It is important that your baby begin to understand that his actions cause responses. He is learning that his cries bring relief from discomfort, his smiles trigger smiles from his family, and pulling on his mobile makes the objects move. All of these responses encourage him to try new things and to see the effect. Cause and effect is one of the first steps to learning that your baby takes.
What Your Baby is Learning
He is learning to reach, grasp and bat accurately at objects. He is beginning to be able to put his hands together and will begin to bring objects to his mouth to explore. Place a simple mobile on his bed so that your baby can reach and pull items to his mouth. A homemade mobile that allows you to change the objects often will keep him from getting bored and will encourage his muscle development and hand-eye coordination.
Lifting his head and shoulders high using his arms for support is strengthening the muscles he’ll use to roll over. He may amaze both you and himself when he flips from his back to his front or vice versa. It may be about a month until he does this regularly.
He is learning to follow you with his eyes as you move around the room. He will begin staring at movements and changes in scenery. Provide your baby with a change of scenery by moving him to different areas of the house.
He is beginning to be able to bear some of his weight on his legs. Holding him up and letting him feel some of his weight on his legs will strengthen the muscles.
He is learning to turn his head toward loud sounds. Until now he usually just had a startle reflex to loud sounds.
He is learning to respond to familiar faces by smiling, trying to talk, and moving his arms and legs a lot. He is beginning to recognize family members and show pleasure when they interact with him. He will begin to enjoy playing peek-a-boo.
When your baby wakes at night, allow him five to ten minutes to calm himself and go back to sleep. Often he will wake up due to light sleep patterns and cry out, but not need to be fed or changed. Although you don’t want your baby to feel abandoned or uncomfortable, he needs to learn how to go back to sleep on his own.
From birth your baby’s response to voices was physical. He would stop moving his arms and legs or he would cry. But now he will begin to respond to speech by making sounds. He has probably been cooing and babbling for a few weeks, but now when you speak to him, he will babble back. Your enthusiastic response to his attempts at “speech” will encourage better and better imitation on his part. This is the next step to his being able to talk.
Babies whose parents speak to them often and with a wide vocabulary have significantly higher IQs and better vocabularies when they get older.
Ways You Can Help
Cause and Effect:
Your baby’s mental growth is directly affected by the way his parents and family respond to him. Your baby learns more and faster when those who care for him answer when he cries, smile at him when he smiles, talk to him when he coos, and play with him.
Your baby learns a few things when you answer his cry by coming to him, picking him up, cuddling him, talking softly to him, and meeting his need for a diaper change or food. The first thing he learns is that there is a predictable pattern: discomfort, crying, mother, comfort. The second thing he learns is that a specific action on his part results in a specific action on the part of his mother. This causes him to want to try some other action and see what the response will be.
When he learns that what he does has an effect on what happens to him, he is encouraged to more exploration. This is the first building block for self-confidence and a willingness to work to achieve a goal. The child whose needs are neglected does not learn as early or as easily that he can effect what happens to him. The child whose every need is anticipated is equally deprived of learning this relationship. If he never gets to cry and then see his needs met, he will not learn as early or as easily that he can effect what happens to him, too.
Be sure to provide some time every day with just a diaper on to encourage free movement of arms and legs. Gently hold one foot at a time so he must pull or push to free himself. Don’t frustrate him by holding too tightly, but give him some resistance exercise.
Place your baby on his back and slowly pull him up by his hands to a sitting position. Slowly ease him back down. He should be able to hold his head in line with the rest of his body as it is pulled up.
Play with your baby in the mirror. Call him by name and point to facial features calling them by name: eyes, mouth, nose, ears and hair.
Slow dance while holding your baby. He will delight in the smooth rhythmic movements. The motion will stimulate the sense organs deep in your baby’s ears that sense position and balance he will need to stand and walk.
Nurture your baby’s sense of touch with a variety of tactile experiences. Touching your baby, skin to skin, massaging and playing is relaxing to him. It tends to make him more alert and have a longer attention span.
When you worry how your baby is developing
Most mothers worry about how their baby is developing from time to time. Although this is normal, you shouldn’t be living under a cloud of concern.
