The first weeks and months of a baby's life are a period of amazing development. New skills and movements form quickly. These movement milestones are often called "motor development;" they are a source of delight for babies and their families.
Here's an overview of some typical motor milestones to expect from birth to 3 months:
Your baby will not be able to control many of her movements during the first few weeks. As she begins to develop more physical abilities, her motions may still be jerky or jittery. But she's learning fast, so hold on!
Eyes on you. Did you know one of the first parts of the body a baby can move are her eyes? Newborns can only see about a foot in front of them at first, but that's just enough to move their eyes to gaze at faces near them. Your baby may also look toward familiar sounds and voices.
Neck control. Newborns can move their head to the side. You may see this with their first feeding, when the "rooting" reflex prompts them to turn toward the nipple. But infants don't have much neck control the first few weeks. Your baby needs your help to support her head.
Newborn reflexes. In addition to rooting, your baby may show other reflex movements these first weeks. To see the step reflex in action, hold your baby securely under his arms (support his head, too!) as his feet touch a flat surface; he may put one foot in front of the other in a sort of "walking" motion. This reflex disappears after the first couple months, and most babies don't take their first "real" steps until about a year old.
Your baby's nervous system has matured some by now. Certain newborn reflexes are beginning to give way to voluntary motions. With improved muscle control, movement becomes more fluid and wigglier. Here's what else you can expect:
Heads up on tummy time. Most babies this age can lift their head up when lying on their tummies. Regularly giving your baby some "tummy time" is a great way to help her build strength in her neck and trunk. Some will cry when placed on their tummies, but usually do better after a few tries. It helps to have something interesting, such as mom's face, in front of them so they have encouragement to lift their head. Although too young to actually crawl, your baby may try or begin to push up from a lying position.
Hand to mouth. During these weeks, your baby may begin to wave his arms around more when excited. Increasingly, his hands will catch his attention. He may spend a lot of time trying to move them in front of him where he can see them. After many tries, he may be able to move them to his mouth. His finger motion is still limited, though, so his hands will likely still be clenched in tight little fists. Sucking on them may become a way for him to soothe himself.
A tug of the lips. You may have already noticed random facial movements, including reflexive smiles, while your baby sleeps. But starting sometime around her sixth week, your baby may flash you her first real smile in a genuine gesture of affection or amusement.
Your baby's arm and leg movements continue to become smoother. The "startle" reflex is probably gone by now. She's becoming stronger and better able to coordinate her motions.
Straightening out. You might notice your baby's whole body now looks more relaxed. His hands will no longer be balled up in fists all the time. In fact, he may entertain himself by carefully opening and shutting them. He'll also enjoy more actively kicking his legs, which are straightening out from their pulled-up newborn position.
Ready to roll. As her kicks continue to become more forceful, she may soon be able to kick herself over from her tummy to back. While most babies can't roll from back to tummy yet, some may begin rolling over at this age. Be careful never to leave your baby alone on furniture where they could roll over.
Get a grip. Babies this age may begin to swipe at objects hanging just out of reach. While a newborn reflex causes babies to wrap their fingers around objects that touch the palm, your baby's grasp may now be more deliberate. She may even be able to hold and shake hand toys.
Let's bounce. When held up and supported in a "standing" position on a surface such as your lap, your baby may discover the joy of bouncing. This is a fun way to play together as your baby begins to hold some of his weight in his legs. It's best to avoid leaving babies in bouncer seats or harnesses. These can actually slow your baby's movement progress because they don't let her practice using her muscles as much.
When to See Your Pediatrician
Remember, each baby's movements may be a little different. If your baby doesn't master her movements at exactly the same pace others might, it is usually not because of any developmental delay or other problem.
It is a good idea to talk with your pediatrician if you notice your baby does any of the following:
Stops doing something she used to do. All babies will have good days and bad days. They may go a few days before repeating a new skill. But, if your baby's development is going backwards or consistently stopped, talk with your pediatrician.
Is not using a part or side of the body. Babies this age normally do not show whether they are left or right handed. If your baby only uses one hand or one side of his body, talk with your pediatrician.
