Six weeks of age is seen by many parents to be a milestone. The initial newborn period for their baby is over and family life tends to have settled down a little. You might find it difficult to remember life before you had your baby and wonder just what you did with all your time.
It is common for parents to feel as if the weeks since their baby’s birth have passed by in a blur. This can leave a lot of parents, particularly mothers, feeling more than a little sad. If this sounds like you, try to have some time each day where you just sit and enjoy your baby. The best time to do this may be when you aren’t doing anything specific for them other than cuddling and looking at their little face.
You and your partner will have both earned the pleasure of this.
If your baby is breastfeeding you could find they aren’t as demanding for feeds as they were in the early weeks. There is likely to be some more regular spacing between their feeds during the day, with more predictability. If you have been feeding on only one breast until now, you may find your baby wants to suck on both sides at some of their feeds. As your baby grows and their energy requirements change, so will their kilojoule requirements.
If you are bottle feeding you may find your baby is demanding a larger volume of feeds as they go through a growth spurt. This is common at around 6 weeks. The recommended feeding volume from 5 days of age to 3 months is 150ml/kilogram of body weight, each day. If your baby wants a little more or less than this, don’t be too concerned. Check with your child health nurse who will weigh and measure your baby and plot their growth on a percentile (growth) chart.
If your baby is waking after only having a short sleep, don’t feel alone. This is a common behaviour at 6 weeks where 20 minute sleep cycles seem to become the norm. You’ve probably suspected that this is nowhere near long enough for your baby to feel rested – and you are right.
Try not to always nurse, rock or feed your baby to sleep and aim to place them into their cot awake. (Check the baby sleep section for more information).
Although it is always important to settle your baby to sleep on their back, make sure they have some tummy time each day. When they are awake and you are watching them is the best time to do this. Don’t expect your baby to have too much tolerance for tummy time at 6 weeks, sometimes a few minutes is enough for them. But gradually, they will become more used to it and you will see the benefits as they develop strength in their neck and upper body.
In the 6 weeks since your baby’s birth, they are likely to have gained between 500 grams – 1 kilogram. Their growth rate will be highly individual, but you will notice those double O and triple O suits getting a little tighter on them. Your baby may gain more weight in some weeks than others, so don’t be concerned if they do.
It can be helpful to look at weight gain over a few weeks to a month which will give you a more accurate picture of normal variation. Try not to compare your baby with others of the same age. Although it can be tempting to do this, it doesn’t really achieve anything and often just creates concern and worry.
Your baby is likely to be smiling by now, giving you some feedback for all your hard work. Smiling is a powerful way for all babies and their parents to communicate with each other, especially in early life when speech and language have not yet developed.
For many babies, the period from 6 weeks onwards can be the start of a more unsettled, wakeful time. Crying tends to peak in this age group and despite years of careful research, the true reason remains unproven.
Some experts believe that babies in this age group become easily overstimulated and crying is a means for them to vent their frustration. Overtiredness, discomfort, boredom, hunger or a need for affection are some of the reasons why babies cry.
You will find there is not one sure way to calm your baby. But most respond to being rocked and cuddled and having their parents close by. Babies cannot regulate their own emotions, which is one of the reasons why they are so dependent on their parents.
Your baby will need your help to feel safe and secure. Because they won’t yet know the difference between night and day, you will need to be on call for them 24 hours/day.
There are likely to be times when your baby cries and you have no idea why. Check the obvious such as hunger, tiredness, being uncomfortable or perhaps a tummy ache. The reality is that working out the reason babies of this age cry can be very difficult. Generally though, they will calm with feeding, rocking, soothing or having a deep warm bath or tummy massage. Ask for help and support from your partner, family or child health nurse.
You’ll have worked out the process of nappy changing, bathing and general hygiene by this stage. Aim to make these times as enjoyable as you can – after all, they soon add up to become a major part of your everyday life.
You are likely to still be feeling tired and worn out. At 6 weeks your baby may be having a longer, uninterrupted sleep period overnight, allowing you to have a little more sleep yourself. But tiredness is a fact of life in early parenting and it can take months before parents stop feeling exhausted all the time.
The symptoms of post natal depression and exhaustion can be very similar. Many women worry they are becoming depressed when they experience feelings of sadness and anxiety. If you are concerned you may be depressed check beyondblue and follow the depression checklist for post natal depression. Also, check with your GP or child health nurse who may ask you to fill out a scoring tool.
This week you will need to have your post natal check with your doctor or midwife. By 6 weeks your uterus and pelvic organs should have returned to their pre-pregnant state. If you are still bleeding or have any concerns, write them down so you are prompted to raise them at your post-natal check-up.