Child Development Guide: Months 3-4
- Understand the stages of child development so you know what to expect, what is typical, and what your child is capable of
- This guide covers brain development, sleep, travel/carseat safety, nutrition and feeding, play, abilities, physical and emotional development, and key guidelines for safety
- Attuning to your child’s needs at each stage allows them to form a healthy attachment to you; this guide will keep you informed of what the whole child needs as they grow!
Everything is changing SO FAST, right? With my first, I quickly realized that my emotions were all over the place in these early months because I was constantly mourning the baby I’d had the day before. In this first year, change happens at lightning speed and it forces us to learn the art of detachment.
What do I mean by detachment? I mean that, while we love our child and are forming secure ATTACHMENT through a trusting relationship, we are not holding on to them too tightly, we are not enmeshed.
We already know that we are preparing them for the day they leave us to go fly on their own and we realize they are a unique individual on their own journey.
It also means accepting who they are right now.
Yes, it’s so hard, I know. This ability to live in the moment is KEY to a healthy, happy life. It’s called mindfulness, and you’re being challenged by this beautiful child to get to this place of living in the present without resistance to it.
Please set up an Illumination Call with your Family Alchemist™ if you’re really struggling with anxiety or just want to start learning now how you can best serve this precious baby. Together, we can make sure your parenting experience is one filled with joy.
Encouraging Whole Brain Development:
- Help me feel emotionally and physically safe at all times. If my brain goes into the stress response, the rest of my brain can’t grow and develop; I can’t learn.
- Hold me and look into my eyes; hold my hand, give me a massage, hug me.
- Respond in consistent ways.
- Give me lots of objects to manipulate. Let me explore the world hands-on.
- Show me unconditional love.
- Experience joy with me.
- Talk to me, sing to me, read to me. Read the same stories or sing the same songs over and over so I learn to memorize.
- Listen to me and respond.
- Surround me with interesting things to look at.
- Play games where I follow things with my eyes.
- Let me move – a LOT. Take me to playgrounds, swimming pools, dance with me. Let me wiggle and roll. Let me take some “risks” while I learn to move.
- Make sure I have plenty of outdoor time to begin to develop distance vision
- Serve & Return: stay present with me so when I try to show you I need or am interested in something, you respond and encourage, letting us explore together.
Stage of Brain Development:
- The brain develops at a rapid rate during the first year.
- The cerebellum triples in size during the first year causing a rapid development of motor skills.
- Should now be able to see objects about 3′ away
- The brain creates millions of neural pathways, called synapses
- The connections that need to stick must be repeated over and over until about age 8 or 9
- All tasks must be built layer by layer
- Unused connections are discarded
- Children will internalize your emotional coaching so they can cope with their feelings as they get older (“This is hard but you can do it,” “This is scary but I’m here with you, you’re safe,” “Hitting people hurts, but I can hit this drum instead.”)
- Of the three processing areas of the brain, the thinking level, or cortex, is the last to develop. All of us experience emotions before reasoning kicks in, but for young children this difference is more dramatic.
- Infant is totally dependent on caregiver to calm them and help them regulate.
- Children are mostly in Delta brainwave cycles from 0-2, with very little critical thinking or judgment taking place.
- Number of naps: 3 (see sample schedules at The Baby Sleep Site)
- Length of naptime hours: 5-6
- Nighttime sleep hours: 10-11
- Total sleep hours: 15
- Nighttime wakings: 2-3 Times
- Establish a simple bedtime routine – bath, books, bed — for example. Even singing the same song is a helpful cue for them that it’s time to sleep.
- Watch for cues that they are sleepy, such as red eyebrows, losing interest in toy/surroundings, stop making eye contact, stop babble
- Regression expected right around start of month 4, but can start as early as 3 or as late as month 5 – this is a permanent change in their sleep
- Baby no longer spending as much time in deep sleep, will likely wake up if laid down before in deep sleep cycle
- Will enter deep sleep in about 30 minutes
- Cycles in and out of deep sleep every 45-50 minutes
- Deepest sleep first 5 hours, so if sleep associations are strong he will need your help after midnight or so every 45-90 minutes
- Sleep Association: Something you do with your baby that they fall asleep during; rocking, walking, singing, nursing, feeding, etc.
