3 month old baby milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more

Updated Jan 09, 2024
3 month old baby milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more | Huckleberry

Between 3 - 4 months, it seems like babies are learning and growing before your eyes. They’ve already changed so much from those sleepy newborn days. At around 12 weeks your baby may become more expressive (with coos, cries, and smiles!), make eye contact, grasp toys, and more. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the physical and social milestones you can expect from 12 week old babies, provide a useful 3 month old development checklist, and give you useful tips for your little one’s health and well-being.

Note:

When we discuss babies and development at Huckleberry, we use their adjusted age (vs. actual age). Keep in mind that not every baby will reach 3 month milestones simultaneously. Children develop and grow at their own pace, and while many reach these milestones between 12 and 16 weeks, this isn't always the case for everyone. Development is on a spectrum and it’s expected that babies reach milestones at different times. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, reach out to their pediatrician.


IN THIS ARTICLE: 

3 month old baby milestones at a glance

3 month old development milestones

12 week old development milestones checklist

4 development tips for 3 month old babies

Takeaway: Development milestones for 3 month olds

3 month old development milestones FAQ


Babies are developing in exciting ways between 3 - 4 months. At this stage, they’re working on new tummy time skills, kicking their legs, and might even be showing the first signs of getting ready to roll over. Their hands are busy too! Around 12 weeks, babies tend to learn how to open and shut their hands, bring them to their mouths, and even swipe at a dangling toy. 

Typical 3 month old language development includes your little one’s first coos. Infants are learning to make and mimic simple noises at this stage. They are also learning to smile and make eye contact with familiar people. Prepare accordingly for cuteness overload! 

Babies at 3 months need lots of sleep every day. We recommend aiming for around 15 hours [1] total in a 24-hour period. This tends to break down into at least 10 hours overnight and 4 - 5 naps a day, though daytime sleep can still be irregular at 12 weeks. 

Keep in mind that the amount of sleep required varies from baby to baby, and there's a spectrum of what's normal and healthy. While suggested sleep hours offer a basic guideline, observing your child's mood and energy levels is equally important to gauge their individual sleep needs.

Short naps are still common at this age. To help daytime sleep, continue to plan naps according to wake windows and sleepy cues (such as putting their head against you or staring off into space). Most babies are able to comfortably stay awake for 60 - 120 minutes before needing to sleep again. Overnight, babies at this age usually still wake up for feedings. Some families find it helpful to offer dream feeds to maximize sleep during the night.  

Breastmilk and/or formula provide all of your 12 week old’s nutritional needs and calories per day. At this age, most babies should be able to suck and swallow well during feedings. At this age, most babies need to eat every 3 - 4 hours during the day [2] but can go for longer stretches at night. 

Between 0 - 3 months, babies usually consume 2 - 6 ounces per feeding. This increases to 4 - 6 oz around 4 months old. Consumption is a little trickier to gauge for breastfed babies, so consider making sure they have 4 - 6 wet diapers [3] in a 24-hour period if you’re concerned your 3 month old isn’t eating enough.  

Note that little ones also tend to “cluster feed” [4] at this age, often as a result of a growth spurt. This means your 3 month old might want to eat more than usual (like every 30 minutes!), especially during certain times of the day. Luckily, infant growth spurts only tend to last 2 - 3 days. 

On average, 3 month olds will grow [5] about 1 - 1.5 inches in length and gain about 1.5 - 2 pounds over the course of a month. However, babies grow at different rates and it can be normal for your little one to grow more or less than this between 12 - 16 weeks. Your child’s healthcare provider will plot their height and weight during visits to ensure they’re growing at a regular pace and to identify any health trends that need attention. If you have concerns about your baby’s growth, consult their pediatrician. 

Tummy time: At around 12 weeks, babies are getting stronger and making small movements independently during tummy time! Milestones at 3 months include starting to support their upper body with their arms along with raising their head and chest while positioned on their stomach. 

Kicks: Typical 3 month gross motor milestones include leg movements too. Between 12 - 16 weeks babies start to stretch their legs out. You might even see them kick (watch out)! 

Rolling: Little ones usually roll over at around 4 - 6 months [6]. But your baby might be showing signs of starting to roll earlier than that, around 3 - 4 months. If you notice any early signs of rolling (like your baby is reaching for toys while on their tummy), the American Academy of Pediatrics [7] advises to stop swaddling your child for safety reasons. 

Hands: Babies have busy hands at 12 weeks and will often spend lots of time inspecting them and watching all the things they can do. Typical 3 month fine motor milestones [8] include being able to open and shut hands, bring them to mouth, grasp toys, and swipe at dangling objects.  

First sounds: Let the babbling [8] begin! At around 12 weeks, your little one might begin making sounds other than crying. Typically 3 month language development looks like the start of cooing and imitating some very simple sounds. 

Signaling hunger: A baby at 3 months is usually pretty good at signaling they’re ready for a feed. When hungry, typical behaviors [9] include moving hands to mouth, rooting, or flexing arms and legs. 

Crying: Crying can be an important communication tool for your baby. Typical 3 month speech milestones include crying to indicate different needs [10] — like they’re hungry, tired, or want to “play” more. By around 12 weeks, the phase of unexplained prolonged crying (aka “the witching hour”) typically ends. 

First social smiles: Babies tend to smile at the sound of your voice [8] first and might even begin to smile at people around this age too. Remember to smile back! This helps you bond with your little one and makes them feel safe and secure.  

Eye contact: Your baby at 3 months may “talk” with their eyes. Babies this age are starting to make eye contact and watch faces intently. Most little ones love to watch faces and facial expressions. Often they are also able to recognize familiar people and objects, even at a distance. At about 12 weeks, infants might follow moving objects with their eyes and turn their heads to look in the direction of sounds too [8].  

