Coming Out of the Fourth Trimester
The first 12 weeks after having a baby are considered to be the “fourth trimester,” because there is so much healing and adjustment that goes on, both physically and emotionally. If you’ve treated these first three months as a time to rest and heal, hopefully you are feeling a little bit more like yourself.
If you’re not, however, don’t waste anytime feeling like you “should” be feeling normal by now—every baby and every mother is different. Maybe you had feeding challenges, a high-needs baby, are dealing with colic, have a no-napper (been there!) or experienced a traumatic delivery experience. Maybe you just need more time to adjust to being a parent. Maybe you and your partner are struggling with the adjustment to your relationship. Maybe you’re a single mother without a support system.
The point is, even after the fourth trimester is “officially” over, you will still need a lot of time to continue to adjust to parenthood—which is something that never really ends, no matter how old your child is. In fact, your body doesn’t return to its pre-pregnancy state until at least 6 months after delivery, so you still aren’t quite back to “normal” anyways.
This month may bring even more new challenges, as you return to work, so be sure to give yourself time to feel all the feels. Maybe you’re simultaneously excited to get back to work and also absolutely dreading leaving your baby. Maybe you’re just dreading it. Or, maybe you have no guilt whatsoever about going back and can’t wait for the chance to drink hot coffee and dress in real clothes again. Whatever you’re feeling is valid and totally normal.
We understand that not all parents get a choice about choosing to go back to work or not, so whatever your situation may be, try to find support from other parents who understand, be honest with however you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional as you adjust to your new normal.
3-Month-Old Baby Milestones
This month holds a lot of exciting milestones for your baby. Even though it feels like you just brought your baby home, your little one is growing in leaps and bounds. Here are some of the milestones you can expect your baby to reach this month:
- Able to open and shut hands
- Can grasp and shake toys—bring on the rattles!
- Can lift head up and starts to support their torso more when on their stomach—keep on keepin’ on with that tummy time
- Brings hand to mouth
- Reaches to grab dangling toys
- Smiles—real smiles—especially in response to your voice
- Starts talking baby talk
- Recognizes familiar people and objects
- Watches faces and follows moving objects
- Communicates more with face and body
- Starts to imitate sounds, movements, and facial expressions
You can help promote and encourage your baby’s development this month by incorporating some toys into your playtime together. Some good toys for a 3-month-old baby could include:
- A playmat with attached toys—a play mat offers the opportunity for both tummy time and encourages your little one to reach and interact with toys above him.
- Soft books—reading together is always a great activity, and your baby will love the ability to touch and feel those soft books. Bonus points for crinkly pages!
- Open rattles—rattles that have an open design make it easy for little fingers to grab ahold.
- Sit-n-play seats—once your baby can hold their head up on their own, these floor seats are great for developing babies, with two attached toys and plenty of room to watch the world around them.
What to Watch Out For
All babies develop at their own pace, so in general, you shouldn’t worry if your baby seems to be behind on a milestone or two (or more!), especially at this age. And keep in mind, if your baby was born prematurely at all, they will need to “catch up” in age too.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you notice any of the following signs with your baby, you might want to consider talking to your doctor:
- Your baby doesn’t respond to loud sounds
- Your baby isn’t grasping or holding objects at all
- Your baby isn’t smiling
- Your baby can’t support their head at all
- Your baby isn’t talking at all (baby talk)
- Has frequent (more than occasional) eye crossing
3-Month-Old Baby Development
Wondering what’s new with your baby this month? Let’s take a look at what you can expect with growth and development from your 3-month-old.
How Much Should a 3-Month-Old Eat?
Wondering how much your baby should eat this month? Here’s a breakdown:
- If you’re nursing:
Continue to nurse on demand—your baby will most likely continue a feeding schedule that was similar to last month, with nursing sessions lasting about 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours. Some babies may be more efficient at draining the breast faster, and some may need more time, or simply enjoy the extra time being close to you.
- If you’re bottle feeding:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most babies start to increase their feedings by about one ounce every month. So, if your baby was taking 4 ounces with every feeding last month, he may increase to 5 ounces every feeding this month. You can experiment to see if your baby is ready to up their feedings, and remember to never force your baby to take more than they are ready for. Follow your baby’s cues!
At 3 months old, your baby is still too young to start solid foods, so stick to breast milk or formula for now.
How Much Should a 3-month-Old Weigh?
After birth, your baby gains about 1.5-2 pounds every month, so by 3 months old, your baby could have gained as much as 6 pounds from their birth weight. The average weight for 3-month-old ranges, but can be around 13-14 pounds. Every baby will develop at their own pace, so the best way to tell if your baby is gaining weight appropriately is through their own individual growth chart.
Your doctor will be able to track your baby’s growth at their well-child check-up, which normally occurs at the 4-month mark. If you have any concerns about your baby’s growth this month—especially if you are worried that your baby isn’t growing enough or has any feeding challenges—be sure to call your doctor to see if you need to come in early.
How Much Should a 3-Month-Old Sleep?
We’ve got great news here—12 weeks marks an important milestone for your baby’s sleep. Around 12 weeks, your baby’s circadian rhythms will finally become more regular and normalized to mirror an adult’s sleep, with day and nighttime sleep patterns. About time, right?
According to Stanford Children’s Health, you can expect your baby’s sleep to look something like this by 3 months old:
- Total sleep: 15 hours
- Nighttime sleep: 9-10 hours (may not be straight through, of course)
- Daytime sleep: 4-5 hours (usually broken into a morning and an afternoon nap)
Even though it is normal for babies to start sleeping better at night by this age, every baby is different, so if your baby still isn’t sleeping long stretches at night, that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.
Instead, your baby might just need a little more time to adjust, or to learn how to sleep for longer stretches at a time. A lot of parents forget that sleeping is actually a skill that babies can be taught, so now that your baby is more capable of regular nighttime sleep, you can try implementing more sleep techniques, such as:
- Lay your baby down at the same time every day for naps and bedtime—consistency is key
- Try to give your baby opportunities to learn to self-soothe (this does not have to be crying it out, but could be as simple as laying them down drowsy, or waiting a few minutes when they wake up at night to see if they will go back to sleep)
- Institute sleep cues, such as the same blanket, white noise, dim lights, or a special story together with every nap and bedtime
- If you can, avoid nursing or feeding your baby to sleep
If your baby is not sleeping well and you are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Sleep deprivation can be very serious, and there are resources out there. Your doctor may be able to advise a feeding schedule that could prove helpful, or you may be able to work with a sleep consultant—although many parents assume sleep consultants are out of their price range, sometimes, even just one visit can help.
Trust Your Instincts
As you start to come out of the newborn fog this month and face even more changes with your growing baby, we hope that you remember that you are exactly the parent that your baby needs. The truth is, becoming a mom in today’s world is a unique time in history and that means that a lot of the “rules” about what used to work as a parent just don’t apply any more.
From living through a global pandemic to shifting family dynamics to jobs that demand we stay connected 24/7, parenting today looks just a little different than it did in the past. That means, that as well-intentioned as any advice from other experienced parents may be, it might not applicable to your situation.
The best thing you can do now as a mom is learn to trust your own instincts and have confidence that you know what is right for your family. Don’t live your life according to rules or ideas that just don’t work anymore, and don’t try to live up to anyone’s expectations for what it means to be a good mom. The easiest place to start to be a good mom is to make sure that you’re happy and fulfilled—and the rest will fall into place.