Your baby’s fascinating first few months can pass by incredibly quickly, and so much can happen in that short space of time when it comes to their development. All babies are different, and there is no strict schedule when it comes to reaching specific milestones, but if you have doubts, trust your instincts and if you are worried, contact your healthcare professional.
In this series of posts, we’re looking at some of the general milestones that your baby might reach as he grows, along with tips on how you can help with his development. The previous post looks at your baby’s first two months, and in this one we’re going to take a look at things your baby might achieve in months 2-4 (but don’t panic if they don’t).
- Your baby’s little tummy gets a bit bigger, meaning that they can take more in at each feed, so they will need to feed less often.
- At around 3 months old, breastfed babies feed around 8 times a day. You may need to use your instincts to tell if your baby is getting enough milk – make sure they are properly latched on to your nipple and swallowing, and keep track of their weight gain and how many wet nappies they are producing (see section on changing below).
- If you decide to pump breast milk, there are some calculations you can do to figure out how much milk to put into each bottle.
- Formula-fed babies should generally not have more than 32 ounces in 24 hours. By 4 months, they should be feeding around 5 times in 24 hours, and having 4-6 ounces each time.
- Also, they may begin to feed more frequently during the day, but less frequently at night time.
- They will start to sleep a little bit less – around 9-10 hours at night with fewer naps during the day (a total of 14-16 hours a day).
- Babies may hit a 4-month sleep “regression”, which can be mild for some but rough for others. This is a permanent change where their sleep cycle begins to transition to be more like that of an adult.
- They may wake more frequently and need your help with falling back to sleep as they get used to these changes.
- Naps can become shorter, they may become fussier and feeding patterns can change.
- This can be a difficult time but hang in there!
- Sleep patterns may also change due to growth spurts, teething, and changes in nap frequency.
- At around 3 months, babies have 1 or more poos a day, but they may also skip a day or 2.
- Consistency of the poo is different for breastfed and formula-fed babies – soft and a little bit runny for breastfed, a little bit firmer (but not hard) for formula-fed.
- Poo can be a range of colours and textures, but if it’s hard your baby may be constipated, and if it’s too runny they may have an infection, allergy or could be reacting to medication.
- Urine should be pale and mild smelling.
- They will produce around 4-6 wet nappies every 24 hours.
- At 2-4 months your baby still won’t be spending a lot of time awake (around 8-10 hours in 24 hours) and plenty of this time will be taken up with feeding, changing and being bathed.
- The rest of this time can be used for learning and development (which we will discuss later in this post).
- As they start to grow and become stronger, they will be more interested in trying to move and grab things, so this is the stage where toys and games can be introduced.
- They can respond to familiar voices.
- They’re soothed by familiar sounds.
- They’re fascinated by the normal sounds of everyday life – from general chit chat to background music – these can all help to stimulate your baby’s hearing.
- They may respond best to higher pitch voices.
- They have better focus and will watch people move around – they will be fascinated by people, other babies and even their own reflection.
- They can process faces and begin to distinguish between people – particularly mum. They may act excited when they see her and try to get her attention.
- They can recognise and react to specific objects, such as getting excited when they see a bottle.
- They can see a variety of colours/shades, but soft, pastel colours are still difficult for them to see.
- They may become aware of distance and depth.
- Neck muscles become stronger and they will have more control over holding their head and turning it towards sources of sound, as well as lifting it during tummy time.
- Movements and grasping can become smoother and more controlled – they may start reaching for objects, grabbing them and even bringing them to their mouth.
- Their body becomes stronger meaning they may be able to keep their head steady while in a sitting position, roll from their stomach to back, use their arms to arch their back or move themselves slightly during tummy time.
- They can imitate facial expressions or gestures.
- They might be able to sit straight when propped up.
- You may notice different types of crying for different things. Eva Benmeleh has separated these into 6 needs: hungry, tired, overstimulated, scared, gassy and cuddles. These cries can be of varying intensities, and may coincide with body movements.
- Coos and gurgles will show contentment.
- Babbling sounds may also show that their hearing is developing well, as it has been found that these noises are motivated by a baby’s ability to hear themselves.
- They realise that they can make noises to attract attention and start to imitate sounds that they hear.
- They may also start to laugh – so sweet!
Other cute little things
- Your baby will gradually gain weight (around 2/3 of an ounce per day). The average weight for 4-month olds is 13.7lbs (6.2kg) for girls and 14.8lbs (6.7kg) for boys (remember, this is just the average and it will vary a lot – the most important thing is that your baby is gaining weight steadily).
- Short-term memory begins to develop, as well as their understandings of physics and of cause and effect. They start to notice that their movements can make things happen in their environment, increasing their desire to move, feel and explore.
- They bring their hands to their mouths and may suck on them to self-satisfy.
- It’s possible that early signs of their first teeth can occur from 3 months. They may start to rub their gums and dribble a lot in preparation for their first little tooth.
- They will be fascinated by different textures, and will often want to put these interesting things straight in their mouths – so keep them away from small objects.
Tips to help development
Some of the things that we discussed for your baby’s first 2 months can be continued and increased. Babies are learning rapidly, so it’s important to keep them stimulated as they grow. Some more ideas to stimulate development are:
- Increase tummy time to 15-30 minutes a day.
- If they don’t seem to be getting along with it, try laying down with them to get them to imitate you.
- It has been found that more activity in the day may help your baby to sleep better at night.
- Music can help with their social development – play it for them or introduce a musical toy, like a little drum.
- Keep talking, reading and singing to your baby – add story time into your bedtime routine. This is very important, not only when it comes to stimulating their language development, but with developing their overall brain activity and future academic performance. According to a documentary from the BBC , language foundations need to be set early on as children who hear more language when they’re younger tend to do better in school. And you don’t need to be any kind of specialist – just talk to your baby.
- If you feel silly talking to your baby, try narrating what you’re doing – any speech can help to get your their ear tuned to language.
Touch and movement
- Stimulate touch by letting your baby touch a variety of materials, or getting a touchy-feely book.
- Let them play with rattles or other brightly coloured toys.
- Use skin to skin contact to comfort them – it has been found that skin to skin touch can even help with brain development.
- Try a mobile and/or baby gym.
- If your baby is constipated, try massaging their tummy or moving their legs in a bicycle motion.
- Help your baby to fall asleep in the ways they have always fallen to sleep (such as nursing or rocking) – they can be weaned from these later.
- Use a dummy to soothe them.
- Induce naps with a swing (but don’t leave them in there for too long).
- Give full feeds where possible at night time to lower the chances of them waking up from hunger.
Other bonding tips
- Play games like peekaboo and this little piggy.
- Keep smiling at your baby. In our previous post, we spoke about how newborns can recognise facial expressions, and this develops as they grow. Positive facial expressions can help your baby feel safe, as well as encourage social smiles.
- Place your baby in front of a mirror – they love their own reflection.
- Give your baby lots of affection to make them feel secure and happy.
Things to look out for
Your baby is learning so many new things and developing rapidly – it’s a lot for them to do, so don’t worry if they’re not reaching milestones as fast as other babies. At the end of 4 months, contact your healthcare professional if you have concerns over your baby:
- Squinting, eyes not lining up, not paying attention to faces, etc.
- Not making or responding to sounds
- Not feeding or sleeping well
- Sleeping too much
- Crying excessively
- Not beginning to smile or move a lot
- Being unusually stiff or floppy
- Keep their hands in a fist most of the time
Always keep an open mind with the speed of your baby’s development – they will learn to do things in their own time; just make sure to comfort and encourage them.