Your 17 Week Old Baby
There's a lot going on in the life of your 17 week old baby, and she doesn’t want to miss a moment of it!
While she watches with wonder at the sights and sounds of everyday life, her brain is undergoing huge development to prepare for everything to come in her second half-year.
From wiring up the brain pathways which will one day guide those first steps, to processing the sounds you make as she gets ready to talk, the background activity is complex and – at times – overwhelming.
As her central nervous system continues to develop, from the top down and the inside out, your 17 week old baby’s social development also continues to bloom. She loves to meet new people and experience new things – as long as you are still close by! As well as being a challenging age, this is also one of great enjoyment, as your baby shows you the world through her brand new eyes.
Feeding Your 17 Week Old Baby
Your 17 week old baby is really taking in everything that goes on around her right now – especially during feed times! Regardless if it’s breast or bottle, staying focused on feeding is hard work when there are other more interesting things to watch and hear – for example, the way the sun breaks through the blinds or the sound of the dog barking outside.
You will probably find feeds are constantly interrupted or even abandoned when there is any stimulation around you. The conflict between wanting to feed and wanting to observe can make your 17 week old baby cranky, and can result in both of you becoming frustrated. Going out becomes a business of finding a quiet space to feed or settle a grumpy baby.
This developmental stage is an annoying, but normal part of the ‘four month monsters'. As your 17 week old baby has learned to take in everything going on around her, she is yet to develop the ability to screen it out when she needs to. This will develop by around six months, when she will be able to work out what is important and what is safe to ignore.
In the meantime, you can expect increased night feeds, where the calming darkness allows her to relax and feed without distraction. Your breasts will adapt to these changes, though you might experience some fullness or discomfort if too many daytime feeds are interrupted. Find somewhere you can retreat to for feeds – sitting with your baby facing into a boring corner without distractions can help. Playing a white noise app on your mobile device can disguise interesting sounds.
Your bottlefed baby will probably feed better if you sit her upright, facing away from your body, so she can see what is going on. Be careful to avoid overstimulation though – you might still need to retreat to quietness if she continues to be distracted.
Sleeping And Settling
Feed times are particularly challenging, but you will find getting her to sleep can also become harder. You might start to value junk sleep, when your baby finally falls asleep wherever she is. Rest assured (pardon the pun), sleep is sleep, and your baby doesn’t need to be tucked up in her cot for it to count as ‘real' sleep.
Babywearing can help settle your 17 week old baby, especially if you move to a quieter space to settle her. Turn off any devices emitting sound or movement while you are helping her fall asleep, or go to another room. You might need to close the blinds in daylight, to obscure the outside view and dim the room. Gentle, rhythmic music or white noise may capture her attention and focus, allowing her to relax and listen.
You might find your 17 week old baby in some unusual positions when she wakes in her cot. Practicing rolling is common during sleep, and she might wake when she finds herself in an uncomfortable spot. If you're still swaddling her, this is definitely a sign to move her to a sleeping bag instead. No matter how firmly you wrap her, a 17 week old baby can manage to wriggle and squirm to get her arms out or roll. She will be safer in a sleeping bag and still able to move as she needs to. Avoid any extra blankets on your baby, as her movements might lead to her head becoming covered.
Play And Development
A 17 week old baby’s interest in what's going on around them is a common point where parents wonder about using a baby carrier which allows the baby to face out (forward facing), watching the world around them. There are things you should know before using such a carrier.
One leading brand recommends only using their forward facing option for around 10-15 minutes at a time. The reason for this restriction comes back to the same issue you might be having with feeding or sleeping – overstimulation. When your baby is facing away from you, it's hard to read her feedback: all the noise and movement might be too much. Although she loves to see everything at the market, shopping mall or event you are attending, a little goes a long way, and she needs to be able to turn away to process, before it all becomes too much.
A forward facing carrier doesn’t allow her to turn away or tune out, and is just one of 6 reasons to avoid forward facing baby carriers. Another option, which allows her a near-360 degree view but also maintains eye contact with you and allows her to turn away when needed, is a ring sling. Wearing your 17 week old baby on your hip is easier than holding her and will also make it easy for you to do household tasks while she watches. Find out more in our article, Choosing a Baby Carrier Or Sling – 7 Styles to Choose From.
Your 17 week old baby is probably holding toys tightly in her hand now and bringing them to her mouth. She will also spend time with her fingers and thumbs in her mouth, no matter how determined you are that she doesn’t! Babies suck their hands from around 16 weeks gestation in the womb, and they work hard in the early weeks of life to gain the muscle development to guide them back to their mouth.
As well as being soothing, sucking and mouthing are very important for babies – they learn by doing so. It will be a few months yet before she can pick up a toy or other item, turn it, poke it and feel it with her fingers. But at 17 weeks, her mouth, tongue and lips can learn a lot about the things they touch – our mouths have more nerve endings per square inch than any other part of our body!
While well-meaning family and friends will tell you she is teething or needs solids, the reason your baby is putting everything in her mouth is simply research! It also gives her pleasure and can help her calm and relax.
While some babies will go on to suck their thumbs in childhood, restricting your baby from doing so will not prevent this, and could delay her learning. Trying to replace fingers or thumbs with a dummy will reduce her ability to explore and learn, so accept this as a normal developmental stage and relax. You don’t need to worry about dirt or germs – normal household environments pose little threat, and contact with the things around her helps build her immune system. It isn’t necessary to boil or sterilize her toys, simply washing them occasionally with regular dishwashing liquid is fine.
Now that your baby is spending more time awake during the day, playtime becomes an important part of her routine. While tummy time and practicing rolling will take a lot of her time, simple games will begin to appeal. Here are some simple baby games to begin with: Baby Games – 5 Fun Games To Play With Baby.