Your Baby's Development: Month Four
This month your baby will probably learn to hold their head up themselves, when being held in an upright position. Make sure that your hand is always positioned near to their head as they learn to do this, so that you can catch their head and prevent them from straining their neck should they lose control - that head is still very heavy for their little bodies!
When lying on their tummy they may now be able to raise their head and chest from the floor. This enables babies to get a much better view of their surroundings, it can be quite tiring so babies can't often hold this position for a long time but they do enjoy the new perspective on the room whilst they're there!
At this age your baby can also probably grasp for an object held to the back of their hand, or even reach out for objects held in front of them.
Social and Emotional Development
As your baby becomes more curious and more active, new things might entertain her but they may also overwhelm her. She may be alarmed by the sound of a toy when she first shakes it, or frightened if she accidentally rolls herself over from front to back (it can happen at this age). Reassurance is crucial in building their confidence, so clap your hands and make encouraging noises when you see them doing or trying something new.
As your baby becomes more physically and emotionally aware, their pace and taste for learning is growing quickly. A baby's mouth is very sensitive and this is why everything ends up there, from cuddly toys, to baby wipes to fingers and toes. They do this because they have a greater sense of touch in their mouths than in their fingers, making it the best way for them to explore different shapes and textures - that is of course, provided it is safe for them to mouth. Make sure that all small, breakable, dirty or sharp objects are out of reach. Be sure that floors are clean and that rubbish (particularly that left in the wake of other children) is always swept away. Babies are indiscriminate about what goes in their mouth, a small discarded raisin from a sibling, fluff from the carpet, tinsel from the Christmas tree or even a soggy used tissue - nothing is off limits in their eyes, so you must be vigilant at all times. This phase will ease, by the time your baby is around 12 months old they will be using their hands more to explore, but the desire to put things in their mouths doesn't usually subside until they are around 2 years old.
Speech and Communication
Your baby's babbling will progress gradually from simple vowel sounds such as 'ahh' and 'ooh' to vowel-consonant combinations such as 'ah-goo'. These sounds probably don't translate directly into one simple word or request from your baby but they are very important steps in learning to communicate with you, and you may find your baby using them in order to get your attention - 'calling you' if you like.
Health professionals usually advise waiting until your baby is 6 months old before introducing solids into his or her diet but if you feel strongly that your baby is ready for solids before 6 months then the earliest recommended age for starting them is 4 months. Make sure that your baby is able to support his own head, that his weight gain is on track and that solid foods do not interfere with his appetite for breast milk or formula - making sure your baby gets enough of these is the only way to ensure that he or she is receiving all the nutrients that they need at this young age.
Remember that playing with your baby is more than just about stimulating her mind. There are lots of physical games that you can play, that are good for helping to build your baby's confidence and strength - and more importantly they're fun!
Try to have plenty of time playing with your baby on her tummy, not only does this help to build her strength in lifting her head and chest away from the floor but it helps to give her a new perspective on her surroundings. Get down with her and play with a rattle or some bells. When your baby is on her back, try pulling her up to sitting by her arms and say 'Baby's sitting up!' then lower her gently (protecting her head) and say 'Baby's lying down!'. The repetition will help her to know what is coming next and she will probably show delight in her anticipation. Within the next couple of months her neck muscles will strengthen and you will notice that she is able to keep her head level with her body as you pull her up.
Be Careful Of...
...Sudden movements! Reaching out for things is natural for babies of this age, in fact, something we positively encourage. But remember that a baby won't discriminate about what he wants to touch. Be aware of their surroundings at all times - assume that they will try to touch everything around them. Babies can catch you out with a sudden swipe to your cup of tea, or by grabbing a hot radiator over your shoulder in a restaurant. Get yourself into the habit of scanning your baby's vicinity for potential hazards; it will soon become second nature to you.