At 3 months old your baby is getting stronger and more interested in his surroundings. It is a good time to talk, sing and read to your baby who will now love this type of interaction. Some babies might even have settled into a routine and be sleeping more consistently, however most babies will still not sleep as well as many parents would hope.
Playing with your baby is fun for both of you. Setting aside time a couple of times each day to have fun with your baby is important both for baby's development and for your relationship with your baby. Babies need to play on their tummies to encourage them to develop head and neck control; they need this strength to learn to crawl. Though head and neck control can be learnt in other positions, playing on the floor is ideal. While baby is on her tummy, play with a few brightly coloured toys or a small mirror. As soon as baby shows signs of having had enough of this, stop. Some babies will be quite happy on their tummy, others will complain instantly.
Babies with reflux may not be happy lying on their tummies and sitting in a baby chair or supported on your lap is a good way to start. Over a few days you can lower the chair or prop baby at a lower height. The first time you try lying your reflux baby on her tummy, roll up a towel and put it under her chest with her arms forward. Or you might try using your leg instead of the towel. Other ways to give baby some tummy time are:
- Carrying her face down and across one arm with your hand holding her firmly between the legs.
- Putting baby on her tummy across your lap when you are sitting in a chair or on the floor.
- Giving baby a massage. This includes time massaging her back and her bottom, as well as the back of her legs. If you don't know how to do baby massage, ask your baby health clinic or the check out the fact sheet on the website link below.
- Holding baby on her tummy in the bath - holding onto her firmly all the time.
Remember your baby is a little person with her own personality and at this age you need to adapt your activities to suit her. It is important also that you never leave her alone to play on her tummy.
Find out more:
Baby massage. A fact sheet on Parenting and Child Health, a South Australian government website
The high-needs baby
'High-needs baby' is a term coined by Dr. William Sears, American paediatrician and author, who didn't like calling his baby 'fussy'. As he says, high-needs is a much more accurate label for a baby who needs a lot of attention than fussy, which indicates that the baby is somehow in control of his behaviour. High-needs babies grow into high-needs toddlers and high-needs children; their personalities are such that they require a good deal of attention. They are not that way because their parents can't read their needs.
All babies fuss at some time. Some do it rarely and are very low key but at the other end of the scale is the baby who requires almost 24-hour attention and is rarely happy and settled. The high-needs baby is very sensitive to his environment - this includes the people in his world as well as his surroundings. They have particular likes and dislikes from very early on - but one thing they have in common is that they like being held as much as possible. High-needs babies generally want the security and comfort of a warm familiar body whenever they are awake - and often when they are asleep as well. It is rare for a high-needs baby to be able to put himself to sleep.
High-needs babies are often described as over-active. They are like little wound-up elastics, ready to unwind at any moment and will often cry at the slightest noise and startle easily. They can also laugh loudly and are very affectionate (a much better way of thinking of your high-needs baby, than as a clingy child!).
Establishing a breastfeeding or feeding routine with a high-needs baby is more difficult than it is with a more placid child - and often these babies are the last to give up breastfeeding. These babies take longer to establish any sleeping patterns and their parents need to learn to grab their own sleep whenever they can.
You can offer your high-needs baby:
- Plenty of holding. You may find that a sling is the best way to do this.
- Frequent feeds - day and night.
- The knowledge that you are always there - which means responding quickly to her cries.
- And you may also need to take time out. If this means leaving your high-needs baby with someone else so you can get some sleep, go for a walk or simply have some time to yourself, then do so! You and your baby will be happier for it.
Find out more:
The Fussy BabyBook. Parenting your high-need child from birth to five, by William and Martha Sears, HarperCollins publishers.
The family bed
"By sleeping next to its mother, the infant receives protection, warmth, emotional reassurance, and breast milk - in just the forms and quantities that nature intended." So writes Professor James McKenna, Director of the Center for Behavioral Studies of Mother-Infant Sleep, Notre Dame University and leading exponent of the Family Bed. Sleeping this way also benefits breastfeeding and both mother and baby get more sleep. And if baby chokes, cries, is too cold or too hot, he can be looked after immediately.
Dr McKenna is not the only expert to advise parents that sleeping with their baby or child is the natural way for everyone to sleep happily and healthily. The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths also recognises that mothers and babies will sleep together and has published a pamphlet as a guide for parents.
The UK BFI recommends that a baby shares his parent's room for at least the first six months because it not only helps with breastfeeding but also protects baby against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Parents who are not happy or comfortable about baby sleeping in their bed can place baby's cot next to their bed.
The UK BFI also recognises that mothers and babies will fall asleep in the same bed and advises that parents need to consider that adult beds are not designed for babies and that baby is safer in his cot.
It is also important that parents do not sleep with their baby when:
- They smoke.
- Have drunk alcohol.
- Have taken any drug which could make them sleepy.
- Have an illness that could make them unaware of their baby.
- Are unusually overtired.
- In the early months if baby was born prematurely or was very small at birth.
- If baby has a high temperature.
Don't fall asleep with a baby on a lounge or sofa as babies have been known to become wedged down the side of this furniture and suffocate. Likewise it is recommended not to put baby to sleep against the wall in an adult bed. Expert opinion on sharing a bed with your baby is divided - you need to read about the alternatives and make up your own mind.
The Australian Sids and Kids Safe Sleeping Information Statement is an important read.
You can read more of what Professor McKenna has to say here.
By three months, it is not unusual for a baby to have settled into a sleep pattern. During the day she will stay awake for longer periods and at night she may sleep for between four and six hours at a stretch. When a baby sleeps for five hours without a break at night she is said to be 'sleeping through the night', by some experts. Baby will sleep between 12 and 20 hours in a 24 hour period.
Remember all babies are different! Don't be concerned if you hear other mums talking about their baby "sleeping through" at this stage. Visit the Essential Baby forums and join a Parents Group to talk to others about how their baby is sleeping at this stage.
If you are having difficulties getting your baby to sleep it may be time to seek some assistance.
Back to work strategies
If you have to return to work sometime soon you need to plan for it. Here are some tips to smooth the transition:
- You will have organised your child care and it is a good idea to take baby to visit a couple of times before your first day back at work. Phone your carer or child care centre and ask about a suitable time.
- Work may have kept you up to date by email on what is happening, but if not make contact and ask for an update. Depending on where you work you might like to take baby in for a visit before you return.
- Plan a few meals for when you are working. Buy or borrow a book of 15 minute meal suggestions and plan healthy meals for the first week or two back. Now might be the time to try out internet shopping if supermarket shopping is not on the way home.
- Be sure to have a fortnight's supply of disposable nappies on hand.
- If a member of the family, a friend or neighbour offers to help out - accept.
- Try to start in the middle of the week if you are going back full-time. It will make that first week much easier.
- Take a picture of your baby to work to put on your desk.
Find out more:
The Parent Easy Guides from Parenting SA, a government organisation and the fact sheets from the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service are amongst the best and most up to date sources of information for Australian parents. Here you will find PDFs on all these topics and more.
Visit the Essential Baby Forums to meet other parents and share your experiences at each stage.
These guides are written for Essential Baby by child care author, Carol Fallows. Carol established Australian Parents magazine in the early 1980s as Australia's first parenting magazine and managed it for nearly 18 years. She continues to write about and for parents. Her most recent title is Having a Baby. The essential Australian guide to pregnancy and birth. (Transworld/Random House, 2005).
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This information is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have any concerns about your child's health or wellbeing it is important that you seek help from your doctor or a health professional.
Unless otherwise indicated the pronoun he or she refers to either sex. We have chosen to alternate.