Caring for Your Three Month Old

In many ways, your three month old is not so different from when they were a newborn. At the same time, babies make huge developmental strides between birth and the end of the so-called “fourth trimester”. Much of the care that your baby needs is the same throughout their first year, but read on to learn about the things that are exciting and different.

What new things can your three month old do?

Three month olds are becoming more physically capable, social, and interested in their surroundings. They often get better at holding their head up during tummy time and may even use their arms to also lift their chest. They have also likely found their fists, thumbs, or fingers and may suck on them to self soothe. When you hold them in your lap, they probably do a much better job sitting up and keeping their head steady to look around them. They can see things that are about a foot away very clearly and track and focus on objects with their eyes with increasing efficiency. They also hear better than ever, which may lead them to making more word-like sounds themselves. In terms of sleep, three month olds are becoming more capable of connecting sleep cycles and may sleep for longer stretches. Some babies even sleep through the night and go six or more hours without waking to eat.

How should you care for your three month old?

As discussed above, in many ways caring for your baby is the same as it has always been. You will still change diapers and give them lots of cuddles. But as your baby grows, you may want to also focus a bit more on the following areas:

  • Language development: because baby’s hearing has improved and they may start making sounds, it becomes even more fun to talk to them. As baby makes word like sounds, you might mimic them or respond as though you are enjoying a conversation together. Because your baby can hold their head up and focus their eyes better now, it’s also a good idea to start reading to your baby if you haven’t already. Reading can be a nice part of a bed time routine and also helps with language development. Check out this blog post for more ideas about talking to your baby.
  • Notice baby’s daily rhythms. From sleeping to pooping to feeding, baby’s behavior might start to fall into a more predictable pattern by three months of age. You can use these predictable patterns to your advantage and schedule outings or errands for the times when you know your baby will be most amenable. If baby’s rhythms aren’t noticeable yet, don’t worry. You might be able to nudge baby’s schedule a bit, but if not, baby’s timing will probably settle in soon on its own.
  • Provide new opportunities. As babies get older, they often are capable of doing new things and learning new skills, but caregivers don’t always notice. Give your baby lots of chances to try new things. Lay them down on their backs so that they can practice rolling over or on their tummies so they have a chance to lift their heads or push up with their arms. Rather than rocking or nursing your baby to sleep, you could try laying them down awake. Some babies at this stage will be able to put themselves to sleep. If you try something and baby is not into it, don’t worry. You can always try again in a few days or a week.
  • Feeding: don’t worry if your baby starts to eat more quickly or does fewer feedings over the course of a 24-hour period. Around three months, some babies get more efficient at feeding, which means they can get a full feeding much more quickly. Plus their tummy also gets bigger and can hold more milk as they grow up. Three-month-old babies usually are satisfied with 24 to 40 ounces of formula daily or with breastfeeding every two to four hours. Babies who are sleeping longer stretches might have a lengthy nursing session before bed in order to “tank up” for the night ahead.

Most of the things mentioned here apply to average three month olds. If you haven’t noticed certain developmental milestones in your baby and feel worried, it’s a great idea to talk to your pediatrician. You know your baby best, but it never hurts to ask for help.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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