Important Child Development Milestones: Your Baby at 4 Months

Many parents have questions about their child’s development. It’s a good idea for parents to look for certain signs that their child is meeting developmental milestones that experts see in typical children of a certain age.

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The following is a checklist of some behavioral milestones experts expect to see a baby reach by the end of 4 months. This checklist is a good starting point to use when you take your child in for his or her next check-up with a healthcare provider.

What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional:

  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people

  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops

  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning

Language and Communication:

  • Begins to babble

  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears

  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving):

  • Lets you know if he is happy or sad

  • Responds to affection

  • Reaches for toy with one hand

  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it

  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side

  • Watches faces closely

  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance

Movement and Physical Development:

  • Holds head steady, unsupported

  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface

  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back

  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys

  • Brings hands to mouth

  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows

It’s important to know that while there are variations in child development, certain behaviors, or a lack of certain behaviors, may indicate meaningful developmental delays that parents and caregivers will want to address.

Act Early by talking to your child’s doctor, if your child:

  • Doesn’t watch things as they move

  • Doesn’t smile at people

  • Can’t hold head steady

  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds

  • Doesn’t bring things to mouth

  • Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface

  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age. You may also benefit from talking with someone familiar with the available services for young children in your local area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, visit the CDC's “If You’re Concerned” webpage or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern. Ask your child’s doctor about your child’s developmental screening.

This parenting tip blog post has been adapted from resources available through the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Explore their website for further information and more detailed checklists about child development.

And check out the resources available through the Exchange Family Center for parents and caregivers. We’ll be continuing this deep dive into important child development milestones in upcoming posts. So stay tuned!