Seems too floppy. Young infants may seem "floppy" until they develop more muscle control. But if your baby seems especially limp or droopy, it could mean she is sick or has an infection.
Jitters or shakes too much. Many newborns have shaky hands or quivery chins, but if their whole bodies are shaking, it could signal a medical problem. Call your pediatrician.
AAP Motor Delay Tool - Use this tool to learn more about physical developmental delays in children and when to talk with your pediatrician.
Learn the Signs. Act Early. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
About Dr. Wusthoff:
Courtney Wusthoff, MD, FAAP, an Associate Professor of Neurology at Stanford University and the Neurology Director for the Neonatal Neuro-ICU at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. She specializes in the neurological care of newborns and infants, and of children with epilepsy. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is a member of the Section on Neurology.
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Your baby's growth and development - 3 months old
beginning of content
By 3 months, your baby will have formed a strong attachment to you. They will respond to you with lots of smiles, and might even talk back to you in their own way. The worst of the crying should be nearly over, and you can really enjoy your baby as they grow into their own little person.
By the time your baby is 3 months, the fontanelle (soft spot at the back of their head) should have closed. There will still be a soft spot on top of their head. It might seem as if your baby’s head has grown faster than their body. It’s normal – the body will soon catch up.
You will still be getting disturbed sleep at nights, but from 3 months many babies start to ‘sleep through’ (which means sleeping for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch at night). But don’t worry if your baby isn’t doing this – they are all different.
Understanding baby growth charts
A growth chart helps you and your doctor keep track of how your baby is growing.
What can your baby do?
By now your baby will be starting to experience emotions and communication. They will respond to different expressions, know your voice and will turn to look for you when they hear you. They may start laughing out loud and look around them in wonder – especially at their fingers and toes.
They will smile at strangers, but they definitely know who their parents are by now. Their brain is growing fast and they will start to recognise people by sight and smell as well as by their voice.
They will be gurgling a lot and trying to respond to you when you talk to them. Their sense of touch is also becoming more sensitive and they will be able to pay attention to things for longer.
From now on, your baby will start to reach out for objects as the muscles develop in their arms and hands. They will try to put things in their mouth, although they can't quite coordinate their hands and eyes yet, take a long look at objects and shake or rattle them.
Physically, your baby will have better control of their head movements and will start to hold their head up when they’re sitting up. When you give them tummy time, you might notice they roll from their front to their back, lift up their head or push up their chest with their hands.
They will be waving their arms and kicking their legs strongly. If you hold them upright with their feet on the floor or your lap, they’ll probably push down on their legs.
A lot of the time, if they are near a dangling object, they will bat at it with closed fists. However, they can also open their fingers to grasp an object and they will be better coordinated, so they can bring their hands together.
How can I help my baby develop?
This is the time when the foundations of language are built. Talk and read to your baby as much as possible. It will help them learn how language works and how conversations go back and forth. Respond to your baby with words or with different noises, to encourage them to express themselves.
Choose baby books with large, bright pictures. It doesn’t really matter what the words are, it’s the sound of your voice that counts. Point to things around your baby and tell them the names. If you live in a bilingual home, it’s OK to use both languages to describe the world to your baby.
You can help your baby to develop the muscles in their neck and back by dangling a toy in front of them when they’re on their tummy. Or offer a toy to them to help them learn to grasp it. Stimulate their sense of touch by stroking them with different materials like fur, felt and tissue. Cuddles, massage and moving them through the air will all help to calm them down.
Development problem signs
Babies develop at a different rate. At 3 months, talk to your doctor or maternal child health nurse if:
they aren’t smiling by 8 weeks
they don’t calm down, even for a little while, when you pick them up to comfort them
one side of their body seems to be stronger than the other
they’re still holding their fingers in a tight fist
sudden noises don’t startle them
they aren’t feeding properly
they’re floppy or stiff
Where can I go for help?
