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Your 3-month-old baby is discovering the world. How amazing is that? As your little one becomes more engaged during playtime, you might be inspired to get in on the fun—and you should! However, don’t be nervous about giving your 3-month-old some independent (but supervised) play time when they can explore toys, observe the environment around them and practice their ever-developing skills.
With a baseline understanding of a 3-month-old baby’s milestones, you can track progress and consult with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns. And, remember, even when it seems like you are sitting on the sidelines, you have a big role to play. After all, who wouldn’t want a personal cheerleader there to support developmental milestones?
Related: It’s OK for your child to play alone
3-month milestones at a glance
At 3 months old, many babies who experienced colic are coming out of it. Cheers to that! As a result, you can get some more quality bonding time and really can begin to appreciate their blossoming personality. You’re both starting to exit the fourth trimester fog, too, which means more changes are on the horizon—your little one is starting to understand that they’re a whole separate human from mama, will outgrow some of their newborn reflexes and is much more alert and active than in those early weeks and months.
An in-depth look at 3-month milestones
Three months marks a major social milestone: Your little one may now smile at the sound of your voice! Is there anything sweeter? From changes in their vision development to new and improved gross motor skills, here’s what else you may expect to happen in the third month.
3-month developmental milestones
Here’s what The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says about 3-month-old baby milestones.
(Editor’s note: The 3-month milestone guidelines were written to reflect the behaviors that 50% or more of children exhibit at a certain age. Note that milestones are not a perfect metric: It’s key to speak to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your unique child.)
- Your 3-month-old’s vision has come a long way since birth. They now enjoy watching faces intently. If you get the feeling you are being watched, it’s probably because you are—by your precious little admirer.
- With sharp hearing, your baby may not like loud, surprising sounds—but they sure do love the sound of your voice. They will turn their head toward you when they hear you speak.
- Baby may also start babbling away at this stage, and beginning to imitate some sounds.
- Welcome to the best feeling ever: Your little one may smile when they see or hear you, in what’s known as a ‘social smile.’
Gross motor skills
- Your baby can support their upper body on their arms while practicing tummy time.
- Walking is still a ways off, but your 3-month-old is ready to get those muscles working by pushing firmly down on the ground when held upright above a surface. They may also stretch their legs out when laying on their back.
Fine motor skills
- Improved hand-eye coordination skills help your baby accurately reach for and grab items placed around them. (This is your cue to skip your dangling earrings for a while.)
- Your baby can grasp and shake toys in their hand. They also like bringing objects to their mouth, so be careful they can’t grab anything small enough to be a choking hazard.
Baby’s sleep at 3 months
At 3 months, you’re probably a pro now at picking up on your little one’s sleepy cues, like rubbing their eyes, yawning, a kind of glazed-eye look or a very specific type of cry. But you can cue them, too: Using a white noise machine as part of your baby’s nap and night routine can also be a helpful signal that it’s time to settle down for sleep.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a newborn should get 12-16 hours of sleep per 24 hours. “Your baby is no longer considered a newborn in this stage, and they don’t need quite as much sleep as they did prior. My recommendation for total sleep is between 3.5 to 5.5 hours of day sleep and between 10 to 12 hours of night sleep,” says Rachel Mitchell, founder of My Sweet Sleeper. Mitchell notes that this may not mean your child is sleeping for 10 hours straight during the night—you can still expect one to two middle-of-the-night feeds. But their night sleep is starting to get a little more organized. (Phew!)
What baby sleep looks like at 3 months:
- Your baby may be taking 3 to 4 naps per day
- Your baby may be sleeping in 3- to 6-hour windows at night
- Your baby may be awake for 60 to 90 minutes at a time, or even 120 minutes between their last nap and bedtime.
Read more: How much sleep does a 12-week-old baby need?
Feeding a 3-month-old
The 3-month mark can be a turning point for many families: many feeding challenges seem to get resolved and you tend to fall into a regular pattern of responding to their cues while also helping to gently coax them onto a semblance of a schedule (though all that may go out the window once teething or illness strikes—so sorry to say!). But you two have already come so far—and that’s worth shouting out.
The AAP and La Leche League (LLL) recommend the following feeding timeline and amounts for 3-month-olds:
- Breast milk: 4 to 5 ounces every 3 to 4 hours
- Formula: 4 to 5 ounces every 4 hours
Are you pumping or using the combination feeding method, mama? Whether you’ve already established a pumping routine or are just starting out, don’t forget to set up a cleaning method that works for you—while keeping bacteria at bay. The CDC recommends sanitizing pump parts in the dishwasher right after use, or stashing used parts in the fridge until you have time to properly clean them. We’re also fans of the microwaveable steam sterilizing bags.
Read more: 12-week-old baby feeding schedule & amounts
Activities for 3-month-olds
Your tiny tot is becoming more bubbly by the minute. From smiling to squealing, babbling to grabbing, they’re really starting to explore their world—and the people in it.
Here are a few activities for a 3-month-old baby to try:
Let the good times roll: Try placing a toy just out of reach during tummy time to help encourage a flip. If that doesn’t sway your tot, let baby experience the sensation of rolling over by gently placing baby’s elbow and arm under their chest and slowly rolling baby in that arm’s direction onto the back.
Smart swaps: Now’s a good time to start the practice of rotating in and out some of your little one’s toys. Swapping toys in and out of storage help keep things feeling fresh for them and encourage them to engage with their toys in different ways.
Cause and effect: Enhance baby’s understanding of what happens when they create an action by helping those tiny fingers flip light switches on and off, shake a rattle to make noise and drop a bath toy in the tub to make a splash!
Our favorite products for 3-month-olds
Supporting your 3-month-old baby’s development
Ready to make the most of those wake windows? These 3-month-old baby activities can support your cutie’s development.
- Soothe your 3-month-old baby by snuggling and having calm moments together. It may be tempting to go-go-go while they are awake, but it can help you both to slow down on occasion.
- Play with your 3-month-old baby by introducing a few new toys they can bat at, grab or play with. An interactive play gym is a good bet!
- Engage your 3-month-old baby’s senses by having “conversations,” even though they are one-sided. By giving your baby the chance to respond and then pretending like they do, they are learning about communication.
It’s science: There’s no such thing as “spoiling” your baby
Your 3-month-old baby has come a long way. But, really, they are still a baby. A very young baby! And that means their top priority in life is getting their needs met and feeling comfort.
As Dr. David Mrazek, chairman of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic, said, “During the first six months, it’s really impossible to spoil a child. Meeting an infant’s need to be comforted, held and fed in a predictable fashion helps him feel secure and builds a loving relationship between parent and child. It does not lead to spoiling.”
A note from Motherly: 3-month milestones
We believe there’s truly something to be said for “mama knows best.” As you continue to get to know your baby, their personality and their interests, you can support them—while also learning to trust your intuition when it comes to helping them meet their baby milestones.
Look ahead: 4-month-old baby milestones
A version of this story was originally published on Oct. 16, 2021. It has been updated.