If you have concerns, you should be prepared to talk to your baby’s doctor about them. It is best to keep a written list so you don’t forget your important concerns when you are with your baby’s doctor. You get prepared by carefully observing your baby and recording specific things that concern you. Be careful to record what happened as objectively as possible. For instance, if your baby cries for ten minutes after every feeding, write down the date and times it happens. Don’t just write down that your baby doesn’t like his food. You may also note what you think it means or why you think it happened. Be ready to tell your doctor you worry that your baby doesn’t like his food. But your doctor can evaluate whether he is gaining weight properly and may suggest other reasons he may be crying and what to do about it.
If, however, it does turn out that your baby has serious problems then it is very important that you don’t panic. Your baby needs you to function at your peak so that you can get the best help possible for him. You will find it much easier to get the right kind of help if you have learned to make good, clear observations. The doctor only sees your baby for a short while, you can observe him in a wide range of situations over many days. Report those observations to your doctor who will assist you in finding the right kind of professionals to help you and your baby.
Remember every baby is different. They grow at different rates. They develop skills at different rates. Developmental milestones help you to know what to expect next, but not every baby meets each of these markers at precise times. Your doctor is best qualified to tell you when differences from the average are symptoms to be concerned about.
There are a few articles on Developmental Delays on the Resources page of our web site:
What to Expect Next
- Reaches, grasps with both hands and puts things in his mouth.
- Rolls over both directions
- Imitates speech sounds like: baba, dada
The many advantages of making your own toys for your baby:
- Toys you make usually don’t cost as much as store bought toys.
- Store bought toys often do only one thing and have limited appeal to a baby.
- You can make the toys that please your baby.
- Most babies prefer bright colors and high contrast of light and dark better than pastel pink and blue.
- You tend to be more observant of your baby’s development and interests when you make his toys.
Things to keep in mind for any toy you let your baby play with:
- Does the toy have sharp points or edges?
- Are any pieces smaller than two inches (5cm) and could get lodged in a baby’s throat?
- Is the paint and glue used nontoxic?
- Is the toy positioned safely and securely.
- Do older children play with the toy in a way it was not designed to be used. If they break it, it might no longer be safe for a baby.
Which toys should you offer your baby?
Babies have preferences too. A toy one child likes another will ignore. Experiment with your baby’s choice of toys.
Don’t overwhelm your baby with toys. Put some away and bring out a different selection from time to time. Toys have new appeal if they are not always available.
Ideas for homemade toys:
A mobile for over his bed using a piece of dowel rod across the crib rails, heavy gauge fishing line holding a piece of rubber hose and two small toys that are safe for him to pull to his mouth. Change the toys often to keep up his interest.
Take an empty plastic pop bottle, remove the label, wash it thoroughly and fill it with water. Place small pieces of different colored sponge in the bottle and seal it well. A piece of duct tape will ensure it won’t leak. Let your baby push this around to see the sponges float in the water.
Your Baby’s Four Month Doctor Visit
What will happen to your baby:
- Your baby will be weighed and measured, including his head, to make sure he is growing at a healthy and steady rate.
- Your baby will receive several vaccinations. Probably DTP- diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough), Hib- Hepatitis B, and polio.
- Your baby’s eyesight and hearing will be checked
What your doctor may ask:
1. How is your baby sleeping? How many hours does he sleep at night?
2. When, how and how often is your baby eating?
3. What are your baby’s bowel movements like? If your baby has had frequent, smelly, watery, mucus-streaked stools it is probably diarrhea and your doctor should know about it.
4. Can your baby roll over one way or sit with support? Your baby is probably beginning to develop these skills.
5. Can your baby do a mini-pushup? If your baby is still having difficulty controlling or lifting his head, tell your doctor.
6. What sounds does your baby make? He is probably babbling, squealing and laughing. He is probably drooling and blowing bubbles too. If your baby is making fewer sounds than previously, tell your doctor.
7. What are your baby’s new motor skills? He should be reaching for and grabbing objects, bringing both hands together in front of him, kicking with both legs and bouncing on them when held upright. If your baby uses one hand more than the other or keeps his legs stiff and straight, tell your doctor.
8. How is your baby’s vision? He is pretty good at following large and small objects with his eyes. If he doesn’t follow you with his eyes or seem to notice things until they’re very close to him, tell your doctor.
9. How is your baby’s hearing? Your baby should be able to recognize his parent’s voices. If he doesn’t respond to you or turn his head toward sounds, particularly when you talk, tell the doctor.
My questions for the doctor:
Heavenly Father, please help us to be the best parents we can be to this child. In so many ways we feel inadequate for the job. Please help us when we don’t know what to do for him. Thank you for giving us the wisdom we need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.