4 months old: Emotional development

4 months old: Emotional development

Your baby’s emotional development at 4 months old. Follow your baby’s milestones step-by-step.

Emotional development allows children to understand, express, and manage their emotions as they grow. Children also develop the ability to recognize and interpret the emotions of others, which helps them build relationships with those around them.

Emotional development: 4 months old

At this age:

  • Your baby fusses or cries for adult attention or when they lose something, like a toy.
  • They yawn and arch their back or turn away when they’re tired or if there’s too much noise.
  • They smile intentionally at people and don’t just stare at their faces.
  • Your baby recognizes the people who spend the most time with them, like their parents or other caregivers.
  • They like to be picked up and interacted with. They may get upset when they’re put down.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • They notice when your speech rate changes.
  • They breathe heavily to express impatience or enthusiasm.
  • Your baby reacts when a new person approaches. They may fall silent, stop smiling, observe the stranger, fidget, turn away, or press themselves against their caregiver.
  • They stop crying at the sound of their parent’s or caregiver’s voice (e.g., when they hear their grandparent or babysitter).

Over the next few weeks, your baby will begin to do the following:

  • Get angry when they don’t get what they want.
  • Increasingly use body language to express themselves and interact with others.
  • Follow a person with their eyes and, if that person leaves the room, watch the door once they’re gone.

How can you help your baby progress?

Every child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your baby’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your child’s emotional development.

When you meet your baby’s needs,
they’re reassured because they know that you understand their signals.
When your baby is crying, agitated, or upset and you find an effective way to calm them down,
they feel loved and safe.
When you play interactive games with your baby, such as peekaboo,
they get used to seeing you disappear and reappear.
When you say your baby’s name frequently while talking to them,
they learn to recognize their name.
When you say your baby’s name or speak to them softly to soothe them,
they learn to calm down at the sound of your voice.
When you respect your baby’s fears—for instance, by holding them or staying nearby when there’s a loud noise—
your baby understands that they’re safe, even in scary situations.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Chloé Gaumont, M.Sc., psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: November 2020


Photo: GettyImages/GeorgeRudy



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