What should my Baby learn in the first 3 months of life?

  • July 22, 2018

The big day came, and you are finally bringing home a precious bundle, your beautiful newborn baby.

You have high expectations of yourself.

You want to be a great mommy.

You also have great dreams for your baby, and as most mothers do, you have lots of questions.

How to bathe her?

What to feed her?

Is swaddling good for her?

How long should you nurse?

How to bathe her?

What to feed her?

Is swaddling good for her?

How long should you nurse?

Is she developing well?

What should she learn next?

You want to make sure that your baby grows and develops perfectly.

If your baby is healthy and developing on time, then you will be a happy mommy.

Most of the time moms don’t have to worry about their baby’s development. Most babies develop well.

Unfortunately, sometimes babies have developmental difficulties and it is vital that you notice it early.

If you notice the delays early your baby’s development can be put back on track sooner and better.

How will you know if there is a problem?

Mothers intuition.

You, the mother could notice if there is a problem with your babies’ development before anybody else can. Sometimes grandmothers can help point out some concerns as well.

Listen to your gut feelings. Listen to grandma.

You or grandma might not know what the problem is, but it does not matter.

What is important is that you notice it.

Listen to your gut feelings. Listen to grandma.

You or grandma might not know what the problem is, but it does not matter.

What is important is that you notice it.

Follow up on your hunches, your intuitions. If you feel that there could be a developmental delay with your baby take her to a medical professional and ask for an evaluation.

Don’t settle with a: “Let’s wait and see if he outgrows it.” - option. If you sense a delay in your baby, it is best to figure out as soon as possible. 

Some babies will outgrow the delays, but some will need months or years of therapeutic intervention to teach them walking.

The sooner the therapeutic interventions start, the better, and the faster your baby’s recovery will be.

And therapy is not harmful. Not even for babies who would have outgrown their delays by themselves. So you have nothing to lose, only gain.

Learn about baby development.

Know what is considered normal or average. It will help you detect sooner if there is a problem with your baby’s development.

The first 3 months of life.

It is around her 3rd months of age when your newborn turns into a baby, an infant.

Something happens at 3 months of age. Something magical and yet to be explained by science.

That something is responsible for this profound change in your baby.

Scientists are continuously making observations and collecting data about what happens during development.  This data is what we rely on to determine if a baby is developing on time.

So even though science still cannot tell us what force is responsible facilitating development, we know the sequence very well.

We also know that particular skills are a prerequisite of the higher level skills like walking or talking.

Keep in mind that there are no two babies alike. And thus there are no two babies who develop the same way.

Having said that it is a good practice to compare your child to the “checklist” of average skill development.

That is what your pediatrician does, that is what a neurologist does, and that is what we physical therapists do.

But the developmental checklist is only a guide. A guide to follow but not to be obsessed about.

Our scientific understanding is pointing us to look at the big picture, not only at a list or checklist.

To understand infant and human development better, we must look at multi-disciplines.

Your baby’s development depends on many factors. So your baby achievements of developmental milestones will be different from the norm or average even if she is developing well.

To make sure your baby will walk and talk on time it is wise to keep an eye on her development from birth. This way if something goes wrong you can help her early.

Birth to three months is a crucial time frame. It is the first building block, the foundation for the rest of the developmental milestones to build upon.

If something goes wrong in the first 3 months, it could affect the development of the big milestones like rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, talking and walking.

Let’s look at what a newborn can do.

Your newborn's skill set

Your newborn baby has to recover from the stresses of being born in the first few days of her life.  She only has a short period to allocate to rest because she has to start to discover her body, her body movements, her abilities and start using them.

Your baby is born with many reflexes that help her stay alive and help her start exploring her internal and external environment.

Using these reflexes and other (at this time unknown) inborn forces she has to learn a lot of new movements and behaviors to be able to grow up and live an independent, productive life one day.

During her first weeks of life your newborn baby will prefer a curled up position no matter how you hold her.

If you lay her on her belly she will naturally keep her legs like a little frog, her arms will also be bent, and she will keep her fisted hands close to her face.

She will appear to be pulling herself relatively strong into this position.

This is called the flexion contracture.

During her first weeks of life your newborn baby will prefer a curled up position no matter how you hold her.

If you lay her on her belly she will naturally keep her legs like a little frog, her arms will also be bent, and she will keep her fisted hands close to her face.

She will appear to be pulling herself relatively strong into this position.

This is called the flexion contracture.

Her back muscles, however, will appear weaker than her belly, she barely holds her head no matter what position she is in.

If you would pick her up holding her chest off the bed when she is on her belly her head and legs will hang. In just a short month she will attempt to lift them a little.

As she grows, she will be able to lift her head higher and higher, and at 5 months (some babies at 3 months) she will be able to hold her entire body straight flying like an airplane. This is helped via an emerging reflex appearing around 3-5 months.

Newborn checklist

  • On belly: keeps her head to one side, hips and bum raised, knees drawn up    
  • Keeps her fisted hands near her face
  • Clenches your finger when feels it in her palm = Grasp reflex
  • Responds with a startle or smile to sound of bell or rattle
  • Stops crying or quiets when you pick her up

Your baby’s first-month skill set

By the first month of life, your newborn baby will have changed. You will notice several new skills that your baby has learned in just a short 4 weeks of life.

One of the first learned behaviors you should see is your baby following your face when you move.

She will also be able to turn her head from side to side laying on her back or belly.

And while on her belly she will pick and hold her head up briefly. She will even attempt to belly crawl but with minimal success.

When you hold her on your shoulder, she will attempt and succeed to lift and hold her head for several seconds.

She will start to be curious about the people and object she has been exposed to in the first month.

She will quiet down when she hears or sees your face toy relatively close to her eyes.

