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Your Baby's Physical Development: Month 3

baby reaching for feet

The big news this third month is that Baby is making huge strides in his muscle strength, which means he'll be changing from the wobbly little infant to a baby who can hold his head up during tummy time. He will likely be more active and awake for longer stretches, which means that it will be even more fun to spend time together playing and interacting. Here's a look at the physical milestones Baby may check off the list this month.

What to expect: As you continue to practice daily tummy time, you may start to notice that your baby is able to lift her head up higher and make eye contact if you are lying on the floor in front of her. She might be strong enough to look around from side to side from this position as she takes in more of her surroundings. If your tiny tot is very active, she might even surprise you by rolling from her tummy to her back and possibly scooting a bit. Baby will flail her arms and legs as she enjoys stretching her limbs out. Because your baby's legs have gotten stronger, she'll enjoy vigorous kicking and assisted standing this month.

You and your little one might be getting longer stretches of sleep at night as her stomach has grown and is able to hold more milk. Some babies start to settle into a napping routine of three 1½- to 2-hour long naps, though it could take another month or two for this to happen. (Experts don't recommend sleep training until at least 4 months.) "If your baby isn't settling into a napping routine on her own, I advise that parents follow the eat-wake-sleep routine -- without giving into the temptation to squeeze in another feeding right before naptime," explains Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician, Parents advisor, and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. To follow this routine, feed your baby when she wakes up in the morning, play with her while she's awake, and help her go to sleep when she's ready. Repeat this routine until bedtime; it will help your baby know what to expect and will avoid the habit of feeding to sleep, which can be difficult to break.

Progression: Baby will become stronger as the month continues and will likely be much more active as you approach the four-month mark.

How to help: "I think it's a good idea to encourage Baby to roll because it prevents flat heads and can make them stronger," Dr. Shu explains. "You can place a toy just out of reach, but close enough that a baby can reach it if she rolls," she continues. Give your baby plenty of playtime on the floor, both on her tummy and on her back, and help her to sit and stand (hold on to her hands) to get used to being in those new positions. Many babies at this age like moving from sitting to standing as they hold onto your hands and they may enjoy doing that motion over and over.

Make sure that your baby isn't spending all of her waking hours in a swing or bouncy seat, which could interfere with the development of her muscles.

Especially now that Baby is starting to become more mobile in her wiggles and squirms, never leave her unattended on a changing table, couch, or high surface, as she could easily roll or squirm her way off. Always place her on the floor in a safe place.

Don't freak out if: Your baby isn't ready for, or interested in, assisted standing or sitting, and protests during tummy time. Each baby develops at a different pace, so keep that in mind as you respond to his cues and help him practice new skills.

When you should you worry: If Baby doesn't seem to be improving at holding his head up during tummy time, or seems to be lacking leg strength, check in with your pediatrician.

Copyright & copy 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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