The Third Month: Older Children

by Don Bower

Baby's Development

Baby's reflexes continue to develop this month as he learns the swallowing reflex. This reflex is necessary for him to learn to eat solid foods later on. His startle reflex may become less obvious.

Expect Your Baby to:

  • Kick vigorously
  • Hold his head up alone for a few seconds
  • Turn from side to back
  • Sleep through the night (maybe)
  • Weigh about 13 pounds
  • Hold a toy if it's placed in his hand (for a short time)
  • Smile, laugh and squeal

Remember that all babies develop in a similar sequence but at a different pace. Your baby's permanent eye color begins to form this month. His eyesight is also greatly improved. He will study your face as you feed him and recognize the breast or bottle before it is given to him. (Feeding is a very important part of his day!) He still enjoys bright colors and pays more attention to different stimuli. Mobiles or dangling objects help him to coordinate hand and eye movement.

Your baby will begin to vocalize more. During this month (or soon thereafter), he will begin to say "na," "ga," "ha," and "ya." He will soon add the vowels a, o and e to his vocabulary. Has your baby discovered his hands yet? He will soon! He will stare at his hands and grasp them together. He will put them in his mouth and suck on them. Your baby does not know what he can cause and what happens independent of himself. He is just learning that he controls his hands.

Many babies begin sleeping through the night more often at about this age. If your baby has shared your room, this is a good time to move him to his own room (or one shared with a sibling) to encourage his independence and to regain some privacy for you.

Parenting Tips

Older Children

If you have an older child, remember: Sharing parents with a newcomer can be tough. Feeling neglected is no fun, and your older children may revert to some babyish behavior for a short time. An older child will feel much better if you allow him to hold and hug the baby, help to dry the baby after his bath, or to do other tasks that let him know the baby is his brother or sister, as well as your baby. If possible, arrange a special time for just you and each older child. It will help eliminate jealousy. Older children may want to help more than their abilities safely allow. Maybe a new doll of their own would help them become more involved.

Baby's Temperament

Your baby likes to be around other people; move him with you as you move through the household. Singing, talking and dancing with him makes your baby feel happy and secure. He will smile and babble a great deal, so be sure to reward this positive behavior with affection, praise and encouragement. Babies also like time alone. They may occasionally turn away or ignore you if they don't want attention just now.

Most babies (and parents!) enjoy having a routine and will be less irritable when they know what to expect. Having a certain order to a baby's day can continue for the first few years and may be the only way that parents find adult time. Specific times for activities are not as important as repeating the general order of activities.

Buy Lines: Playpens

Some parents love the convenience of using a playpen as a confined place for their baby to play. Other parents think playpens prevent natural exploration and are too restrictive. If you decide to use a playpen, consider these issues:

  • Drop-side playpens can pose a serious suffocation hazard if used incorrectly.
  • Make sure the mesh netting on the playpen sides has very small openings -- smaller than the tiny buttons on baby's clothing.
  • As your baby learns to stand and climb, remove any toys or cushions that could be used for climbing out.
  • Because babies often chew on the upper rail, make sure its covering has no tears.
  • Limit baby's time in a playpen to no more than 30 to 60 minutes per day in order to encourage his movement and exploring.

Baby's Food

Your baby needs a source of iron. Two ways to achieve this are:

  • Breast milk with iron supplements [Editor's note: Some research finds that iron supplements decrease the available iron to exclusively breastfed babies. Read more.]
  • Prepared formula with iron

The small amount of iron in breast milk is very well absorbed by your baby, but it may not meet all your baby's iron needs until other food sources of iron are added.

Baby's Clothing

As baby grows, make sure his clothing grows, too. One-piece sleepers should give little legs and toes plenty of room to stretch and wiggle. You may be surprised to discover that an outfit that fit one week will suddenly be too small the next. Babies tend to grow in spurts.

All sleepwear made for children (size 0 to 14) must pass a government flammability test. Law requires that the fabric will not burst into flames but only smolder slowly. This is meant to reduce injury from burns. Common sense is still needed -- keep baby away from gas stoves, heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid accidents.


Rashes are usually caused by bacteria on urine-soaked skin, from acids in bacterial infections and by some laundry products. Here are some hints if your baby develops a rash:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about a cream for rashes.
  • Change baby as soon as he is wet.
  • If this doesn't produce results, remove diaper completely and expose the irritated area to air. Do this for an hour or so each day.
  • If you are using cotton diapers, change to disposable ones at least until the rash heals. [Editor's note: Rinse diapers and extra time and try a diaper rinse product.]
  • [Editor's note: If you are using disposable diapers, see if the rash clears up changing to cloth.]
  • If baby's rash still doesn't clear up, contact your doctor again.

Helpful Tip
Is your baby active during diapering? Try diverting his attention with a special toy to make diapering easier on you!

Baby's Health

Everyone knows how uncomfortable constipation can be, but your baby cannot tell you when he is having problems. Here are some things to look for if you think your baby might be constipated.

Babies usually grunt, groan, strain and get red in the face when they are having a bowel movement. This is normal, so don't be alarmed.

A breast-fed baby will have loose, watery stools fairly often. Bottle babies have firmer and darker stools and fewer bowel movements each day. Each infant has his own pattern for elimination, just like adults. Some will go after each feeding, while others have only two to three bowel movements a day.

If your baby's stool is hard, small and very dark, constipation may be the problem. Extra water may help. For babies on formula, you might talk with your doctor about changing the brand. If the problem persists, talk with your doctor.

Parent-Baby Learning Games

Attach a mobile securely to the crib within the baby's reach (one that will make a sound when pulled, but does not have parts that might get tangled with the baby). Pull and gently swing the mobile. Repeat until baby learns to reach and make it move himself. This may take time -- so be patient and enjoy your time together!

Safety Tips

Help prevent falls:

  • Never leave your baby alone on any surface from which he can fall.
  • Keep sides of crib up and latched when infant is alone.
  • Keep stairs free from clutter to prevent falls while carrying baby.
  • Select a sturdy high chair with a wide base or choose a low feeding table.
  • Avoid using baby walkers.

Copyright © Don Bower. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.