1 month checklist  


  • On belly: lifts her head up and holds it a few short seconds.
  • On belly: makes crawling movements
  • Held sitting: her head will fall forward; her back will be rounded     but she will lift her head briefly
  • When you hold her on your shoulder, she will lift her head up   briefly
  • Laying on her back: when she holds her head to one side her arm   and leg will be straight on the same side, but her arm and leg will   be bent on the opposite side = asymmetrical tonic neck reflex
  • Laying on her back and belly: she will turn her head side to side
  • She will make small throaty noises
  • She will show interest in your voice and will quiet if she sees your face or hears your voice
  • She will follow a rattle or your face with her eyes when you move it   in front of her face

Your baby’s second-month skill set

By the end of the second month, your baby’s movements will change significantly.

Her tendency to stay curled up in all positions is going to be significantly less by the end of the second month.

You will find her laying relaxed with straight legs and straighter arms more often.

While laying on her back, she will kick her legs straight out reciprocally whereas until now she kicked her legs randomly.

With all this kicking she will find herself turning to the side, and by the end of the month, she will attempt to roll onto her side and back independently and deliberately.

When she is laying on her belly, she will pick her head up higher and higher. As the month progresses, she will start lifting her chin off of the mattress.

By the end of the month, she will hold her head pretty high. And she will be able to keep it up for longer periods of time.

Even dough she is getting stronger when you hold her in sitting her head will still hang forward, you have to hold it up for her.

When you place a small rattle in her hand, she will hold onto it for 15-20 seconds.

Sometimes she will grab her own to hands and keep them held together for a while. You should also see her tendency to grab onto your finger to lessen. 

She will start to recognize certain people and happenings. You will know when she recognized something because she will become excited at the time of recognition and will even begin to smile.

She will also recognize strangers and either stop her activities or start crying when the strangers approach her.

She will start making new sounds. Her sounds will be mainly vowels. Mostly the sound of “aa”.

2 months checklist 

  • On belly: she will lift her head, and her chin will sometimes be lifted off the bed
  • Laying on her back: she will straighten her legs sometimes
  • Laying on her side, she will turn to her back
  • She will hold her hands together
  • She will hold a rattle placed in her hands for 15-20 seconds before dropping it
  • Grasp reflex will be disappearing
  • She will make sounds of vowels
  • She will recognize happenings and will show anticipatory excitement
  • She will respond to you with excitement, smiles, and moving her arms and legs and with sounds
  • She will start to smile at others as well: father, siblings, grandparents
  • She will start to respond differently to people. For example, she will cry when the mother leaves, even when other people are present.

Your baby’s third-month skill set

By the end of the third month, something magical happens.

The helpless newborn baby that you brought home in short 12 weeks is not that helpless anymore.

She will have some fundamental skills mastered, and she will show a peep into you her personality as well.

Your new little person will be able to hold her head up well in several different positions.

When on her belly, she will hold her head up close to 90 degrees. She will be able to do this because she does not curl her legs up underneath herself anymore and she also uses her arms to keep her head up high.

When you show her a toy, she will attempt to reach for it. More often than not she will miss it though.

However, if you put the rattle into her hands, she will be much better at holding it than last month.

She will hold the rattle in her hands and try to move it in front of her face to learn what it is. She won’t be able to do it for long, but every trial will bring her closer to perfection.

Despite her new ability to manipulate toys her favorite past time is looking at your face.

Babies at this age are good at eye contact, and they love to be talked to. They will attempt to talk with you and might even answer you with an “I love you”!

3 months checklist 


  • Held by her chest up high: she will hold her head high above her body
  • On belly: she will push up onto her forearms to help herself raise head and chest off the bed
  • She will reach for toys with both hands but will miss most of the time
  • Grasp reflex will be disappearing more; her fingers will be loosely closed instead of clenched
  • She will explore objects, like a rattle when you place it into her hands
  • She will be more interested in you, your face than a toy
  • She will start to chuckle
  • She will begin to look around at her surroundings
  • She will start to babble or coo when you talk to her
  • She will look at your face and eyes when you talk to her

You can print out the checklist here.

These are the major mile markers that we therapists look at.

However, we also look at how a baby moves.

It is essential to know whether your baby is executing the movements correctly. A medical professional can help you to evaluate that.

If you have any concerns about the way your baby is moving, even if she is “on time” please express your concerns to your pediatrician.

My experience treating babies is that these first 3 months are our biggest window of opportunity to save someone from very poor development.

Some pediatricians and neurologists might tell you that it is too early to determine if there is a problem.  They might suggest waiting. They want to see if the baby outgrows her delays.

I respectfully disagree.

Waiting is not a constructive approach.

Treating the baby even though she might outgrow it on her own is constructive.

Early education or therapy is beneficial to all babies. And it is a constructive approach.

Alternatively, you can look for a physical therapist who specializes in infant care and asks their professional opinion and treatment.

I advocate early therapy to avoid the possible risk of your baby being delayed.

If your baby did not master the following look for a medical professional

  • Doesn’t seem to respond to loud noises
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    Doesn’t follow a rattle moved in front of her face with her eyes by 2 to 3 months
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    Doesn’t smile at the sound of your voice by 2 months
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    Doesn’t grasp and hold a rattle that you place in her hands for a few seconds to a minute by 3 months
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    Doesn’t smile at you by 3 months
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    Doesn’t support her head well in all positions by 3 months
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    Crosses her eyes most of the time (all babies in the first months will be crossing their eyes occasionally)

The best approach to help your baby is to educate yourself about infant development and keep records about your baby's development.

With intention, a vision, a clear goal, patience, persistence, daily repletion, and a joyful firm belief in your baby, in yourself and the universe anything is possible!

As always, enjoy your baby and motherhood.

See your baby (babies) as a gift for you to love and cherish.


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