Important Milestones: By The End of 3 Months

Three-month-old infants typically develop a smile, recognize faces, and open and close their hands. Parents, teachers, and staff can use this Learn the Signs. Act Early. fact sheet to learn about these developmental milestones and be better prepared to recognize red flags while making evaluations.

The following publication is provided courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. Campaign.

Social and Emotional
Developmental Health Watch


Babies develop at their own pace, so it's impossible to tell exactly when your child will learn a given skill. The developmental milestones listed below will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect, but don't be alarmed if your own baby's development takes a slightly different course.

Social and Emotional

  • Begins to develop a social smile
  • Enjoys playing with other people and may cry when playing stops
  • Becomes more expressive and communicates more with face and body
  • Imitates some movements and facial expressions


  • Raises head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Supports upper body with arms when lying on stomach
  • Stretches legs out and kicks when lying on stomach or back
  • Opens and shuts hands
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Brings hand to mouth
  • Takes swipes at dangling objects with hands
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys


  • Watches faces intently
  • Follows moving objects
  • Recognizes familiar objects and people at a distance
  • Starts using hands and eyes in coordination

Hearing and Speech

  • Smiles at the sound of your voice
  • Begins to babble
  • Begins to imitate some sounds
  • Turns head toward direction of sound

Developmental Health Watch

Alert your child's doctor or nurse if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • Does not seem to respond to loud noises
  • Does not notice hands by 2 months
  • Does not follow moving objects with eyes by 2 to 3 months
  • Does not grasp and hold objects by 3 months
  • Does not smile at people by 3 months
  • Cannot support head well by 3 months
  • Does not reach for and grasp toys by 3 to 4 months
  • Does not babble by 3 to 4 months
  • Does not bring objects to mouth by 4 months
  • Begins babbling, but does not try to imitate any of your sounds by 4 months
  • Does not push down with legs when feet are placed on a firm surface by 4 months
  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions
  • Crosses eyes most of the time (occasional crossing of the eyes is normal in these first months)
  • Does not pay attention to new faces, or seems very frightened by new faces or surroundings

From CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5 by Steven Shelov, Robert E. Hannermann, © 1991, 1993, 1998, 2004 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) promotes the health of babies, children, and adults, and enhances the potential for full, productive living. Our work includes identifying the causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities, helping children to develop and reach their full potential, and promoting health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities.

Important Milestones: By The End Of 3 Months. Learn the Signs. Act Early. HHS/CDC/NCBDDD. 2005. English.

Last Reviewed: August 2010

Last Updated: September 5, 2014