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 interesting too. Your baby also knows your voice and will 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.
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 and play with their own hands too.
Sometimes your baby might cross their eyes when they’re looking at things – this is natural in the first few months.
When you hold your baby or help them to sit up, you might notice that they have more control of their head movements or can hold their head steady without support.
When you give your baby tummy time, they might lift their head high or push up on their forearms or hands.
If your baby has started to roll, you’ll be surprised at 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 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.
- Make eye contact with your baby: when you get your baby to follow your eyes, it encourages your baby to turn their head. Like tummy time, this builds your baby’s neck strength and head control.
- 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. A familiar pattern 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 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 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.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage. If you feel like you can’t cope, it’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Gently put your baby in a safe place like a cot. Go to another room to breathe deeply, or call your state or territory parenting helpline.
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 OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your baby. When you’re well, you can give your baby the loving attention they need to grow and thrive. You can also cope better if your baby is crying a lot.
Remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your baby, including your partner, friends, relatives, child and family health nurse and GP.
When to be concerned about baby development
You know your baby best. So it’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your 4-month-old has any of the following issues.
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 when supported to sit
- 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, see a child health professional.
It’s also a good idea to 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. Signs of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Development usually happens in the same order in most children, but skills might develop at different ages or times. If you’re wondering whether your child’s development is on track, or if you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s best to get help early. See your child and family health nurse or GP.