- 4-6AM will be lightest sleep cycle of the night, may not be true wake up for the day
- Symptoms of the regression include:
- Changes in appetite
- Lots of night waking iii. Increased (inconsolable) crying and fussiness
- Missed naps/shorter naps
- To Fix:
- Work on sleep associations
- Establish a schedule
- Put baby to sleep on their back on a flat, firm surface
- Follow safe co-sleeping guidelines if you choose to co-sleep, knowing that only Mom has natural alertness to baby’s safety
- Consider using a large, firm breastfeeding pillow, like the My Brest Friend (deluxe for plus-size)
- Always make sure a baby’s nose and mouth are unobstructed
- Do not fall asleep with baby in a recliner or on a couch, do not leave baby asleep anywhere but in a crib
- Do not use a non-breathable bumper or leave pillows, toys, or blankets in the crib
- Crib slats should be no wider apart than a soda can
- Consider using a ceiling fan to reduce the risk of SIDS by moving carbon dioxide away from the baby
- Use a baby monitor or be close enough so that you will easily wake when they cry
- Never leave them asleep in a car seat or swing unless they are properly reclined,strapped in snugly, and are supervised because they can easily slouch down and block their airway
- Consider using a pacifier to reduce the risk of SIDs
- Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your child
- Do use a sleep sack to keep baby warm if it’s winter – no blankets
- When your baby is crying, comfort by talking, patting, stroking, rocking, or walking with them in your arms, a sling, or stroller
- Child should be rear facing in an infant or convertible seat until they outgrow the height (they should always be 1″ below the top of the seat as they will extend at least that much in a crash) or weight limits of that seat (usually around 40lbs, but check your manufacturer’s information.)
- Seat should be in the back, never in a seat with a passenger airbag.
- Strap should be snug with the buckle across the center of their chest.
- You can install the seat with latch up until the combined weight of the seat and child is 60lbs. There are also seats that use the seat belt but offer very quick installation, like the Britax Clicktight.
- Seat should be reclined as far as possible at this age, within the safe range indicated by your seat (no more than 45 degrees). You can use a tightly rolled towel or foam pool noodles to help you achieve a proper recline.
- Do not smoke in the car.
- Do not leave baby unattended in the car.
- Cold weather: Do not bundle the baby as it will compress in a crash, instead, secure the baby then place blankets safely over them. A thin fleece jacket is recommended. Check out The Carseat Poncho as well.
- Warm weather: It can get very hot in a rear facing car seat. Dress your baby in layers and remove any extra. Use sun shields on the windows and do your best to direct air into the seat.
- CRYING: Use radio white noise, children’s music, or music with a good beat (similar to a heartbeat). Babies often like to look at mirrors, but do not use them if you will be too distracted by them. They make mirrors with dangling toys that swing when the car moves which I had success with.
- SHOPPING: NEVER put an infant carrier style car seat in the top (child seat) section of a shopping cart. It changes the center of gravity and the cart (and your baby) came easily tip over. It could also ruin your car seat!
- Instead, carry or baby wear
- Or place the seat inside the main cart area
- Baby will breastfeed 6-8 times per day. Or, offer 2.5oz of formula per pound of their weight a day– spread out in 4-7oz bottles every 2-4 hours. Each baby is different.
- Hunger cues: puts hands to mouth, sucks or roots, fussing
- Baby is full when: they turn away, close mouth, or relax hands
- Burp during natural feeding breaks
- Watch for food sensitivities. Mucous in the stool can indicate a dairy allergy.
- If breastfeeding, eliminate dairy and/or soy from your diet
- Change to a soy or special formula as needed
- Visit sites like kellymom.com or your lactation consultant if you have supply issues.
- You may have luck increasing your supply by switching to a lower carb diet (lean proteins, healthy fats, and unlimited fruits and vegetables)
- If using a bottle, you may need to experiment until you find the right one, always start with a slow nipple, don’t increase nipple speed if you’re still breastfeeding.
- Fussiness begins around 2-3 weeks as their digestive system is developing
- It peaks around 10 weeks and subsides by 3-4 months
- Breast milk and sucking help them to digest
- Breastmilk is a laxative, so it will keep their bowels moving
- Sucking/saliva releases digestive enzymes and relaxes the baby’s bowels
- You can use simethicone to help with gas, but using it regularly will make problems worse
- You can try Gripe Water/Colic Calm
- First check:
- Is my baby tired?
- Is it the “witching hour“? About 6PM-9PM – bedtime!
- Baby is overstimulated from the activity of the day
- Am I calm?
- Is my baby hungry?
- Does my baby just need to be held? Does he or she need motion to relax?
- Try baby-wearing! I recommend a ring sling
- Try a baby swing that plugs in, make sure they are buckled in snug or reclined enough that their head is not falling forward on their chest
- Try infant massage, use a lavender lotion or lavender bath soap at night
- First check:
- No solids until 6 months, baby’s digestive system is not ready!
- No honey until 1 year
- Do not give an infant water
- Lay baby on a blanket for some tummy time!
