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Keeping Track of Baby Milestones: 0-3 Months Old

Newborn baby securely grasping his mother's hands, close-up fingers.

by Kristen v.H. Middleton

Former School Teacher & Administrator

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After you bring your baby home, your priorities are likely getting food and sleep—for parents and baby alike! But as the fog clears, you begin to notice how your baby is changing, even after a few short weeks. It’s exciting to watch as your newborn grows and blossoms and to keep a note of those remarkable early milestones in baby’s development. I kept a notebook by my bedside with both of my children and jotted down observations daily when I had a moment. Sometimes my notes were no more than a sentence or two. But having a journal to write in helped me keep… Read More

After you bring your baby home, your priorities are likely getting food and sleep—for parents and baby alike! But as the fog clears, you begin to notice how your baby is changing, even after a few short weeks. It’s exciting to watch as your newborn grows and blossoms and to keep a note of those remarkable early milestones in baby’s development. I kept a notebook by my bedside with both of my children and jotted down observations daily when I had a moment.

Sometimes my notes were no more than a sentence or two. But having a journal to write in helped me keep track of my newborn’s feeding schedule and bowel movements during those early, sleep-deprived weeks. As we got the hang of that schedule, I made notes of other developmental milestones. The journal was helpful because I brought it to the pediatrician’s office. So when our doctor asked me how often my baby was feeding, if she was opening and closing her fists, and if she was making eye contact, I had a definite answer for her. If you don’t want to keep a journal, you can always use an app (there are plenty!).

Typically, the first three months of your child’s development will be marked by key developments including control and lifting of their head, a first smile and even a laugh, and making eye contact. It’s an exciting time when bonding is important, and your baby is changing rapidly before your eyes. Pediatricians will go through developmental milestone checklists with patients, asking parents about their child’s sensory, communication, and movement changes, keeping an eye out for any red flags. Generally, it’s not concerning if a baby isn’t hitting one or two milestones on time. Be sure to adjust for prematurity or stress factors. If your newborn is missing multiple abilities or you feel concerned, check in with your child’s pediatrician.

Baby Milestones from Birth to Three Months

0-1 Month Milestones 

Feeding Milestones

  • Latches onto nipple or bottle
  • Sucks and swallows well during feedings
  • Feeds about six times per day
  • Tongue moves forward and back while feeding

Movement Milestones

  • Makes jerky, quivering arm thrusts
  • Brings hands in the range of mouth or eyes
  • Lying on tummy moves head side to side
  • Keeps hands balled up in tight fists
  • Strong reflex movements
  • Head flops backward if not supported

Visual Milestones

  • Sees bold patterns
  • Prefers high-contrast or black and white patterns
  • Eyes wander and occasionally cross
  • Can focus 8-12 inches away
  • Prefers human faces above all else
  • Learn more about what baby sees HERE

Hearing Milestones

  • Hearing is fully mature
  • Recognizes some sounds
  • May turn towards familiar voice or sound 

Smell and Touch Milestones

  • Sweet smell preference
  • Knows the scent of own mother’s milk
  • Dislikes acidic or bitter smells
  • Prefers soft to coarse touch
  • Dislikes rough or abrupt handling

The following developmental signs during weeks 2-4 that may indicate developmental delay and require further assessment by your pediatrician:

  • if your baby doesn’t respond to loud sounds
  • feeds slowly and has trouble sucking
  • lower jaw trembles constantly
  • is stiff with rare movement
  • is excessively loose and floppy
  • doesn’t focus on a nearby object moving side to side
  • doesn’t blink when shown a bright light

1-3 Months Milestones

Movement Milestones 

  • While lying on tummy:
    • lifts chest and holds head up
    • supports the upper body with arms
    • stretches legs out and kicks
  • Opens and closes fists
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • Uses hands to swipe at dangling objects
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys 

Visual Milestones

  • Intently watches faces
  • Follows moving objects
  • Recognizes familiar objects
  • Recognizes people at a distance
  • Starts using hands and eyes in coordination

 Hearing and Speech Milestones

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Begins to smile socially
  • Enjoys playing with others and may cry when it stops
  • Face and body become more expressive and communicative
  • Imitates some facial expressions and movements

Babies develop at their own rate, but failure to meet some important developmental milestones can indicate developmental problems that require special medical attention. Notify your pediatrician if you observe that by 3-4 months, baby doesn’t reach for and grasp toys, doesn’t pay attention to or seems overly frightened by new faces or surroundings, doesn’t seem to respond to loud sounds, crosses his eyes most of the time, or doesn’t smile at people.

Source: “Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5,” American Academy of Pediatrics. Steven P. Shelov, M.D., M.S., F.A.A.P., and Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D. F.A.A.P. Batnam Books, New York. 2014.