Your little one needs to develop normal patterns of movement to be able to engage in everyday activities such as feeding, playing and moving around. Knowing what is expected is important so that you can help your baby work on his emerging skills.  It will also help you identify deviations from the norm early. Picking up delays early will enable early diagnosis and treatment, leading to better outcomes. 

What are the expected movements for your baby from birth to 3 months old?

 Grasp reflex 

Your baby should hold on to a small object when placed in his hand, which is referred to as the grasp reflex. It is involuntary, and a sign that your baby is well. It starts right from birth. Some babies even start grasping while in their mother’s womb. To assess your baby’s grasp reflex, place your index finger in your baby’s palm and press down in his palm while he is awake. If there is no response at all from your baby, do let your doctor know. The grasp reflex gives way for intentional or voluntary grasp by 3 months old. By age 6 months, a baby should be able to decide whether they want to hold on or let go. If they cannot let go at this age, do let your doctor know as well.

Shoulders, arms and legs

  From about 2 months onwards, when your baby is on his tummy he should raise his shoulders and gradually lift his head up. This is important to build muscles around the neck, back and shoulder regions. You should also notice deliberate arm and leg movements especially when your baby is lying on his back. Your baby becomes fascinated by these movements and turns it into play. Join in the play by placing a small rattle in the baby’s hand or tie up a rattling bangle around his feet for the added sound effect. There goes your little musician! Wanna dance?

 Heads up, and turn

When your baby is about 3 months old, expect him to keep his head up when on his stomach and also turn his head from side to side with ease. Allow your baby to lie tummy down a few minutes at a time, twice or thrice daily, depending on how comfortable he is. Tummy time is encouraged for your baby to develop his neck, shoulder and back muscles. It is good for bonding with your baby. Tummy time is also important for visual and sensory development as babies learn to see and experience the world in a more upright position rather than lying on their backs all day and seeing things from an upside down position. It does not have to be boring at all. Try singing and reading to your baby during tummy time.  

All the ages mentioned above for the expected milestones are not set in stone. Some children develop at a faster rate than others but that does not necessarily mean that there is a problem. When you observe a delay in one of the areas, notify your paediatrician. If a doctor’s assessment shows a problem, do not worry. Because there are occupational and physical therapy services for your baby.

 Your baby is not quite the gymnast yet, but he is well on his way. Help him as much as you can by providing him with different experiences throughout the day.

Written by Mildred Gyimah, occupational therapist. Edited by babychildandco staff.