After a full solid month of hand squeezing, cute/strange noises and a lot of sleep, you should already be noticing some rather large changes in your baby's day-to-day behaviour. For our next part of our Development Calendar, we delve into what happens after 3 months have passed, and when your child officially graduates into an infant! - spoilers: it involves a lot of peek-a-boo!
Whilst a baby can't have full control of their head yet, by placing them on their tummy they should be able to lift both their head and chest. The key is to try and encourage their strength and growth at opportune moments; if lying on their tummy, dangle a toy and see them try to push themselves upwards and towards it. On their back, he or she may even be able to lift and briefly hold up her head while lying down - just be careful not to let it fall back down with a thud! - and as their neck and head muscles become ever stronger, he or she could even learn to roll over at this point.
If it's all sounding a little more like dog training than the development of a human child, there's other, more exclusive behaviour to observe. His or hands will remain closed for most of the time, but they are capable of gripping objects (such as rattles & toys) and holding them for a time. At their current state of mental development, they may not even realize their hands and fingers are even part of them, and so you'll often catch them waving them back and forth in bemusement! That said, they're well aware of objects by now, and will have their own ways of distinguishing them from everything else. It will be a while before object permanence becomes a concept they're familiar with, so once Elmo's been dropped on the floor, he's dead to them!
The small reactions you may have gotten out your precious little bundle will rapidly expand as the activity in their temporal lobe does too. This part of the brain handles different aspects of language, smell, memory and emotions, and as a result your baby will have a discernible sense of humour. Tickling and raspberries should slowly be working their way into both of your daily routines, as these also help develop muscles all over their body.
It's possible even at this early point in their development for your baby to turn their head in your direction when you're speaking. Talking, singing, rhyming...even rapping to them will be met with reactions of babbling, gurgling and sounds that vaguely resemble vowels like 'ah' and 'oh. There will be a noticeable tonal change in their voice depending on the emotions at play, and among large groups of strangers you'll start to notice their preference for familiar company.
The same Swiss study we cited last time (by Iglowstein and colleagues for Pediatrics 111(2): 302-307) found that at 3 months old, over a 24 hour period, the average baby slept a total of 14-15 hours, that 50% of babies in the study got between 13 and 16 hours sleep and 96% of babies slept between 10-19 hours. This is only a marginal difference to the result-set put forward for one year olds, but what's important to note at this stage is how much of that sleep is occurring at night.
By the 3 month mark, your little one's rather erratic sleeping pattern may actually resemble yours, though don't be surprised if this tough period of short stretches of sleep lasts till six months, or even beyond. Best advice is to encourage energised activity during the day, slotted around a sleeping routine of two, maybe three tiny naps during the day to help set up a longer sleeping period at night.
After an extended fascination with the abstract edges of everything around them, babies at 3 months find a new interest in the wondrous shapes, sizes and feels of the human face. It won't take long from now before they're able to recognize your face in a photograph - provided its clear enough - and whilst there's not enough depth perception to not have you worried, it is most certainly there in some form.
If you haven't done so already, begin reading to your baby as a way of tuning their ear to the sound of language. What makes a good baby book is anything printed with large, brightly coloured pictures and easy sounds and text, and textured pages with felt or fuzz are great fun for them too. If you're a bilingual household, speaking different tongues will help their speech development, but if not, it may be a good idea to learn the basics of a new language and to speak it as a way of encouraging their English (or whatever mother-tongue you want them to have) later on.
Right now, your baby loves the touch of your, well, touch. Any bit of stroking, carrying , massaging, lifting and rocking will help them to relax, but also to strengthen their attention span and reactions. You'll notice they're far more active than in the first month. Their increased joint flexibility will let them wave and kick with more force, whether that's in the bath or on the floor. Whilst you don't need to invest in complex toys beyond rattles and the like just yet, games of pat-a-cake and the aforementioned peek-a-boo are at just the right level of complexity for them to join in.
As always, we remind you that all babies develop differently, and if any of the changes noted in this article don't become apparent to you it's nothing to fret over. Should you have any concerns that you would like addressed, you can let us know them in the comments, or you can share them with many other Mums through our Facebook page, on Twitter or on Google+.