3 Month Old Baby Milestones to Know

During your baby's third month, they will get stronger and discover all the things their body can do. Check out these 3-month baby milestones. 

3 Month Baby Milestone
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong. Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

The third month is a vital time in your baby's development, says Donna Eshelman, a movement specialist and founder of Stellar Caterpillar, a Los Angeles-based business focused on helping babies reach their gross motor milestones in the first year.

"The first couple of months are really about feeling their bodies, sleeping, and eating," Eshelman says. "With the third month, there are the first signs of movement. The kicking really gets stronger and begins to take them somewhere, like onto their stomach. It's really an important turning point."

Keep reading to learn more about what you can expect during the third month.

What to Expect at 3 Months

The third month of life is an exciting time when your baby will begin to babble and laugh (so get that camera ready!). But they'll also begin to develop hand-eye coordination, which will help your little one achieve something spectacular: the ability to roll over.

Your baby's movements become more focused and steady as they try new movements.

Head control

"The biggest thing is the head control that a baby gains," says Kenneth Wible, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Care Center at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "They should be able to hold their head steady if you hold them upright. Sometimes they will lift their head up, if they get their arms under them."

Hand use

Your little one will also start to use their hands more and might put them together in front of themselves. "They're not going to take things, but if you present them with a toy or something else that attracts their attention, they'll hit it with their fist," Dr. Wible says.

Arm coordination

As the month goes on, your baby will continue to gather strength in their core and extremities. "During that third month, they're really developing their coordination with their arms; they're learning the control of their arms and the awareness. Rattles with sounds can be very helpful because it gives them feedback about where their arms are," says Eshelman.

Toward the end of the third month, you might see your baby roll from their back to their tummy or vice versa, she adds.

Each Baby Reaches Milestones at Their Own Speed

Don’t freak out if your baby seems slow to reach gross motor milestones. "If the baby doesn't put [their] hands together, or doesn't necessarily babble but makes other sounds, that's OK," Dr. Wible says. "They do things at their own pace and their rate."

However, you should alert your doctor if your baby isn't symmetrically moving their arms or legs or prefers one extremity over another. This could be a sign of a central nerve injury, says Dr. Wible, adding that he doesn't like to dwell on red flags at this age. "I've seen babies with red flags, and they turn out to be fine," he says.

How to Help Your Baby's Development

There are many ways to encourage your child to develop their motor skills. It is important to remember that you can't rush your child's development, but you can make motor skill development lots of fun for you and your baby. Here are a few ideas.

Offer lots of tummy time

Your baby should get plenty of tummy time every day. "That's such an important time," Eshelman says. "It's like a cornerstone of motor development." The pressure of their hands on the floor during tummy time connects them to the muscles of the hands and shoulders, developing strength.

The exercise your baby gets now can also pay off in the future. "Later, around months six and seven, they will sit up for the first time with gorgeous posture if they've had a lot of practice," Eshelman says. "A lot of times, parents will put them sitting up too soon, and their spine will curl backward because they don't have strength."

Explore together

Encourage your baby to explore their surroundings in new ways, Dr. Wible says. "Allow them to touch their feet to surfaces, and challenge them with toys and attractive objects that encourage them to try to reach or grasp for something," he suggests.

Encourage hands-on play

Eshelman encourages toys that make a sound based on a baby's movement, such as a rattle, "as opposed to something electronic and lights up when you push a button," she says. The unplugged rattles help develop the movement of the hands and arms, whereas the electrical toys only develop finger movement. "It is very important to choose rattles that are a size that fits into [your] baby's small grip. A simple maraca or barbell shape is the perfect first rattle," she adds.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Talk to your pediatrician or family doctor if you have any concerns about your child's development. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, babies should see their doctor for well-child checkups six times before their first birthday. This way, your doctor can monitor how well and when your baby reaches essential milestones.

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