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2-3 months: newborn development

2-3 months

Newborns come in all shapes and sizes, but newborn development at 2-3 months typically has a few things in common. Here’s what your baby might be doing, how you can help and when to see a child health professional.    

Newborn development at 2-3 months: what’s happening

Your baby is two months old, going on three – where does the time go?

At this age your baby understands that voices and faces go together – especially yours. That’s because she has formed a strong attachment to you. She might follow you with her eyes and enjoy smiling at you. When you speak to her, she might even echo you back.

Your baby is starting to look more closely at objects like small blocks and toys, and his eyes can follow objects moving in a circle or in an arc over his head.

Around this time, your baby might cry and fuss more – this is a normal part of development and will pass in time. Every baby is different, but crying and fussing usually peaks at around 6-8 weeks and starts to settle around 12-16 weeks.

Your baby is starting to communicate with you in new ways. For example, her cry when she’s hungry might be different from when she’s in pain. She’ll still use facial expressions and body language to try to tell you things too. Your baby might start laughing. By three months she might even start to ‘coo’.

By now your baby is probably showing emotions like interest, disgust, distress and enjoyment.

Your baby can probably bring his hands together. His hands will be open most of the time now, and he likes opening and shutting them. He’s also starting to use his hands and eyes together and might even reach for your face or swing his hands towards an object.

When your baby is on her tummy, she might rest on her forearms or roll on to her side. She might stretch out her legs and kick when she’s on her tummy or back. If you hold her in a standing position – for example, on the floor or in your lap – she might try to stand on her legs.

Helping newborn development at 2-3 months

Here are some very simple things you can do with your baby around this time to help development:

  • Play together: the best toy for your baby is you. Your baby feels loved and secure when you play with him. There are many ways you can play with your newborn – try talking and reading to your baby, singing songs like ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ or playing games like peekaboo.
  • Smile at your baby: when your baby sees you smile, it releases natural chemicals in her body that make her good, safe and secure. It also builds attachment to you.
  • Tummy time: spending 1-5 minutes playing on his tummy each day builds your baby’s head, neck and upper body strength. Your baby needs these muscles to lift his head, crawl and pull himself up to stand when he’s older. Always watch your baby during tummy time and put him on his back to sleep.
  • Baby massage: baby massage is a great way to connect with your baby. It can also be relaxing and soothing if your baby is cranky. Try it in a warm room after your baby has had her bath.

Sometimes your baby won’t want to do some of these things – for example, he might be too tired or hungry. He’ll use special baby cues to let you know when he’s had enough and what he needs.

Responding to crying 
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to crying – for example, by changing your baby’s nappy when it’s wet or feeding her if she’s hungry – she feels more comfortable and safe.

Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort him. You can’t spoil your baby by picking him up, cuddling him or talking to him in a soothing voice.

But lots of crying might make you feel frustrated or upset. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold her for a while. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.

Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.

It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your baby, call your local Parentline. Our coping toolkit also has practical ideas to help you relax and feel calmer.

Parenting a newborn

Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what he needs and how you can meet these needs.

As a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.

Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child or baby, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.

When to be concerned about newborn development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your three-month-old has any of the following difficulties.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • is crying a lot and this is worrying you
  • can’t focus her eyes on something but instead crosses her eyes most of the time (it’s normal for baby’s eyes to cross occasionally in these months)
  • isn’t looking you in the eyes, even for a short time
  • doesn’t pay attention to faces
  • isn’t making sounds or responding to loud noises.

Behaviour 
Your child:

  • isn’t feeding well
  • isn’t sleeping well
  • is very tired or sleeps a lot more than expected – that is, more than around 16 hours a day
  • isn’t beginning to smile.

Movement 
Your child:

  • keeps his hands in a fist most of the time
  • is very floppy or is very stiff.

If you notice that your baby has lost skills she once had, see a child health professional.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Video

Baby development issues

1:55

This short video is about baby development issues, particularly issues with vision, hearing and movement.

All babies develop in the same order but at different rates. There are signs that can tell you that a baby might be experiencing a delay in development. If you’re worried about your baby’s development, it’s a very good idea to have your child checked out by your GP or child and family health nurse.

Video

Developmental delay in babies

2:23

This short video has information about recognising and catching development delay in newborns and babies. If you’re worried about your baby’s development or you suspect a delay in development, you should talk with your GP or child and family health nurse. There’s no need to feel embarrassed if you're worried about your baby.

Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your child and family health nurse or GP.

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Last updated or reviewed
16-11-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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