3-4 months: baby development

3-4 months: baby development

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Baby development at 3-4 months: what's happening

Your baby is busy learning about emotions and communication. She's starting to link what you say to your facial expressions. She loves your face, but she might find new faces really interesting too. She also knows your voice and can turn her head to you when she hears you.

Your baby is starting to show more emotion and might laugh out loud, smile when he sees and hears things he likes, and make sounds like 'ah-goo'. He might even try talking to you in 'coos' and other sounds. When you talk, he'll listen and try to reply. And when he's alone, you might hear him babbling to himself.

Any extra crying and fussing usually settles around 12-16 weeks.

Reaching out to grab things - like rings or rattles - or putting things in her mouth are some of the ways your baby learns about the world around her. She'll love playing with objects and might also take a long look at them and shake them.

And now that your baby is using his hands and fingers more, he might stare at them in wonder and amazement. Sometimes your baby might cross his eyes when he's looking at things - this is normal in the first few months.

When you hold your baby or help her to sit up, you might notice she has better control of her head movements and needs less support.

Around this age, your baby loves to move and will probably start rolling from tummy to back. When you give him tummy time, he might lift his head high or push up on his hands. He might even sit up with some support behind and on each side of his body.

You'll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what she can reach, so always watch your baby. It doesn't take long for baby to unexpectedly roll into or reach for something that puts her in danger.

Helping baby development at 3-4 months

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby's development at this age:

  • Play together: sing songs, read books, play with toys, do tummy time and make funny sounds together - your baby will love it! Playing together helps you and your baby get to know each other and also helps him feel loved and secure.
  • Smile at your baby: when your baby sees you smile, it releases natural chemicals in her body that make her feel happy and safe. Smiling also helps your baby's brain develop and helps her form a healthy attachment to you.
  • Talk to your baby and listen to his reply: this helps your baby learn about language and communication. When you talk or listen, look your baby in the eye and make facial expressions to help him learn the link between words and feelings.
  • Find a routine: when it feels right for you and your baby, it can help to do things in a similar order each day - for example, feed, play, sleep. This pattern also helps your baby feel safe and secure.
  • Prepare your home for a moving baby: it's a good idea to look at how you can make your home safe for baby to move about in.

Sometimes your baby won't want to do some of these things - for example, she might be too tired or hungry. She'll use special baby cues to let you know when she's had enough and what she needs.

Responding to crying
Sometimes you'll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to your baby's crying - for example, by changing his nappy when it's wet or feeding him if he's hungry - he feels more comfortable and safe.

Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it's still important to comfort her. You can't spoil your baby by picking her up, cuddling her or talking to her in a soothing voice.

But lots of crying might make you feel frustrated or upset. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold him for a while. It's OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.

Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.

It's OK to ask for help. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your baby, call your local Parentline. You might also like to try our ideas for dealing with anger, anxiety and stress.

Parenting a four-month old

Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you'll learn more about what she needs and how you can meet these needs.

As a parent, you're always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It's OK to feel confident about what you know. And it's also OK to admit you don't know something and ask questions or get help.

Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child or baby, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.

When to be concerned about baby development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your four-month-old is having any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • is crying a lot and this is worrying you
  • isn't making eye contact with you or doesn't pay attention to faces
  • crosses his eyes most of time and doesn't follow moving objects with his eyes
  • isn't making any sounds or responding to noises.

Your child:

  • isn't lifting her head
  • isn't starting to control her head while sitting
  • isn't reaching and grasping for toys
  • doesn't notice her hands and keeps her hands in a fist most of the time.

If you notice that your baby is losing skills he once had, you should see a child health professional.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you're worried about whether your child's development is 'normal', it might help to know that 'normal' varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn't quite right, see your child and family health nurse or GP.