Baby Development: Your 3-month-old

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on October 31, 2021

Your 3-month-old is growing bigger and becoming more aware every day. By this age, your baby should be settling into a schedule, and giving you some much-needed rest!

This portion of WebMD’s month-by-month guide describes a few of the baby milestones you can expect your child to reach at three months.

Third Month Baby Milestones: Motor Skills

Those innate reflexes -- such as the startle reflex that your baby displayed during the first couple of months -- should be fading or gone by now. You’ve probably also noticed that baby’s neck strength is improving. When you hold them upright, you should see very little or even no head wobbling. Three-month-old babies also should have enough upper-body strength to support their head and chest with their arms while lying on their stomach and enough lower body strength to stretch out their legs and kick.

As you watch your baby, you should see some early signs of hand-eye coordination. Your baby’s hands can open and shut, come together, swipe at colorful dangling toys, briefly grab a toy or rattle, and go straight into the mouth.

Third Month Baby Milestones: Sleep

Your 3-month-old’s nervous system is maturing, and their stomach can accommodate more milk or formula. Those changes should allow your baby to sleep for a stretch of six or seven hours at a time, which translates into a good night's sleep for you.

If your baby does wake up in the middle of the night, wait about 30 seconds before heading into the nursery. Sometimes, babies will cry for a few seconds and then go back to sleep. When you rush in at the first sound of fussing, your baby won’t learn how to fall back asleep on their own.

When the cries don’t stop and you do need to go into your baby’s room in the middle of the night, stick to the essentials. Feeding and changing should be done in the dark, if possible, and then it’s right back into the crib. Eventually, they will get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping only.

Your baby’s daytime sleep schedule should also become more routine by now. Most 3-month-old babies take a few naps of about 1 1/2 to 2 hours each day.

Third Month Baby Milestones: The Senses

Your 3-month-old’s hearing and vision are improving. Babies this age turn their heads and smile at the sound of their parents’ voices, and they love listening to all kinds of music.

Your baby will still prefer to look at brightly colored toys. That’s because sharp contrasts are easier to see. Faces are absolutely fascinating to 3-month-old babies. Look at them and they will stare back into your eyes. Your infant will also gaze intently at their own reflection in a crib mirror.

Third Month Baby Milestones: Communication

At three months, your baby is becoming more of a unique human being. This is the stage that child psychiatrist Margaret Mahler referred to as ''hatching,'' when babies come out of their ''shells'' and begin to react and relate to the world around them. Part of this hatching process involves interacting with people and smiling for pleasure, otherwise known as social smiles.

By the third month, crying is no longer your baby’s primary method of communication. In fact, 3-month-old babies should cry for no more than an hour each day. If the crying exceeds this, or seems excessive to you, schedule a visit with your pediatrician, because reflux or another medical problem may be behind the tears.

Instead of crying, your baby is starting to communicate in other ways, such as cooing and making vowel sounds (''oh'' and ''ah,'' for example). Engage your little one in conversation by responding to these sounds and narrating what you are doing when you are together. Say, ''I’m going to change your diaper now,'' or, ''It’s time for lunch!'' Your baby will listen raptly to the sound of your voice and watch facial expressions as you talk. Eventually, they will start forming their own sounds and making their own gestures. Having conversations is also a great way to bond with your baby.

Your baby also needs to learn to develop close and trusting relationships with others. Let them get comfortable being held and talked to by someone else while you're around.

Third Month Baby Milestones: Missed Milestones

Every baby is a little different. Don’t be alarmed if your 3-month-old misses a milestone, especially if they were born prematurely. However, do call your pediatrician if your baby hasn’t done the following things by three months:

  • Responded to noises
  • Followed people or objects with their eyes
  • Smiled
  • Reached for objects

Tips for Your Baby’s Third Month

  • A number of experts offer advice on parenting, particularly on how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Listen to the advice, but trust your instincts. If letting your baby cry it out (the Ferber method) doesn’t work for your baby and it goes against your beliefs as a parent, don’t do it.
  • At 3 months, babies should still sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome.) Keep soft bumpers, stuffed toys, blankets, and sleep positioners out of the crib. Never put your baby down to sleep on a couch, chair, waterbed, or cushion. And don't let your baby sleep in a stroller, swing, or bouncer for extended periods of time -- unless it's the only way they'll sleep.
  • You might hear from a friend or family member that starting your baby on solid foods now will help them sleep through the night. But you need to wait at least one more month. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend that babies eat anything but breast milk or formula until they are between 4 months and 6 months old.

Show Sources


University of Maryland Medical Center: ''Moro reflex - Overview.''

Bond, AH. Margaret Mahler: A Biography of the Psychoanalyst, McFarland & Company, 2008.

Feigelman S. ''The first year,'' in Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed, Saunders Elsevier, 2007.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: ''Important Milestones: By the End of Three Months.''

Curtis, GB, MD, MPH, and Schuler, J, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week, Da Capo Press, 2005.

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Developmental Milestones: 3 Months," "How Do Infants Learn?" "Getting Your Baby to Sleep;" "Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play;" "A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep;" and "Emotional and Social Development: Birth to 3 Months."

AboutKidsHealth: "Colic;"  "Temperament;" and "Sleep Time."

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