If you are worried or would like to discuss any issues with your baby’s development, speak to your doctor or child health nurse.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Raising Children Network (3-4 months: baby development), Women's and Children's Health Network (Milestones: Children 0-4 years), Raising Children Network (2-3 months: newborn development), Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (Developmental milestones and the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standards)
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: October 2020
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Bonding with your baby
How your baby learns - birth to 3 years
Your baby’s growth and development – first 12 months
Understanding baby growth charts
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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.
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Fetal movement - how and when does it occur
At what time does fetal movement begin
Fetal movement rate
Methods for assessing the "sufficiency" of fetal movements
Changes in fetal activity
Determination of the condition of the fetus
“Dear patients, we are glad to welcome you to the website of the Fetal Medicine Center – a medical center of expert level in the field of modern prenatal medicine.
We see our mission in making the expectation of a child and its birth a happy, calm and most comfortable period for every woman. By providing professional medical support, we help couples plan pregnancy, control its harmonious course, conduct expert-level prenatal diagnostics, providing comprehensive care for the health of the expectant mother and baby.”
Roza Saidovna Bataeva
Head of the Fetal Medicine Center in Moscow
From the very beginning of pregnancy, every expectant mother begins to listen carefully to the sensations inside her growing belly. Can't wait to feel your baby move. When does the fetus begin to move? At what time can a pregnant woman begin to listen carefully to herself, waiting for the first movements of her child? Should I be worried if they are not felt or the baby suddenly calmed down? And can movements carry any other information, besides communicating with mom?
At what time does the fetal movement begin
The first movements of the future baby begin early - already at 7-8 weeks of pregnancy . It was at this time that the first muscles and the rudiments of the nervous system of the fetus are formed. Naturally, at this time, the movements of the embryo are still very primitive - these are muscle contractions in response to nerve impulses.
Approximately from 10 weeks of pregnancy the fetus begins to move more actively in the uterus, and, encountering an obstacle on its way (walls of the uterus), change the trajectory of movements. However, the baby is still very small and the impacts on the uterine wall are very weak, the expectant mother cannot yet feel them. At 11-12 weeks of intrauterine life, a little man already knows how to clench his fists, grimace, frown, by 16 weeks of pregnancy he begins to react to loud, sharp sounds with increased motor activity, at 17 weeks the first facial expressions appear, and at 18 weeks he covers his face with his hands and plays with the umbilical cord, clenching and unclenching the fingers.
Gradually, with increasing gestational age, movements become more coordinated and more like conscious. When the baby grows up, the pregnant woman begins to feel his movements.
When does fetal movement begin during the first and subsequent pregnancies
It is generally accepted that during the first pregnancy, the expectant mother feels the first fetal movements at 20 weeks of pregnancy, with repeated pregnancies - at 18 weeks. This is not entirely true. A mother who is expecting her first child, indeed, most often begins to feel the movements of the fetus a little later than a multiparous woman. This is due to the fact that "experienced" mothers know how the movements of the crumbs are felt at first and what they should feel. Some primigravidas perceive the first movements of the fetus as an increase in intestinal peristalsis, “gaziki”. Many women describe the first movements of the fetus as a feeling of fluid transfusion in the abdomen, "fluttering butterflies" or "swimming fish."
The first movements are usually rare and irregular. The time of the first sensations of fetal movements naturally depends on the individual sensitivity of the woman. Some future mothers feel the first movements as early as 15-16 weeks, and someone only after 20. Slender women, as a rule, begin to feel movements earlier than full ones. Women who lead an active lifestyle, work hard, usually feel the movements of the fetus later.
By 20 weeks, due to the formation of the spinal cord and brain, as well as the accumulation of a certain amount of muscle mass in the fetus, movements become more regular and noticeable .
