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Movement, Coordination, and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old

The reflexes they had just after birth start to disappear as babies this age gain more control over their movements and interact more with the people and things around them.

What Can My Baby Do?

During the first few months of life, infants start to develop the skills and the strength they need later for certain movements, like rolling over. At 1 month, infants struggle to lift their heads. But as neck and upper body strength improve, they'll be able to lift their heads up while on their bellies and eventually prop themselves up on their arms, hold their heads up, and look around.

You also may notice your baby stretching and kicking his or her legs. This movement strengthens leg muscles, and your infant will need that strength to roll over, which will probably happen around 4 to 6 months of age. (But be careful: Even very young babies can roll over on occasion, so it's important to never leave a baby unattended on a changing table, bed, or other high surface.)

Infants can grasp reflexively from birth, but during the first 3 months of life they'll begin to open and shut their hands and start moving their hands to their mouths. Your baby may be able to shake a rattle or a toy that is placed in her or her hands — and drop it when no longer interested in it.

Vision will also start to improve as your little one develops the ability to follow a moving object with his or her eyes and reach out for nearby objects.

Encouraging Motor Development

Even infants need to practice their skills. While babies should never sleep on their stomachs, give your child tummy time during waking hours. While lying on the belly, your little one can practice lifting his or her head and strengthening the neck, arm, and shoulder muscles.

Your baby may get fussy and frustrated in this position, so keep the first sessions of tummy time brief and gradually lengthen them. It's important to keep an eye on your baby during tummy time.

Encourage the development of hand-eye coordination by letting your infant reach for favorite toys while sitting in your lap or by letting your baby swipe at colorful objects hanging from an infant gym.

When to Call the Doctor

Babies develop at their own pace, but most make certain movements by the time they're 3 months old. Talk to your doctor if your infant isn't making these movements by 3 months:

  • opening and closing his or her hands
  • grasping or holding objects in the hands
  • supporting his or her own head
  • lifting the head and chest when lying on his or her stomach

Normal child development tends to follow a certain pattern. The skills that babies develop early serve as building blocks for future skills. Still, the time it takes to develop these skills can vary widely among kids. If you're concerned about your baby's development, speak with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2011