It’s over we go this month as your baby discovers he can roll over from his tummy to his back. He might find this discovery startling and even a bit frightening at first, but you can reassure and encourage him by smiling and clapping at his new achievement and coaxing him to repeat the feat with toys dangled or placed at his side.
By the time he’s four months old he’s realised that his hands belong to him, a discovery that will fascinate and delight him and he’ll probably spend minutes at a time examining them, stretching out his fingers and clapping them together. For the last month or so he’s been batting at objects within his reach and trying to grab them and now his efforts are beginning to pay off as his movements are less jerky and his hand-to-eye coordination better. He might not grab hold of toys and other objects first time, but he’s getting more accurate all the time and when he does take hold of something the chances are that they’ll go straight into his mouth for a slobbery assessment. This will be a favourite means of investigating any new objects for a long time to come, so you’ll need to be doubly careful of what’s within reach of your baby from now on. This month he may start passing objects from hand to hand as his coordination improves.
His new ability to grab and handle objects and a growing ability to distinguish between more colours and shades contribute to a very welcome new development for you now as your baby is able to play alone for as long as ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Apart from grabbing and playing with his own hands and toes, he’ll love brightly coloured toys, particularly ones that make noises, and will enjoy meeting and watching ‘another baby’ if you give him a baby mirror.
Although your baby might complain if a favoured toy is taken away his short-term memory is still only a few seconds long and so he’ll very soon forget about it, particularly if a substitute is offered. And if you hide a toy your baby probably won’t look for it because he doesn’t yet have a sense of the toy existing when he can’t actually see it. If he settles best with a particular comforter or blanket it’s the familiar smell, as well as the object itself (he’ll love the fact that it’s soft and scrunchable) that he finds comforting. This can present a problem when it comes to washing and one way around it is to have two and use the freshly washed one during the day and the well-used one at night so he settles until the washed blanket picks up the comforting smell and you can whip the other one off to the washer.
Around this time is when many parents really start to enjoy their babies as they are becoming far more responsive and entertaining and begin to show signs of amusement and emotion. Your four-month old will probably enjoy social interaction, although he may already be starting to demonstrate a clear preference for his own family. He might need a bit of time to adjust to outsiders and may seem more comfortable and interested in other people if he knows he’s safely in your arms. If he’s tickled he may laugh deeply and he’ll do his best to keep himself and you entertained with gurgles and blowing bubbles.
What you can do
You can support your baby’s attempts to imitate you by playing the mirror game where you copy his sounds and facial expressions and encourage him to copy yours. If you keep the sounds you make simple with noises like ‘ma ma’, ‘da da, and ‘blah blah’ he might be able to produce quite similar noises, or at least have a good go.
Be sensitive to your baby’s developing preferences for people and give him time to settle in with new people, particularly with babysitters or childminders, before leaving him with them.
As your baby's stomach grows he'll need feeding less often and by four months he should be feeding only four to six times a day, which will make life a lot easier for you. His keenness to watch, learn and socialise might mean it’s difficult to settle into him into feeds and he may be easily distracted, particularly around other children. If this happens then you might want to try and feed him somewhere more quiet and calm so that feeding time doesn’t become frustrating for both of you.
NB: All babies develop at their own pace and some will reach developmental landmarks more quickly than others. This timeline is meant only as an approximate guide for parents. Premature babies will develop more slowly than full-term babies and can be expected to develop in line with their age calculated from their due date. If you are worried about your child’s health or progress consult your doctor.
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