- Lay in front of them and talk to them and encourage them
- Keep attempts short
- Read to baby and talk to them as much as possible
- Offer large toys that rattle, jingle, or make other noise when they manipulate them
- Sing songs to them
- Blow bubbles
Mental Leaps (from The Wonder Weeks app, download here):
- Third leap (Smooth Transitions) starts between 11.5 and 12.5 weeks (from due date)
- Third major neurodevelopmental leap since birth
- Follows something with eyes in fluid motion
- Turns head in fluid motion when following something
- Acts more lively and active, squirms, turns in all directions
- Rolls from tummy to back (with little help)
- Shakes a rattle
- Discovers new possibilities of his voice such as screaming, cooing, and crowing
- Blows saliva bubbles
- Clearly shows when he finds something funny or interesting
- Clearly enjoys lightbulbs slowly illuminating from soft to bright
- Clearly enjoys sounds that go from high to low or vice versa
- Crying more often, longer, harder
- Wanting to drink more
- Wanting more physical contact
- Withdrawn (often)
- Thumb sucking (often)
- Quieter and/or less mobile behavior
- Fourth leap (Events) starts between 14.5 and 19.5 weeks (from due date)
- Baby can now perceive or perform a short, familiar series of smooth transitions, patterns, or sensations
- Suddenly very active
- Hardly misses when he grasps something
- Puts your hand in his mouth
- Pulls a cloth away from his own face
- Hits the toy on the table
- Is busy with an activity center
- Searches to see where mom and dad are
- Reacts to his mirror image
- Responds to his name
- Pushes the breast away when he’s had enough
- Grumbles when he is impatient
- Crying, clinging, and cranky
- Your baby’s head has to be supported again more often
- Asks for and almost claims more attention
- Has firm mood swings
- Wants more body contact during feedings
- Seems to lack his usual “spunk” or seems absent
- Baby can now perceive or perform a short, familiar series of smooth transitions, patterns, or sensations
- Baby’s weight is about double the birth weight by 4-6 months old
- Use correct terms for all body parts, get into the habit of asking permission and telling baby what you are doing
- Use diaper cream, especially at night or when baby is having lots of bowel movements, I recommend one with 40% zinc oxide for maximum protection
- Always use a tear-free baby shampoo and make a relaxing bath part of their nighttime routine to cue sleep
- Baby should now be able to see objects about 3′ away
- You can use Tylenol for pain relief, consult your pediatrician
- Do not use Ibuprofen, cough/cold medicine, aspirin, or anti-nausea/diarrhea medicine
- Use a warm-mist humidifier (in a safe location away from crib) or sit in a bathroom with a warm shower running if baby is severely congested
- Use a saline mist and an aspirator or Nose Frida to gently clear nasal congestion
- Visit your pediatrician or emergency department/urgent care for any fever that reaches 100.4 degrees
- Always give your child a probiotic any time they are taking a prescribed antibiotic to maintain healthy bacteria
See also the notes above about safe sleep.
- Never hold hot liquids while holding your baby
- Keep your car and home smoke free
- Never place a car seat in the top of shopping cart
- Make sure your water heater is set lower than 120 degrees
- Test your baby’s bathwater with your wrist
- Wash your hands often
- Keep hanging cords/string away from baby
- Do not put bracelets or necklaces on baby
- Keep your hand on them when changing their diaper
- Do not leave them unattended on any surface they could roll off of
- Keep swings/bouncers/car seats on the floor
- If sun exposure is unavoidable, use a baby sunscreen
- Never spank, put in time-out, isolate, use “cry it out” methods, or otherwise punish your child. This creates severe disconnection, which will render any correction ineffective, and it also creates lifelong emotional damage.
Consider preparing for the future:
– by moving things like medicine and cleaning supplies to a locked location.
– purchasing baby gates
– placing locks on cabinets with unsafe contents
– purchasing Door Monkey locks (or similar) for basement or bathroom doors
Back to the top.
When I found myself contemplating divorce in my own marriage, I was devastated. The memories of my parents’ bitter separation– and my life being turned upside down– clouded my every strained interaction with my husband. I was certain I had picked the right guy but it had turned into him unapologetically taking while I angrily kept giving and giving, trying desperately to be the “perfect” mom and give my kids the “perfect” life. I finally realized that I couldn’t control him into who I wanted him to be and my work was to figure out how I’d co-created this situation where we couldn’t communicate like adults and find solutions. Through my training with Dr. Shefali Tsabary (Oprah’s “favorite parenting expert” and the author of The Conscious Parent), my Conscious Parent Coach certification process, and working with my own coaches and mentors, I discovered that I could use my relationship as the catalyst to my own growth. I have a unique approach to the marital relationship that I’ve not seen anywhere else and now I work one on one with clients to help them become fully authentic in their relationship, which, over time, creates a major transformation in their marriage. Today I’m happily married and our relationship is thriving and healthy, and authentically fearless! I’m the author of The Authentic Wife (how I went from beyond ready to divorce to happily ever after in my own relationship), the creator of The Authentic Life online course, and the founder of The Family Alchemists. I also run A Soul Meeting online conscious book clubs. I have two young children under six and we currently live in northeast Ohio, but I’m originally from South Carolina. My tribe is made up of wise, creative, introspective mothers and fathers who work tirelessly to provide their young children the best experience possible.