Your Baby's Social Development: Month 3

This month, you'll start experiencing more two-way interactions with your baby as she advances in her social development.
playing peek-a-boo

You might have a social butterfly on your hands by this point. The upside: She's so much more fun. The downside: You might be in for some complaining if you dare end that game of peekaboo.

"By the age of 3 months, your child really shows enjoyment of playful interaction and may cry if it stops," explains Kimberly Williams, Psy.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist in Great Neck, NY.

What to expect: "Baby is now so much more aware of the special people in her life and should readily smile and interact with them," says Kenneth Wible, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Care Center at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "A 2-month-old will smile, but you usually have to work pretty hard to make it happen." Although your baby will still be mostly interested in her caregivers, she might even flash her gummy grin at a stranger if she's in the mood.

Progression: As the month goes on, you might notice that communication is no longer a one-way street. You might be months away from those precious first words, but your baby has other ways to engage in a "conversation" with you. "Socially, by 3 months, your baby shows greater connections by offering a big smile and gurgling to catch your attention," Dr. Williams says. "Other times your infant will watch you and wait for you to smile first, after which you'll receive an enthusiastic whole-body response. Your baby's hands will open wide, one or both arms will lift up, and his arms and legs will move in time with the rhythms of your speech." With the right stimulation, those smiles might progress to outright laughter, Dr. Wible says. Your baby might also add babbling to her chorus of coos.

How to help: The way you interact with your baby now enhances your bonding and helps her to develop healthy, lifelong attachments, Dr. Williams says. "Don't worry about spoiling your baby," she says. "It's OK in these stages of early development to pick them up when they reach for you and to attend to your baby's every emotion. Your baby needs to see your face and your expressions as well as [to] be held, touched, cradled, and comforted to develop trust, which is a factor in healthy social development."

If you're the quiet type, learn to channel your inner chatterbox. "The number one and most important thing is talking to them," Dr. Wible says. "They're starting to make language sounds, and the more language they hear, the better they'll become. If a family is bilingual they should feel comfortable speaking in both languages, so the baby begins to hear the intonation and inflection of adult language and words."

You can also keep playtime interesting by mixing up the auditory landscape. "Playful games with sounds, like rattles and chimes, things they can shake, stimulate play and exposure to the sensory world," Dr. Williams says. "Parents will notice that changing the cadence and pitch of their voice is also stimulating their baby's social awareness and attachment."

When you should you worry: If your little one does not smile at his primary caregiver, let your pediatrician know, Dr. Wible says.

Don't freak out if: Your baby isn't checking off the milestones as quickly as you'd like. "I always remind parents that all infants develop at different rates and there is a broader time frame for reaching milestones than they may realize," Dr. Williams says. "They should not compare one baby to another baby, even if it is a sibling. They must also consider that if their baby was born premature, developmental age may not match up with chronological age at first." But don't hesitate to mention your observations or questions to your pediatrician. "When there are developmental concerns, parents' instincts are usually accurate," Dr. Williams says.

Development Milestones: What to Expect at 3 months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 3 months

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