From 24 weeks of pregnancy, the movements of the fetus are already reminiscent of the movements of a newborn - the expectant mother feels how the fetus changes position, moves its arms and legs. The motor activity of the fetus increases gradually and its peak falls on the period from the 24th to the 32nd week of pregnancy. At this time, the activity of the baby's movements becomes one of the indicators of its normal development. After 24 weeks, the child begins to "communicate" with the mother with the help of movements, respond to the sounds of voice, music, and the emotional state of the mother. With an increase in the gestational age of more than 32 weeks, the motor activity of the fetus gradually decreases due to the fact that the baby is growing up and he simply does not have enough space for active movements. This becomes especially noticeable at the time of childbirth. By the end of the third trimester of pregnancy, the number of fetal movements may decrease somewhat, but their intensity and strength remain the same or increase.
Fetal movement rate
The baby in the mother's belly moves almost constantly. At the 20th week of pregnancy, the fetus makes about 200 movements per day, and between the 28th and 32nd weeks, the number of movements reaches 600 per day. Naturally, a pregnant woman does not feel all the movements of the fetus, but only a small part of them. So, after 28 weeks, the frequency of fetal movement, according to the sensations of a woman, is usually 4 to 8 times per hour, with the exception of periods of fetal sleep (3-4 hours in a row).
In the third trimester, a pregnant woman may notice that her baby has regular sleep and wake cycles. Children are usually most active from 19:00 to 4:00 in the morning, and the period of "rest" occurs more often from 4 to 9:00 in the morning. Of course, the movements of the fetus depend on the mood of the mother, if the mother is worried or happy, the baby can move more actively, or vice versa, calm down. The fact is that when a mother rejoices, her body significantly increases the amount of hormones of joy - endorphins, which regulate the work of the heart and blood vessels, including the vessels of the placenta. During stress or pronounced negative emotions, biologically active substances are also produced - stress hormones, they also affect the work of the heart and blood vessels. It is thanks to this biological interaction between the organisms of mother and baby that the fetus feels the state of the mother. When the expectant mother is resting, the baby usually becomes more active, if the pregnant woman is active, busy with some kind of work, the child most often calms down. The movements also change depending on the satiety of the expectant mother. Usually the baby begins to move actively after the mother eats, especially something sweet. At the same time, the level of glucose in the blood increases sharply, which causes the fetus to be more active.
Fetal movements are the language in which the unborn child speaks to the mother. Naturally, a pregnant woman should listen to the movements, because in some cases, changes in the movements of the fetus may indicate a violation of its intrauterine state and a not entirely successful pregnancy.
If, after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the expectant mother does not feel the movement of the fetus, it may be worthwhile to see a doctor and make sure that everything is in order with the baby.
Methods for assessing the "sufficiency" of fetal movements
Counting the number of movements
The easiest way to assess fetal movements is to count the number of movements of the pregnant woman herself. Self-assessment methods are very easy to use, do not require additional equipment, the presence of a doctor and are easily reproducible by any woman. Their disadvantages are that each woman has different thresholds of susceptibility.
Count to ten
The most common method for assessing fetal movements is called count to ten . It can be carried out after 28 weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus is mature enough for active movements. Its essence lies in the fact that the expectant mother counts the movements of the fetus for a 12-hour time interval, for example, from 9 am to 9 pm. The time when a pregnant woman catches the tenth movement is recorded on a tablet. If the fetus makes less than 10 movements in 12 hours, this is a reason to consult a doctor for an additional examination.
In the evening after dinner (approximately between 7until 11 p.m.), the woman lies on her left side and counts the movements of the fetus. At the same time, everything is considered, even the smallest movements. If 10 or more movements are noted within an hour, this indicates that the baby is moving quite actively and feels good. If the fetus moved less than 10 times in an hour, then the movements are counted for the next hour. Evening time for this assessment method was not chosen by chance. It is in the evening hours, especially after dinner and the associated increase in glucose, that the greatest activity of the fetus is noted. If the number of fetal movements during this test is less than 10 per two hours, this should be considered as a sign of a violation of his condition and additional studies should be carried out.
For an obstetrician-gynecologist, fetal movements are also an important diagnostic criterion for some deviations in the course of pregnancy from the norm. Too active, violent, painful fetal movement or weak, rare movements may indicate its unfavorable condition.
