Gone are the new parent doubts of the first couple of months—you're actually figuring out this parenting thing! And, if your lucky, your unpredictable newborn has probably blossomed into a smiling, cooing infant. Of course, as soon as you get used to a routine, your baby's development can interrupt it, leaving you scratching your head a bit. Knowing exactly what to expect this month means you shouldn't have any surprises. Instead, you can foster your babe's development with games, activities, and even with the all-powerful lullaby.
Starts to Play with Toys. In the past couple of months, you've probably shaken a rattle for your little one, but there's a good chance she was completely uninterested. Around 3 months, babies finally develop the reflex and the brain power to grab ahold of a rattle or other toy and interact with it instead of just hanging on. Yup, it's true—you finally get to play with your baby!
- Offer toys that make sounds, light up, or have interesting textures. Your little one will love to see the different ways the toy changes with different movements, and you'll get some downtime while your tiny explorer is otherwise engaged.
- Practice passing a rattle or other toy back and forth between you. No, it's definitely not intellectually stimulating for your brain, but it's a great way for your baby to test out her muscles, coordination, and even her understanding of cause and effect.
Lifts her Head and Chest. Tisa Johnson-Hooper, a pediatrician with Henry Ford Hospital says that, at 3 months old, "your baby raises both head and chest when lying on [her] stomach." Once your baby's able to push her head, neck, and chest off of a blanket while lying in her stomach, daily tummy time won't be such a pain anymore. Your independent cutie will love to hang out on her tummy when she realizes that she can control her body.
- Give your baby plenty of time to help her test out her new tummy skills. Pediatric physical therapist Magda Oledzka notes, "The long-term goal is for an infant to tolerate playing on the belly by 3-4 months of age up to 15 minutes, 3-4 times a day."
- Make tummy time fun! Get down on the floor with her and shake a toy to one side, the other side, and up to the ceiling to get your baby to twist her head and neck, and try pushing herself up higher. This is important practice for crawling.
Moves Differently. Newborns seem to always have their fists clenched, which is a completely instinctual action. As your baby nears the 3 and 4 month marks, she'll start to relax that death grip she always seems to have with her hands, instead splaying her fingers so she can better interact with the world around her. She'll even start reaching out for things that catch her eye.
- Offer her plenty of practice in handling new objects. Something as simple as a wooden spoon has a new texture and shape for your baby to test out—just make sure she doesn't start waving it around too hard!
- "Allow baby to explore her environment from different positions," suggests Johnson-Hooper. Whether it's the swing, a blanket on the floor, or from a baby carrier, make sure you're always at arm's length away; never leave your babe unsupervised, even for a few short minutes.
Coos and Talks. Your quiet baby has probably turned into quite the chatterbox all of a sudden. This means she probably also cries a little less than before, a huge relief for weary parents. The more you encourage her vocal expression, the more she'll talk up a storm with you, even if you have no idea what she's saying.
- Talk to you baby as much as possible. It's normal to "baby talk" to your little one, but she also loves to hear the inflection in your voice when you're just speaking normally. If you don't know what to say, just narrate all the things that you do during the day. While you might not think a diaper change is bestseller material, your baby loves to hear your voice no matter what you're talking about—and the vocal stimulation will encourage her to give talking a try.
- Imitate her sounds. Babies love a cause-and-effect game of shadow, so when she lets out a coo, give it right back to her! This encourages her to keep up the chatter, which she'll do more and more.
Sleeps Better. Cue the Hallelujah chorus! Plenty of babies sleep through the night at around 3 months of age, and even those that are still getting up to eat only go for one midnight snack. Thanks to a better, more predictable sleep routine, you're getting more shuteye too, which probably feels great after months of nightly feedings, burpings, and diaper changes.
- Establish a predictable nighttime routine. Babies love knowing what to expect, so when you start a calming routine of a nightly bath, songs, cuddles, or even paging through a board book, her brain will start to send the "I'm tired!" signal to the rest of her body. These daily activities also allow you two to get in serious bonding time.
- Don't get frustrated if your baby still isn't sleeping through the night. Statistics gathered by Thomas F. Anders, a pediatric psychiatrist and leading sleep expert, found that about one-half of parents with 2 to 3-month-olds boast that their little ones slept through the night, but when tested, only one-sixth of babies did so regularly. Now isn't the time to sleep train, because your baby doesn't yet understand the process. If your babe bawls in the night, get up and tend to her needs, knowing that this phase won't last forever.
Finally Focuses. Your baby's fuzzy vision finally clears up during her third month, so don't be surprised if you're suddenly engaged in a staring contest with her. She loves to test out her new eyesight every day, so she'll check out patterns, look at toys, and even stare at strangers for practice; sorry guy in the grocery store!
- Set up a mirror in front of your baby and prop her up to check out her own reflection. We all know that babies love to look at faces, but she'll especially love watching her own movement in a mirror. You might even get to hear the beginnings of her first chuckle!
- Change up the scenery whenever you can. Staring at the same stuff isn't all that stimulating for your babe, so going for walks, taking a peek at the goldfish in the pet store, or looking at bold patterns in a board book all help your baby stay engaged and show off her newfound sharp vision.
Your baby's personality comes out a little more each day, so it can sometimes feel like after 3 months, you're finally getting to know each other better. Nurture your baby's new talents and skills, and she's sure to continue thriving.