Color vision: At 3 months, your little one’s color vision is still developing. They can likely see brightly colored objects, but often not soft pastels yet. You might consider this when picking out books and toys for your child.

Remember not all 3 month old milestones will be reached by babies at the same time. Children learn and grow at different rates and while most typically hit these milestones between 12 - 16 weeks, this might not always be the case. If you have any concerns about your little one’s growth or see signs of potential development delays, consider having a conversation with their healthcare provider. 

  • Suck and swallow well during feedings

  • Raise their head and chest while doing tummy time 

  • Support the upper body with arms while positioned on the stomach 

  • Stretch and kick their legs out 

  • Grasp and bat at toys with hands

  • Open and shut hands 

  • Start to coo and make babbling sounds

  • Social smile

  • Make eye contact and watch faces intently 

  • Follow moving objects with their eyes 

  • Turn their head in the direction of a sound

  • See people and objects at a distance  

Infants can benefit from reading, long before they can turn pages or follow along with a story. At this age, your baby enjoys hearing the sound of your voice and won’t mind at all if you read the same book over and over again. Babies love repetition! It’s good for brain development and helps them learn words.

A great way to promote early speech development is by talking out loud to your little one throughout the day. Narrate what you’re doing, what you’re seeing, and name familiar objects. You can also tell your baby what they’re doing — taking a bath, getting ready for bed, etc. 

Once your baby starts to smile at you at around 12 weeks, encourage them to keep up the good work by responding to them with a smile. These exchanges are the first “conversations” you’ll have with your little one so get your camera ready! This back-and-forth communication is important because it helps you bond [11] with your baby and lets them know they’re safe and secure. 

Tummy time is still an important part of your 3 month old’s day as it promotes their physical and visual development. The American Academy of Pediatrics [12] recommends that 12 week olds spend a total of an hour per day in this position, broken up into small sessions. Now that your baby has better hand-eye coordination, try incorporating toys into the routine to keep them entertained. You might place a toy in front of them to encourage reaching and also shake a rattle to motivate them to use those tiny muscles to push and look up. 

  • 3 month olds are growing and learning about the world around them! Most babies are able to support their upper body with their arms at this age and have a different field of vision when this happens. They are learning to make eye contact with people and even smile at someone from across the room. 

  • Between 12 - 16 weeks, little ones are working on fine motor skills like opening and shutting their hands as well as swatting at toys and grasping small objects. 

  • At this age, babies might reach exciting social and language milestones like starting to babble and coo, social smile, watch faces intently, and turn towards sounds.    

  • Note that these are general guidelines for 3 month old milestones. It’s perfectly normal if your child isn’t doing all of these things just yet since development is on a spectrum. That said, if you notice any red flags or have concerns about any development delays, consult with your child’s health provider.

3 month old development milestones FAQ

Q: What should a 3 month old be able to do?

A:

Expected 3 month developmental milestones include gross motor skills like raising their head and chest during tummy time and kicking their legs. They’re possibly starting to show signs of rolling over. Infants around this age are likely working on fine motor skills such as starting to open and shut their hands and grasping small toys. You might also notice babies at this age being social by smiling at people, making eye contact, and starting to coo and babble.

Q: What are 3 major physical milestones by 3 months of age?

A:

At this age, little movements are a big deal! Most 3 month old babies [10] are able to lift and hold their head up while doing tummy time. They also might be able to open and close their fists and bring their hands to their mouths.

Q: What does a 3 month old understand?

A:

At around 12 weeks, babies might start to recognize familiar voices [13], especially of their caregivers! They are beginning to understand how to interact with people too, like smiling when they see faces and making cooing sounds to “talk.” This is an age where they’re also starting to understand how to use more of their body through working on skills like grabbing toys and kicking their legs.

Q: How to help a 3 month old reach milestones?

A:

Interacting with your baby at 3 months is one of the most important ways you can help them learn and grow. Talking, singing, smiling, reading, and playing are all beneficial to their language, social, and emotional development. You’re probably already doing these things — keep them up! For physical development, continuing tummy time will help your 3 month old reach gross motor milestones now and build the strength needed for future skills like rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.

Q: What milestones should a 3 month old have for pediatric visit?

A:

Typical well-child visits are scheduled for 2 and then 4 months. However, if you’re concerned about any developmental red flags at 3 months, reach out to your healthcare provider. For a visit between 12 - 16 weeks, the doctor will likely want to know if anything has changed at home since your baby’s last visit and will plot their height and weight. A pediatrician might check to see if your baby is smiling, eating properly, opening and closing their hands, and making eye contact.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

13 Sources

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  1. American Family Physician (2022). What You Need to Know About Sleep for Your Child. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2022/0200/p168-s1.html

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition (2022). How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat? https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/how-often-and-how-much-should-your-baby-eat.aspx

  3. Nemours Children's Health (2023). Your Baby's Growth: 3 Months. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/growth-3mos.html

  4. WIC Breastfeeding Support (2023). Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/cluster-feeding-and-growth-spurts

  5. Nemours Children's Health (2023). Your Baby's Growth: 3 Months. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/growth-3mos.html

  6. Pathways (2023). When Can Baby Roll Over? Tips to Help Baby Roll. https://pathways.org/when-can-baby-roll-over-tips-to-help-baby-roll/

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics (2022). American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Safe Sleep Recommendations: Back is Best. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-safe-sleep-recommendations-back-is-best/

  8. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Developmental Milestones: 3 Months. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Developmental-Milestones-3-Months.aspx

  9. American Academy of Pediatrics (2017).Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx

  10. Children’s Hospital of Orange County (2023). 1-3 Months Old Baby Development. https://www.choc.org/primary-care/ages-stages/1-to-3-months/