Changes in fetal activity
Changes in fetal activity may be associated with external influences. For example, if a pregnant woman lies on her back for a long time, then the enlarged uterus compresses a large vessel - the inferior vena cava, the blood flow to the fetus is disrupted, which immediately causes its violent reaction - active movements. The same changes in the activity of the baby can occur in any other uncomfortable position of the mother - if she leans forward, squeezing her stomach, sits with her legs crossed, the child forces her mother to change her position with her activity. A similar situation occurs if the baby himself squeezes or presses the loops of the umbilical cord, limiting the flow of blood through it. He begins to move more actively, changes his position and relieves pressure on the umbilical cord. However, in some cases, an increase or vice versa, a subsidence of fetal movements can be a sign of a serious pathology.
After 28 weeks of pregnancy, if your baby does not let you know for 3-4 hours, he may just be sleeping. In this case, the expectant mother needs to eat something sweet and lie down on her left side for half an hour. If these simple manipulations do not lead to a result, it is worth repeating them again after 2-3 hours. If this time the baby does not make itself felt, this is an occasion to consult a doctor. Rare and weak movements can also indicate a fetal problem, most often a lack of oxygen for the baby, that is, fetal hypoxia.
Determining the condition of the fetus
To determine the condition of the fetus, the doctor conducts a series of examinations:
The simplest is auscultation (listening) with a special wooden tube (obstetric stethoscope) or a special apparatus that captures the fetal heartbeat, doctor listens to the baby's heartbeat. Normally, it is about 120-160 beats per minute. A decrease in heart rate less than 120 or an increase of more than 160 indicates intrauterine suffering of the child.
Ultrasound and dopplerometry
During ultrasound, the doctor visually assesses the size of the fetus, the compliance of the development of the fetus with the gestational age, because with oxygen starvation, the growth rate of the fetus slows down and its size lags behind the norm for each period of pregnancy. Also important is the structure of the placenta, the presence of signs of aging in it, as a result of which the function of transferring blood, oxygen and nutrients to the fetus usually worsens. During ultrasound, the amount and type of amniotic fluid is assessed, which can also change with intrauterine fetal suffering. Dopplerometry of the vessels of the placenta and umbilical cord is a method for studying blood flow velocities in these vessels. With a decrease in the speed of blood flow in any vessel, one can speak of fetal malnutrition of varying severity.
This is an important method for assessing the condition of the fetus. CTG is performed at a gestational age of 33 weeks or more, since only in this period of intrauterine development of the baby is a full-fledged regulation of the activity of the cardiovascular system of the fetus by the centers of the spinal cord and brain. Recording of fetal heartbeats is carried out for at least 40 minutes, and if necessary, the study can be extended up to one and a half hours. The device registers and records the baby's heart rate. For example, with a decrease in the concentration of oxygen in the blood of the fetus, the supply of oxygen to the cells of the nervous system decreases, which in turn affects the heart rate, especially during the period of wakefulness of the child. The obstetrician-gynecologist evaluates the heartbeat recording curve, episodes of slowing down and a sharp increase in the fetal heart rate, and based on these data, makes a conclusion about how comfortable the baby feels in the mother's stomach.
If during additional methods for assessing the condition of the fetus, initial disturbances in the supply of oxygen to the baby are detected, drug treatment is carried out aimed at increasing the access of blood and oxygen through the placenta and mandatory control examinations against the background of ongoing therapy. If the changes are deep and the baby experiences a pronounced deficiency of oxygen and nutrients, his condition suffers, an emergency delivery of such a patient is performed.
Fetal movements are not only an indicator of his condition, it is a way of communication between the baby and parents. The movements of the crumbs in the mother's tummy are unforgettable sensations that a woman can experience only in this short, but such a happy period of her life.
Center for Fetal Medicine in Moscow:
The main activities of our center are the early detection of congenital malformations in the fetus, prenatal screening for the detection of chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, as well as pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, fetal growth retardation and threatened abortion.
