A lot happens during your baby's first three months. Most babies reach certain milestones at similar ages, but infant development isn't an exact science. Expect your baby to grow and develop at his or her own pace. As you get to know your baby, consider these general infant development milestones.
At first, caring for your baby might feel like an endless cycle of feeding, diapering and soothing. But soon, signs of your baby's growth and development will emerge.
- Motor skills. Your newborn's head will be wobbly at first and movements will be jerky. But soon your baby will be able to lift his or her head and chest while lying on his or her stomach, as well as stretch and kick his or her legs in that position. If you offer a toy, your baby might grasp it and hold on tight for a few moments.
- Hearing. Your infant will be sensitive to noise levels. Expect your baby to begin responding to the sound of your voice by smiling and gurgling back at you. He or she will also begin turning toward the direction of sounds.
- Vision. Your baby will probably focus on your face, particularly your eyes, during feedings. At age 1 month, your baby will prefer to look at bold patterns in sharply contrasting colors or black-and-white. By around age 2 months, your baby's eyes will become more coordinated, allowing for tracking an object. Soon your baby will begin to recognize familiar objects and people at a distance.
- Communication. By age 2 months, your baby might coo and repeat vowel sounds when you talk or gently play together.
Your relationship with your child is the foundation of his or her healthy development. Trust your ability to meet your baby's needs. You can:
- Hold your baby. This can help your newborn feel safe, secure and loved. Let your baby grasp your little finger and touch your face.
- Speak freely. Simple conversation lays the groundwork for language development. Sing. Read a story out loud. Ask questions and respond to your baby's coos and gurgles. Describe what you see, hear and smell around the house and when you're out and about. Remember that your tone of voice communicates ideas and emotions as well.
- Change positions. Hold your baby facing outward. With close supervision, place your baby on his or her tummy to play. Hold a colorful toy or make an interesting noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head. Many newborns get fussy or frustrated on their tummies, so keep these sessions brief at first — just a few minutes at a time. If drowsiness sets in, place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
- Respond quickly to tears. For most newborns, crying spells peak about six weeks after birth and then gradually decline. Whether your baby needs a diaper change, feeding session or simply warm contact, respond quickly. Don't worry about spoiling your baby with too much attention. Your care will help build a strong bond with your baby — and the confidence he or she will need to settle down without your help one day.
Your baby might reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind on others. This is normal. It's a good idea to be aware of the warning signs of developmental delay, however. Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or you notice any of these red flags by age 3 months:
- Hasn't shown any improvement in head control
- Doesn't seem to respond to loud sounds
- Doesn't smile at people or the sound of your voice
- Doesn't follow moving objects with his or her eyes
- Doesn't notice his or her hands
- Doesn't grasp and hold objects
Remember that every baby is unique — but your instincts are important, too. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated.