Baby development at 3-4 months: what’s happening
Your baby is busy learning about emotions and communication. They’re starting to link what you say to your facial expressions. Your baby loves your face, but they might find new faces really interesting too. Your baby also knows your voice and can turn their head to you when they hear you.
Your baby is starting to show more emotion themselves and might laugh out loud, smile when they see and hear things they like, and make sounds like ‘ah-goo’. They might even try talking to you in ‘coos’ and other sounds. When you talk, your baby listens and tries to reply. And when your baby is alone, you might hear your baby babbling to themselves.
Any extra crying and fussing usually settles around 12-16 weeks.
Reaching out to grab things – like rings or rattles – or putting things in their mouth are some of the ways your baby learns about the world around them. In fact, your baby loves playing with objects and might also look closely at objects and shake them. And now that your baby is using their hands and fingers more, your baby might stare at their own hands in wonder and amazement.
Sometimes your baby might cross their eyes when they’re looking at things – this is normal in the first few months.
When you hold your baby or help them to sit up, you might notice they have better control of their head movements and need less support.
Around this age, your baby loves to move and will probably start rolling from tummy to back. When you give your baby tummy time, they might lift their head high or push up on their hands. They might even sit up with some support behind and on each side of their body.
You’ll be surprised at how far your baby can roll and what they can reach, so always watch your baby. It doesn’t take long for your baby to unexpectedly roll into or reach for something that puts them 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. It also helps your baby feel loved and secure.
- Smile at your baby: when your baby sees you smile, it releases natural chemicals in their body that make them feel happy and safe. Smiling also helps your baby’s brain develop and helps your baby form a healthy attachment to you.
- Talk to your baby and listen to their 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 them 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 your baby to move about in.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, they might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use special baby cues to let you know when they’ve had enough and what they need.
Crying and how to respond
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to your baby’s crying – for example, by changing your baby’s nappy when it’s wet or feeding your baby if they’re hungry – your baby feels more comfortable and safe.
Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort your baby. You can’t spoil your baby by picking them up, cuddling them or talking to them in a soothing voice.
But a lot of crying might make you feel frustrated, upset or overwhelmed. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold your baby for a while. Try going to another room to breathe deeply, or call 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 4-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 your baby needs and how you can meet these needs.
As a parent, you’re always learning. 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.
When you’re focusing on looking after a baby, you might forget or run out of time to look after yourself. But looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally will help your child grow and thrive.
When to be concerned about baby development
Seeing, hearing and communicating
- is crying a lot and this is worrying you
- isn’t making eye contact with you or doesn’t pay attention to faces
- crosses their eyes most of time and doesn’t follow moving objects with their eyes
- isn’t making any sounds or responding to noises.
- isn’t lifting their head
- isn’t starting to control their head while sitting
- isn’t reaching and grasping for toys
- doesn’t notice their hands and keeps their hands in a fist most of the time.
If you notice that your baby is losing skills they 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 birthing mothers or postnatal depression in non-birthing parents. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.