Your 5 Week Old Baby
Something new enters the life of your 5 week old baby.
In addition to a physical growth spurt, common around 4-6 weeks, this week will see significant brain development.
You will probably find this to be an extra demanding week. Hang in there though, because next week, you’ll start to see the results of all this growth.
Remember to employ the village of support you’ve hopefully begun building. Remain active in new mothers’ groups. Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone can be enough to help you cope with a challenging few days of parenting.
Of course, every mother baby pair is unique, so each developmental change and physical growth spurt will be experienced a bit differently.
Wonder Week – Leap One
If your 5 week old baby was born on her estimated due date (only 3-5% of babies are!), at around five weeks she will experience her first Wonder Week.
The first of ten recognisable developmental leaps in a baby’s first 18 months of life, leap one is all about changing sensations. Wonder Weeks are typically accompanied by the three Cs – clinginess, crankiness and crying. While your baby is processing the world around him and working through this development, you will find he will feed more frequently, be more wakeful and need more help to settle.
One way to support him during this time while still getting other things done is babywearing. If you haven’t yet worked out how to use the baby carrier you were gifted at your shower, now is the time to do so. But if you don’t yet have one, you can still offer your 5 week old baby that closeness and connection by offering some extra skin to skin contact, lots of cuddles and gently rocking and dancing with him.
Feeding Your 5 Week Old Baby
Most babies breastfeed more frequently during Wonder Weeks. This is normal – their brain is working hard and breastmilk is brain food, so they need to access it often. Your milk supply is designed to provide milk whenever your baby needs it – you don’t need to wait for it to build up before feeding again.
While you feed on one side, the other is actively making milk, ready to go again when needed. The volume of that new milk may be low, but the fat content is at its highest – and it’s the fat which contains the highest calories and satisfies baby’s hunger. Cluster feeding is normal during these growth spurts, as your baby simply goes back to the breast repeatedly until they’re done.
You might not notice increased feeding in your formula-fed baby. This is probably due to the slower digestion needed – it takes longer for your baby to process their milk and convert it to fuel for growth. Your baby might seek feeds a little earlier than usual, or wake for night feeds they have not been needing. This is fine, sticking to a rigid schedule of feeding will simply distress your baby and interfere with this natural increase in appetite.
If you haven’t been already, you might be thinking about expressing your breastmilk. Unless you need to do so as part of a management plan for breastfeeding problems, it’s a good idea to wait until breastfeeding is well established before you introduce this variation. As well as extra work for mother, some babies don’t switch easily between breast and bottle while they are still learning, which is known as nipple confusion, so it makes sense to learn one skill before tackling another. Once you are both ready, here are our 5 Tips To Help You Express Breastmilk Like A Pro.
Sleep And Settling
Not all crying this week can be attributed to a Wonder Week, so remember to try all your usual tricks as well as going with the flow. If you feel like you have tried everything, here is a handy article to read: Baby Still Crying And You’ve Tried Everything? 6 More Things to Check.
Your 5 week old baby might be unsettled after feeds due to trapped air in his stomach. Helping your baby burp can sometimes be a challenge and discomfort will prevent easily falling asleep.
A relaxed and vertical baby will usually burp easily after a feed. Simply snuggling her upright against your body for 10-15 minutes after she comes off the breast will usually allow any trapped air to rise naturally. Babies often swallow more air when bottle feeding or if they have cried for an extended period before feeding. It can help to offer a couple of opportunities to burp during the feed, to release any build-up of air as your baby relaxes.
Whatever positions you use to encourage a burp, avoid having your 5 week old baby slumped in a position which might prevent air rising. Keeping her upper body vertical will allow any air to work its way up the oesophagus, rather than be trapped in her stomach.
Many breastfed babies don’t swallow much air while feeding, especially once they gain a good suck-swallow-breathe pattern. So, if a burp doesn’t appear and your baby is settled or asleep, don’t waste time trying to relieve something which might not exist. If an air bubble is there but not bothering baby, it will resolve itself next time you hold her vertically.
It’s normal for babies to bring up some milk along with trapped air. The longer the milk has been in the stomach before this happens, the more digested it will appear. Some babies will bring up a lot of their feed and then look to go back on the breast to fill the space they have just created. That’s fine. Follow your baby’s lead – she knows what she needs. Such reflux is normal and only becomes a problem if it’s causing pain for the baby. Often it’s simply a result of a fast flow of milk from the breast causing too much too quickly. The stomach rejects it and she starts again. This can be a sign of over-supply, which you can read more about here: Oversupply Of Breast Milk – 7 Signs Of An Oversupply.
Play And Development
Lots of face to face interaction with your 5 week old baby will soon lead to the greatest milestone of all – the first smile! These first few weeks are incredibly demanding, often with little in the way of feedback from your baby who spends so much time feeding and sleeping.
But around six weeks, babies start to give “social smiles” – as opposed to reflex movements which hint at it, and are often labelled as “wind”. There is no mistaking a real smile, though! Your baby will be fully engaged with you, with eye contact and pleasure beaming from his whole face, as he gives it a go and gets great feedback from you. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t the recipient of this gift – it might be given to your partner when they come home after work or to grandma when she visits. It’s not personal, they are just a new face at the right time.
Once the first smile appears, you will see it quickly become part of your baby’s responses to you. Smile back, talk and laugh with her and she will reward you with more and more smiles. He will even imitate some of your mouth movements as though trying to speak herself. Social interaction is an important aid to infant development – keep your baby near you throughout your day so you can chat and smile. She will also begin to enjoy looking at faces in books and interacting with visitors and strangers even more. Right now, she is cataloguing facial expressions – the more, the better!
A crying baby is distressing – as it’s meant to be! Nature planned it that way so you don’t just ignore your baby when she cries. Nature also gave you a couple of really reliable ways to help her when she cries – you might be surprised to hear what they are. Find out in our article, Two Things Proven To Reduce Infant Crying.