Your Baby's Physical Development 0-3 months
Embrace the importance of lots of physical contact with your baby
Your baby at a glance
Your baby is born with a set of reflexes allowing her to do things like turning her head when you touch her cheek. Soon she gains more voluntary control and movement. During this stage you are likely to see your baby:
- Displaying reflexes such as sucking, grasping, and startling
- Starting to stretch and kick his legs
- Beginning to be able to hold his head up (with support) when you carry him (around 2 months)
- Touching and pulling own hands
- Starting to watch own hands and feet as they ‘wave’ in the air
- Perhaps starting to be able to lift her head and chest, when you place her on her front (from 3 months)
Your baby’s story
At first, your baby’s physical skills involve his inborn reflexes, which are involuntary movements that help him in his transition from the womb to dealing with the outside world. These reflexes, such as rooting, sucking and grasping, are particularly prevalent during the first month. He moves his body while awake, but will not yet know how to make different body parts move, nor that all the different body parts belong to him. Reflexes mostly disappear during your baby's first year of life.
Do you look at your baby and think she is looking all scrunched up? Towards the ends of the pregnancy your baby had increasingly less space, which is why her limbs can seem quite curled. She will start to straighten out during the coming months along with gaining more voluntary control over her body’s movements. She will also start straightening out her little hands, which she is holding in a fist these first three months.
Your newborn’s head will be wobbly and (as if you needed to be told this) you need to make sure to support his head and neck at all times. The neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support the head unaided. You will notice your baby’s neck muscles getting stronger already over the first three months, but you will still need to support him as he will sometimes hold himself well but then suddenly throw himself back (which means his head would flop over if unsupported)
Your baby’s physical development starts at the head, and she is therefore going to be able to control her head and neck movement before arms and feet. As young as one month, your baby may be able to turn her head, sometimes even try to lift it. By three months she may be able to lift her head and chest when you place her on her front, supporting her upper body with her arms.
Increasingly over the first three months, your baby will start enjoying the feeling of having more control over his movements. You will see him stretching his legs out and kicking, both when on his front and on his back. He will probably become mesmerised by his own hands and enjoy in touching and pulling them.
What you can do to support and encourage your baby’s development
Physical contact is important to your little one. You probably already hold him a lot, and you can also stroke different parts of his body, e.g. forehead, cheeks, tummy, back and legs, to learn what he finds particularly soothing. Most babies will love being rocked, and you can start playing gentle games that involve stretching and bending legs and arms. You can also copy some of his movements, facial expressions in particular. You will find that your baby is moving more and more, and will therefore prefer clothing that allows for both movement and comfort.
Having a toy or a mobile hanging above your baby’s cot, bed or changing table will be engaging from the first day. As she grows and starts to have more control over her movements, you will also see her starting to try to grab hold of toys that are hanging close enough, perhaps on the handle of the car seat. Safety is always important, and as your baby will start to be able to put things in her mouth, any such object needs to be safe and e.g. not have any small parts that can come off and cause a choking hazard.
As your baby is not yet learning to move forward, it can be great for him to be able to see different things. You can have different toys with different colours, textures and noises around the house in the various rooms he will be spending some time.