Our center is organized in such a way that the whole range of services is concentrated in one place, where a woman receives the results of various types of examinations, including ultrasound, biochemical, and specialist consultation within 1-1.5 hours. In the presence of a high risk for chromosomal diseases in the fetus, invasive diagnostics and genetics consultation are carried out here in the center.
Fetal echocardiography is given special attention in our center, since congenital heart defects in the fetus are increasingly common today, but, unfortunately, are often missed during ultrasound during pregnancy.
In view of the ever-increasing number of multiple pregnancies, which requires more time and a special approach, the observation of women with multiple pregnancies has been allocated to us in a separate clinic for multiple pregnancies.
All examinations in the center are carried out according to the international standards FMF (Fetal Medicine Foundation) and ISUOG (International Society for Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology). In complex clinical cases, we can consult with specialists from King's College Hospital, King's College Hospital (London, UK).
The team is a special pride of the center. Our doctors are not only one of the leading specialists, professors, doctors and candidates of medical sciences, doctors of the highest categories, they are also a team of like-minded people and real enthusiasts in their field. All ultrasound diagnostic doctors in our center have international FMF certificates. Having extensive experience in prenatal diagnostics, we share our knowledge with our colleagues by conducting training courses.
The Center is equipped with the most modern diagnostic equipment: these are the latest generation ultrasound machines, GE Voluson E8 Expert, with a complete set of modern technologies, including three-dimensional ones, this is a biochemical analyzer, Delfia Xpress, these are workplaces with professional computer programs.
Fetal movements during pregnancy
Fetal movements are expected by pregnant women and obstetrician-gynecologists. This is a very important sign that allows you to judge that the pregnancy is going well, and the child is developing successfully. Also, the baby communicates with the mother with the help of movements and can tell her about any inconvenience, so you need to listen to the movements of the fetus.
When fetal movements appear
The first fetal movements appear at the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy. However, the small fetus does not come into contact with the walls of the uterus, so the mother does not feel its movements.
Closer to the seventeenth week, the fetus begins to react to loud sound and light, from the eighteenth it begins to consciously move.
A woman begins to feel movements during her first pregnancy from the twentieth week. In subsequent pregnancies, these sensations occur two to three weeks earlier. Also, a woman will feel the first movement of the fetus earlier if she is slim and leads an active lifestyle.
From the twenty-eighth week, especially active movements are observed. The child "communicates" with the mother, reacts to her emotions. This continues until the thirty-second week, when the baby grows so much that it can no longer actively move in the uterus.
Fetal movement - as normal
Except for three to four hours a day when the baby sleeps, he is in constant motion. In the twentieth week, the fetus makes two hundred perturbations a day, from the twenty-eighth to the thirty-second, their number increases to six hundred. Then, the activity decreases again.
Fetal activity may vary depending on the following factors:
Time of day . Usually the fetus moves more actively in the evening and at night.
Mother's emotions . If a pregnant woman is under stress, then the child is frightened, may freeze and stop moving, or, conversely, react to adrenaline with active movements.
Physical activity . During physical activity, the child is usually more calm than at rest. If the mother is in an uncomfortable position for a long time, the fetus may react with strong painful shocks.
Pregnant diet . If the mother feels hungry, the child begins to move more actively. Also pushing and touching become stronger after eating. Especially if mom eats sweets.
Environment a. The fetus reacts to loud sounds, sudden switching on of light. He may freeze in fear, or vice versa, begin to move more actively.
Why and how to count fetal movements
Changes in the motor activity of the fetus may be a sign of pregnancy pathology. Too strong, painful, or vice versa, weakened movements signal that the child does not have enough oxygen. This condition is called fetal hypoxia. In addition, sensations change when the amount of amniotic fluid changes. Therefore, it is important to count fetal movements, especially during the first pregnancy.
There are three methods for counting fetal movements:
Pearson method . Movements are considered from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, during which physical activity is limited. In a special table, the time of every tenth movement is entered. Normally, the interval between them is less than an hour.
Cardiff Method . Movements are counted for twelve hours. If during this period of time the child performed at least ten movements, the counting is stopped and starts again the very next day.