping at dangling objects
  • grasping and shaking hand toys

Sensory

3-month milestone

Auditory and visual development are red and green developmental milestones. It tends to be obvious if there’s any issue. While this is reassuring for those of us who struggle with grey areas, it also means that if your child isn’t doing any of the following it necessitates a call to the doctor:

  • watching faces
  • following moving objects with eyes
  • recognizing familiar objects
  • beginning to use hands and eyes in coordination
  • smiling at the sound of your voice
  • beginning to make some sounds
  • turning head in the direction of sounds

Emotional

3-month milestone

These milestones are often the easiest for parents to remember. You are longing to connect with your child, so of course you remember the first smile and the first sign of affection!

Don’t stress about these milestones, but remember that a healthy child, while unique, will find ways to express love for its parents even as early as three months. Your baby should be:

  • developing a social smile
  • enjoying playing with people and may cry when playing stops
  • becoming more expressive with face
  • imitating some movements and facial expressions

What to ask your doctor

It’s important at this early stage to nail down the basics: Your baby’s feeding and sleeping. No matter whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of both, your doctor should be happy to discuss your questions and support you in your chosen path to ensure your baby is getting enough nutrition and growing well.

Questions to ask your baby’s doctor include:

  • How much and how often should baby be eating per day?
  • How can I be sure my breastfed baby is eating enough?
  • My baby is sleeping through the night now. How much should I up their milk intake?
  • My baby still has issues with breastfeeding. Can you recommend a lactation consultant?
  • My baby is nowhere near sleeping through the night. What can I do to help nudge baby towards a good night’s rest?

When to call your doctor

If any of the above developmental milestones aren’t reached by three months, it’s an appropriate time to call your doctor. For example, if your baby doesn’t respond to loud noises, or doesn’t grasp and hold objects by three months, contact your pediatrician.

In addition, here are other red flags to bear in mind as you care for baby:

  • crosses their eyes most of the time, and it persists into late infancy
  • can’t move eyes in all directions
  • doesn’t babble at all
  • cannot support their head well
  • very frightened by new faces or surroundings
  • still has the tonic neck reflex at six months

What you can do to support baby

The most important thing you can do to help baby develop is to nail down their sleeping and feeding. If they’re getting enough sleep and enough to eat, then the rest of their development should occur fairly organically at this early stage.

Spend time with baby looking them in the eye and singing to them. If you’re still struggling with regimenting either the sleeping or eating (or perhaps you’re just running out of steam from no sleep and a hungry little monkey!), have your pediatrician recommend a sleep or lactation consultant in your area.

Lindsey Dodge Gudritz
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