A lot happens during your baby's first three months. Most babies reach certain milestones at similar ages, but infant development isn't an exact science. Expect your baby to grow and develop at his or her own pace. As you get to know your baby, consider these general infant development milestones.
What to expect
At first, caring for your baby may feel like an endless cycle of feeding, diapering and soothing. But soon, signs of your baby's growth and development will emerge.
- Motor skills. Your newborn's head will be wobbly at first. But within the first few months, most babies can face straight ahead while lying on their backs and lift their heads while lying on their tummies. Although newborns aren't likely to roll over, your baby may soon turn from side to back. Your baby's stretching and kicking are likely to get more vigorous. If you offer a toy, your baby may grasp it and hold on tight for a few moments.
- Hearing. Within a few weeks, your baby may respond to loud noises by blinking, startling, frowning or waking from light sleep. Even everyday household sounds — footsteps on the floor, water running — may elicit subtle responses, such as increased limb movement or slowed sucking rhythm. Expect your baby to respond to the sound of your voice.
- Vision. Your baby will probably focus on your face during feedings. Soon your baby may begin to examine more complex designs, along with various colors, sizes and shapes. You may notice your baby studying his or her hands and feet. By age 3 months, your baby may be easily distracted by an interesting sight or sound.
- Communication. Newborns are sensitive to the way you hold, rock and feed them. By age 2 months, your baby may smile on purpose, blow bubbles and coo when you talk or gently play together. Your baby may even mimic your facial expressions. Soon your baby may reach for you when he or she needs attention, security or comfort.
Promoting your baby's development
Your relationship with your child is the foundation of his or her healthy development. Trust your ability to meet your baby's needs. You can:
- Hold your baby. Gentle caresses and tender kisses can help your newborn feel safe, secure and loved. Hold and rock your baby. Allow him or her to study your face. Let your baby grasp your little finger and touch your face.
- Speak freely. Simple conversation lays the groundwork for language development, even before your baby can understand a word. Ask questions and respond to your baby's coos and gurgles. Describe what you see, hear and smell around the house, outdoors, and when you're out and about. Use simple words that apply to your baby's everyday life. Remember that your tone of voice communicates ideas and emotions as well.
- Change positions. Hold your baby facing outward. With close supervision, place your baby on his or her tummy to play. Hold a colorful toy or make an interesting noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head. Many newborns get fussy or frustrated on their tummies, so keep these sessions brief at first — just a few minutes at a time. If drowsiness sets in, place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
- Respond quickly to tears. For most newborns, crying spells peak about six weeks after birth and then gradually decline. Whether your baby needs a diaper change, feeding session or simply warm contact, respond quickly. Your attention will help build a strong bond with your baby — and the confidence he or she will need to settle down without your help one day.
When something's not right
Your baby may reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is perfectly normal. There's typically no cause for concern. It's a good idea to be aware of the warning signs, however. Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or you notice any red flags by age 3 months:
- No improvement in head control
- No attempts to lift the head when lying facedown
- Extreme floppiness
- Lack of response to sounds or visual cues, such as loud noises or bright lights
- Inability to focus on a caregiver's eyes
- Poor weight gain
Remember that every baby is unique — but your instincts are important, too. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated.