The magical 3 month period has arrived and with it a whole new range of developmental changes for your baby. If the last few weeks have been heavy going and your baby has been more than a little unsettled, then this month could be the turning point.
Expect less crying, more predictability, more of a flow and routine to each day and generally a little more enjoyment of your baby.
Feeding and sleeping
Your baby will be a proficient feeder at 3 months and will have become skilful at feeding efficiently. You too, will have perfected your own ability to "read" your little one and interpret what they want. A hungry cry is different to a tired cry, which is different to a bored cry and so on.
If your baby is breastfeeding you will still find you need to be readily available both day and night, but many babies start sleeping for longer periods overnight at 3 months. Bottle fed babies often do this a little earlier than those who are breastfeeding.
They still won't be sleeping through the night completely, but a 5-6 hour continuous, unbroken sleep overnight is average for a 3-month-old.
Lots of cooing and squeals of delight at 3 months – you'll certainly know you have a baby in the house. Your baby will be practicing their vocal skills and you will hear the distinct pitch and tone of their little voice changing as they grow.
Sometimes you may be unsure if your baby is protesting or just testing out their voice. Make some silly sounds back, play peek-a-boo games and blow raspberries on your baby's belly. Giving them positive feedback will help to reassure them that the noises they are making are not anything to be scared of and are, in fact, a good thing.
Expect lots of mouthing and chewing, drooling, sucking and chomping from your baby at this age. This is when they really learn how good it feels to put something into their mouth and have a good gnaw. Luckily, most babies are still too young at 3 months to have any teeth but you'll find those gums can still generate quite a bit of force.
Your baby will spend lots of time gazing at their hands and feet and focusing on their favourite toys. Give them lots of opportunity each day for floor time and include some nappy-free time as well. This is the time when they will learn how to hold their own head up and develop the lifelong skill of head control. If your baby likes to be carried in a sling, try facing them outwards now so they can gain a new outlook on the world.
Your baby will be visibly bigger, rounder and longer at 3 months of age. Their newborn clothing has probably been relegated to the back of the wardrobe and you've needed to dress them in a larger size. Unless of course, it is summer and you're finding that just a nappy and singlet is sufficient.
Make a point of using those "good" clothes that you collected when they were born. Saving them up for special times won't make use of them and you'll regret not dressing your baby in them when they've grown too big.
Don't overlook your own healthcare needs right now. It may be easier just to snack on food during the day but this won't help you to feel energised or your appetite satisfied. Start the day with a bowl of good quality cereal and fruit, drenched in milk; this is an ideal source of low GI energy which will fuel your body throughout the morning.
If you are having trouble getting to the shops, consider shopping online, or going when your partner is at home to care for the baby. You could always also ask your partner or a good friend to do some shopping for you.
Your baby will think they are very clever now, when they can pick objects up and direct them straight into their mouth. But this means that there are potential risks everywhere, so you will need to scan their environment and try to minimise any threat to their safety.
It will be years until your child is able to make their own decisions about what is safe and what isn't. Until then, you will need to be their eyes and ears when it comes to preventing harm.
Make sure your baby is well secured into their car restraint when you go out. Make sure the car seat has the SABS stamp of approval.
Play and interaction
You are your baby's greatest toy and earliest teacher. Even at 3 months, babies are learning about the world and how they fit into it. Try to be positive and light-hearted when you play with your baby and really allow yourself to be absorbed into the little games you create. Try to be present in the moment and dont think about all the things you could rather be doing or which need to be done.
Adopt the mantra "people first" and you'll be amazed by how much this filters out less important jobs. Encourage your partner to play with the baby as well. Studies have shown that mothers and fathers play and interact differently with their children. Use your baby's responses as a guide to let you know when they've had enough of game playing and want a rest. At 3 months their focus and attention span is still relatively short so when it's clear they need a break, don't take this personally.
What about mom?
Enjoy the opportunity to sit and relax during your baby's feeding times. If you are bottle feeding, don't prop your baby's bottle or encourage them to feed themselves. It's important to cuddle and hold your baby close during their feeds. These special times will help create more of an emotional bond between you and your baby.
Look for a healthy balance in each day and try to avoid seeing any free time you have as an opportunity to get through a list of tasks. Avoid over-scheduling yourself as well. This is a time for families to focus on each other, building relationships and having some fun every day.
The chance to sleep more and catch up on some rest could mean you feel a bit more like your old self. Alternately, if your baby is still waking several times overnight to feed and there is little structure to their day, this could be a demanding time.
If you feel you aren't enjoying your baby as much as you could be, feel depressed, exhausted and are having difficulty getting through each day, it is important you speak with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. Your partner, a trusted friend, family member or other new parent could be a great source of support over this time.
Aim to go for a walk each day and get out of the house. Many women develop "cabin fever" when stuck at home for days on end. It is so important that you don't isolate yourself from others at this time and although it may often be easier just to stay at home, for your own sake make a point of having some contact with other people and the outside world each day.
If you're still carrying baby weight, don't be in too much of a hurry to shed it. Nature has designed gestation as a time to store fat to act as an energy reserve for lactation. Some women return to their pre-pregnancy weight quickly, others take up to a year. Avoid skipping meals or going on a severely restrictive food intake diet. If you are keen to lose weight sensibly, speak with a dietician or nutritionist who can help you develop a sensible eating and exercise plan.
Your sleep needs
It's still an ideal time to sneak in an afternoon nap if you can. Avoid feeling guilty if you need to – having a daytime rest is a fact of life in the early months of parenting. If you have a toddler, aim to synchronise the baby and your toddler's nap times. Although this can be a challenge, it is worth trying.
If you haven't investigated local mother's groups or playgroups yet, give them a try. If groups aren't your thing, consider a baby massage class, post-pregnancy exercise or yoga classes or just getting together with other friends who've had babies. Investigate web-based parenting chat forums. They can be a wonderful support network. Try not to isolate yourself or expect your baby to satisfy all your needs. If you feel yourself being cut off from the outside world, try to get some time to read the newspaper every couple of days and leave the radio on. Just listening to other adult's voices helps to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.