Month 03 Physical Development

Your baby loves to move. It's almost as if she still remembers her cramped quarters from a few months ago and is making the most of her newfound freedom.

She can get a surprising amount of exercise while lying on her back. Put her down on her blanket, and she'll probably kick and flap as if trying to take flight. She's not getting very far, but her excited squeals tell you she's having a great time.

If you put her on her tummy, she'll be able to lift her head briefly and search the room with her eyes. She'll be thrilled if you get down to her level and look her in the eye. Nothing in the world is more interesting than your face.

Whether she's on her back or her tummy, she might roll or scoot before you expect it. You definitely can't let her sleep on a couch or near the edge of a bed, and you can't leave her alone on a changing table for even a second.

The real fun starts when you prop her up on your lap or a baby seat. This position gives her a chance to play with her favorite new toys: her hands. After two months of clenching her fists, she's finally starting to unfurl her fingers. If she seems reluctant to unclench her fists, try gently rubbing the back of her hand. Her fingers should stretch out right on cue.

She's also realizing that her hands are actually a part of her body and are always available. You can encourage her to use her hands by dangling toys within reach. For an extra challenge, slowly move the target from side to side. She'll also enjoy swiping at a mobile -- just be sure that she can't get tangled.

At first, her swipes and jabs will completely miss the mark. She's just starting to develop some depth perception, and her eyes and hands aren't always on the same page. After a little practice, she'll be grabbing things whether you want her to or not. Your hair, your glasses, your nose -- everything within reach is fair game.

You may be surprised by the force of her grip. You'll also notice that she can hold onto a rattle or a ring toy for much longer than before. When she does drop a toy, it may be because of boredom rather than exhaustion. If she doesn't start grabbing and holding objects by the end of her third month, talk to her pediatrician.

Your baby won't miss many chances to put something in her mouth, either -- whether it's a toy, a book, or her fingers. She can't easily pick up small objects like coins or buttons, but you don't want to take any chances. From now until she's at least 3-years-old, you'll have to keep all choking hazards -- including popcorn, hot dogs, and whole grapes -- out of reach.

Her legs are getting stronger, too. If you hold her up, she'll push straight down and support her weight for a few moments. Your lap is probably her favorite place to stand. Let her lean on your chest and look over your shoulder.

And then there's the really big breakthrough, the triumphant moment that every parent eagerly anticipates. At this age, she might be ready to sleep through the night. (Don't expect "sleeping through the night" to be more than five or six hours, though.) If your baby hasn't reached this milestone yet, she may at least start sleeping in longer stretches. As active as she is, she definitely needs her rest.

References

Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby. From Birth to Age Two. 2003. Little, Brown and Co.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. 2009. Bantam Books.

University of Florida, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. How I grow: Months three and four. August 2003. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FY633

Mayo Clinic. Infant choking: How to keep your baby safe. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infant-choking/MY01224

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