3-Month-Old Baby Developmental Milestones - A Complete Guide

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It has been three months since your baby made your life busy yet beautiful. The little one is growing at a brisk pace and packs a new surprise every day! His growth trajectory brings achievements in the form of developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are also a good way to assess the pace of your three month old’s health and growth.

This MomJunction post explains about all the developmental milestones that a baby attains at three months and the ways to detect a delay. Read on!

Three-Month-Old Baby Milestones Chart

Achieved developmental milestonesEmerging developmental milestones
Lifts head by 45º during tummy timeCan move head to 90º
Pushes leg down when held verticalWill bear weight on feet when held vertical
Brings hands to mouthCan bring hands together
Grasps objects within reachAttempts grabbing objects beyond reach
Shakes object in handWill hit the object to a surface and play
Tracks moving objects within the field of visionMoves head to track objects visually
Quiet and reserved around strangersGets anxious with strangers
Back muscles strong for tummy timeMuscles grow stronger to sit with support
Can imitate some actionsRemembers and imitates more actions
Supports body weight on armsWill roll over in one direction

[ Read: 4 Month Baby Developmental Milestones ]

Three-Month-Old Baby’s Developmental Milestones

The development of a baby is measured under three terms – cognitive, physical, and social and emotional. There are specific milestones in each category, which signify the baby’s growth.

Cognitive Developmental Milestones

These milestones define a baby’s intellectual skills, cognitive abilities, and overall thinking skills.

  1. Recognizes familiar faces at a distance: Unlike earlier, when you had to walk close to the baby to get his attention, the infant can now identify a parent or a familiar face across the room and exclaim in recognition.
  1. Locates sounds by turning his head: When the baby hears something exciting, scary, or familiar, he will turn his head in that direction (1). It indicates that the baby’s brain is capable of locating the source using the auditory senses.
  1. Responds when interacted with: Talk to your baby, and it is quite likely he will respond with a chortle. Infants at three months understand that when someone speaks to them, they should respond.
  1. May imitate some sounds: Your baby will try repeating your words and other sounds that he hears around him (2). His imitation may not be more than babble, but will surely be adorable!
  1. Can imitate some actions: Your baby will attempt at mimicking some expressions and recreating an action that he saw a parent do. Imitation involves a significant brain power investment and is an essential developmental milestone for a baby.

[ Read: Baby Development Month By Month ]

Physical Developmental Milestones

Gross motor skills, and physical growth and capabilities fall under this category.

  1. Keeps head steady: The little one has better control of his neck muscles, which make him hold his head steady when in your arms or during a feeding session (3).
  1. Lifts head by 45º when on tummy: Stronger neck muscles let the baby lift his head to 45º when he is on his tummy (4). This action improves his field of vision, making it easier for him to see toys and other objects during tummy time.
  1. Eyes can track objects around 180º: We have all played silly games with our babies. Hold a toy in front of the baby and slowly move it in circles. The baby visually tracks the object by moving his head around. If that is not enough, hold the toy and move it from left to right. The infant tracks the object in a semi-arc. These abilities indicate an improved object tracking skill and vision (5).
  1. Pushes legs down when held vertical: When held vertical with support, the baby will push his legs down as if trying to stand on his legs. The three-month-old will not bounce nor bear weight on his feet at this stage, but has developed physical prowess to stretch limbs when the feet touch the ground.
  1. Bears body weight on forearms during tummy time: When lying on his belly, the infant bears his body weight on the forearms and may even push to lift his body as is done in push-ups. This lays the foundation for crawling – the first mode of movement in an infant’s life.
  1. Grasps toys, opens and closes fist: Better grip and enhanced finger dexterity enable grasping of toys and rattling them. The infant also swipes his arm towards objects that dangle, such as toys hanging from his stroller. This age is also when the baby develops hand-eye coordination, which is an essential motor skill.
  1. Brings hand to the mouth: At three months, the baby can bring his hands to his mouth and begin to suck their thumbs or fingers around this time because it’s the age when they really “discover” their hands, which become less stiff and more relaxed than earlier (6).
  1. Kicks and stretches legs when lying on back: When on his back, the baby stretches his legs and moves them around in a kicking action. It is the little one’s way of exploring movement and helps exercise the leg muscles.
  1. Sleeps an hour less: A newborn sleeps around 16 hours a day for the first two months of his life. By the time he is three months old, he sleeps for 15 hours, and mostly at night (7).

