Your 4 Week Old Baby
One month has passed already, almost in the blink of an eye! And during this time, your 4 week old baby has gained an average of 112–200 grams a week (4-7 ounces).
By 4 weeks of age, some babies have already moved onto the next size clothing, leaving the itty newborn clothes and nappies behind.
Others are making good use of newborn items, while growing steadily at the pace perfect for them.
Your baby has already mastered some milestones, and her world outside the womb is beginning to seem more like home.
You’re building your confidence in your role of caregiver, nourisher and comforter. You’re beginning to read her nonverbal cues like second nature, and even mastering the meaning of her different cries.
Of course there will still be moments you think, “if only she could talk!”
Feeding Your 4 Week Old Baby
Your fully breastfed baby should be getting the hang of things now. If you still have sore or cracked nipples, it might be time to consult an IBCLC (an especially qualified lactation consultant) to investigate if issues like nipple thrush or tongue or lip ties are involved. If you think there is still room for improvement with your baby’s latch, you might like to try a different approach, often called laid-back breastfeeding or baby-led attachment.
If you’re bottle feeding, you might be wondering how often do I need to feed my baby? This can depend on whether you’re using breastmilk or formula. However, following your baby’s lead is just as important as it is when you breastfeed. Rigid schedules and routines don’t allow for changes in your baby’s appetite during developmental leaps, and can mean your baby becomes too distressed to feed well. He might swallow air while crying, leading to discomfort after feeding.
No matter what method you use to feed your baby, it’s generally best to be flexible about the frequency and volume of feeds.
Mixed feeding – a combination of breastmilk and formula – often occurs when formula top-ups are introduced due to concerns about baby’s weight gains. If you’re doing mixed feeding and would like to return to fully breastfeeding your baby, then this can be done gradually once the reasons why baby wasn’t gaining weight normally have been identified and resolved. Some families prefer to mixed feed and this can continue as long as desired.
Sleeping And Settling
Nighttime feeding is still very frequent for a 4 week old baby. You might be considering bringing your baby into your bed for feeding and sleeping. Provided you are practicing safe bed sharing, co-sleeping with your baby can have many benefits – not the least being, parents get better sleep.
If you’re excluded from bed-sharing by any of the safe sleeping guidelines, you can still gain most of the benefits. You can do this by having your baby in her own bed alongside yours, minimising delay in your response to feeding cues. It also makes it easier to transfer your sleeping baby back to bed after her feed. Learn more in our article about the benefits of co-sleeping.
In order to to reduce the risk of SIDS, it’s recommended to have your baby sleep in the same room as her mother for the first 6-12 months. However, for some families, this is not possible. In these circumstances, breastfeeding mothers can rest easier if their partner handles everything apart from the feeding – for example, getting the baby, changing her if needed and transferring her back to bed after settling. This allows the mother to remain in bed and breastfeed safely lying down.
Babies sleeping in a separate room from their mother are more likely to be fed on a chair in the nursery or living room. It’s very important for adults to remain awake if feeding or settling on a sofa or other chair: these are high-risk environments for babies if an adult falls asleep while feeding or settling a baby. One study found one in eight SIDS and infant sleep-related deaths occurs on a sofa. The sofa is the only sleep environment in which SIDS deaths have increased in recent years, up from 6% in 1993 to 1996 to 16% in 2003-2006.
Babies can end up sleeping on the sofa when one parent tries to feed the baby without disturbing the other parent, or if they watch TV or use their mobile device while up with the baby in the middle of the night. Parents may accidentally fall asleep out of exhaustion. These accidents occur to both breastfed and bottlefed babies. Mothers are at particular risk of falling asleep while sitting up breastfeeding, due to the sleep-inducing hormones released while feeding.
If one parent is sitting up to feed your baby in the night, the other should supervise. If this is not possible, it’s better to safely sit on the floor to breastfeed or stand-up to bottle feed.
Adults who smoke, are affected by drugs or alcohol or who are extremely obese or fatigued should not risk unsupervised sleep with a baby in any circumstances.
Play And Development
Tummy time will now be a regular part of your 4 week old baby’s day. Perhaps you both enjoy it, or maybe your baby doesn’t, causing you to worry. If you are struggling, there are some ideas to help in our article, tummy time for baby – how to make it fun!
Your 4 week old baby may be holding her head up well when you hold her upright, and she may be lifting her head when she lies on her tummy. One way to encourage her and also give her some sensory stimulation at the same time, is to gently lie her over a fitness ball (you might have used one of these as part of your pre-natal exercise plan) and slowly move it backwards and forwards.
The movement will stimulate her vestibular system, while the changing scenery will engage her visually. She will want to look up to see more, strengthening her neck and upper body. Keep this playtime short, so she isn’t overwhelmed, and allow her time to rest and process the experience with some quiet time in your arms afterwards. The fitness ball is also handy to sit on and gently bounce your crying baby, soothing and settling her to sleep.
To keep her interest during tummy time, you can take advantage of her new favourite things to look at, such as high contrast shapes and patterns. These provide the baby with something simple and interesting to focus on, and in this intense concentration, they can allow their minds to rest. It’s like a mindfulness activity for newborns!
Less interested in the pastel or bright colours often chosen by parents to decorate the nursery, babies this age enjoy black and white geometric shapes. But don’t rush out to repaint the walls or buy a new collection of toys. This short stage won’t last long, and she’ll be just as happy with a few printouts from online sources as she will with the most expensive “educational” toys and books. You can also check out your local library and toy library for ideas.
As your 4 week old baby grows, so will the unsolicited advice you get about how to care for her. One thing you might begin to hear, especially if your baby is born in summer, is to give her water to drink. Here is what you need to know before you take that advice onboard: does my baby need water? What you need to know.