[ Read: Learning Activities For 3 Month Old Baby ]

Social And Emotional Developmental Milestones

A baby will also develop his social skills and will mature in his emotional temperament by attaining social and emotional developmental milestones.

  1. Smiles at known individuals: Your baby may start smiling at the sound of your voice as early as six weeks. That adorable smile of the baby is his way of saying “Hello, how are you?” to the people he knows. The baby’s smile has a social purpose as it helps elicit a response (8). The smile could also be accompanied by body movements such as wide, open arms and violent movement of legs in excitement.
  1. Starts laughing: This age is when you will hear your little one laugh out loud! Babies will laugh for the first time around the age of three to four months.
  1. Enjoys playing with primary caretakers: No surprise here! The thing the baby loves the most at this age is to play with his parents and caretakers at home. Playing can be with toys or through simple hand movements.
  1. Can be reserved around strangers: While he welcomes friends and family with a broad smile, do not expect the same warmth towards strangers. A baby may give a fleeting smile or may not smile at all when he meets a stranger.
  1. Develops interest in siblings and other infants: Around this time your baby recognizes the existence of a sibling. If a brother or sister speaks to the three-month-old, the little one will smile and coo in response. The baby will also develop an interest towards other infants.

Just imagine the number of things your little one will do at this age! Lovely, isn’t it? But what if your baby does not display the above? This could be a developmental delay.

When To Be Concerned?

You must be watchful for the following warning signs of developmental delay in a three-month-old:

  1. Does not smile and respond to familiar faces: If the baby is expressionless even when greeted by a parent and stares blankly without any hint of recognition, then it may be a developmental delay.
  1. Does not make any sound: If you haven’t heard the baby cooing, chortling, or chuckling, then it is a serious sign of developmental delay, and the baby should be checked by a doctor soon.
  1. Head bobs backward or forward: By three months, babies have a decent head control. If the infant is unable to support his head during tummy time or when you lift him, then it could be a developmental delay.
  1. Unable to hold an object: This developmental delay is when the baby cannot grip an object, has abnormally loose grip, and makes no attempt at holding anything put in the baby’s hand.
  1. Inability to visually track objects or respond to sounds: By three months, the baby can track objects moving in circular or semicircular paths. He will also respond to the sounds and voices around him. An inability to do so is indicative of a delay in development.
  1. Does not pay attention to new faces, or seems very frightened by new faces or surroundings.

It is good to maintain your baby’s development checklist to rule out any problems. As a parent, you can facilitate the healthy growth of your baby through some simple steps.

[ Read: Best Toys For 3 Month Old Baby ]

Tips To Improve A Three-Month-Old’s Development

Here are some easy ways to ensure your little one is growing well:

  1. Have lots of tummy time: Tummy time strengthens several parts of the body – from arms to abdomen muscles. Stronger muscles help the baby stay on track with the milestones such as crawling. Play games that make the baby look around, as it helps the neck muscles get stronger.
  1. Interact with your baby: Have regular interactions and conversations with your baby. It will nurture his listening ability and responses, and also develop his social skills.
  1. Use words to describe actions: Incorporate words to describe activities. For instance, if you are reading a picture book, then say words such as “read” or “book”. The baby may not understand them, but when you repeat them next time, he may anticipate the corresponding action. Regular use of words can help maintain a daily routine with the baby.
  1. Play activities that let the baby track: Use a toy car tied to a string to grab the baby’s attention. Place a toy train and let the baby see it go round on the tracks. This would promote object tracking, which is an essential skill to master.
  1. Use sounds to get the baby’s attention: The other important sense at this age is the listening ability. At the age of three months, an infant will turn towards the source of sound. It is a good way to incorporate sound-based games where you use a rattle or the parent’s voice to draw the infant’s attention.

Maintaining a good activity schedule and staying vigilant to developmental hiccups is all that is needed for healthy baby growth. Also, remember that each baby is different and may take time to achieve the milestones. Checking with a doctor is the best way to go forward. Proper care will let your baby kick and chortle all the way through his growing days!

How did your baby grow and what were the activities that you had for your baby? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo is a zoologist-botanist turned writer with over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics related to health, wellness and development of babies. His articles featured on several notable websites, including... more