Your 6 Week Old Baby
Half-way into the fourth trimester, your 6 week old baby is adjusting to the world more and more each week.
Major development is happening — you will see physical growth, but the growth in the brain is happening even more rapidly.
It’s good to remember that not all growth shows up on the scales. Growth in length and head circumference are important too.
Some weeks you'll see more development in measurements other than weight. Looking at all aspects of your baby’s physical growth can help you have an accurate picture of their wellbeing.
You and your baby are continuing to become in sync with one another. You’re seeing your baby a bit more alert and interactive with each passing week, a lovely reward for all your hard work thus far!
Feeding Your 6 Week Old Baby
Sometime between six and twelve weeks, you’ll notice some changes in your breasts. You might worry you aren’t making enough milk. It’s reassuring to know this is actually a time to celebrate, not worry. Everything is coming together and you are moving on to the next stage of lactation. Here are some ways you might notice the transition:
- Your breasts feel much softer – even before feeds. If you have been used to your breasts feeling firm or even hard before feeds, the sudden change is often a shock. Friends and family – even your doctor – might tell you your milk has ‘dried up over-night‘. But you can relax — it’s all there, when you need it. Rather than storing lots of excess milk between feeds, your body is now efficient enough to make it on demand. The hormone prolactin is no longer pushing your breasts to make more and more, ‘just in case'. Now your baby is fully in charge, or you are, if you’re exclusively pumping milk for him.
- You might not feel the let-down or milk-ejection reflex so much, or at all. If you have been leaking milk between or just before feeds, you might find that isn’t such a big issue any more. These are more signs your body is working more efficiently now – not signs your milk has gone.
- If you have been regularly pumping, you will probably notice a decrease in volume around this time – a shock if you have learned to expect a full bottle per session. Rather than storing lots of extra milk which you could access whenever you wanted, now you need to pump more frequently to collect less milk. It’s not a drop in supply. Expressing is not part of nature’s original plan for lactation, which was simply direct feeding at the breast.
Expressing milk for your return to work, to supplement breastfeeding, or exclusively feed your baby, is a modern part of breastfeeding. Your unlimited breastmilk credit card runs out now, and you need to move to a piggy-bank method of expressing, in advance of being apart from your baby. If you are exclusively pumping your milk in place of direct feeding, you probably won’t notice much of a change – it's those additional expressions to store in the freezer where it's most notable.
Improving your pumping technique can maximise the amount you do express, so if you haven’t already, learn how a specific technique can double the amount of milk you express!
The timing of all these changes unfortunately happens at a time when babies experience several Wonder Weeks and/or growth spurts. This means not only does it feel like you don’t have enough milk, but your 6 week old baby acts like you don’t too. Many mothers unfortunately wean their baby earlier than hoped or move to mixed feeding when they don’t need to. Less than 50% of babies are still exclusively breastfed at three months – many have introduced formula because of concerns about low milk supply. This in turn can lead to actual low supply – but there are things you can do to reverse this. Read about how to increase milk supply – fast!
Sleep And Settling
Baby crying peaks around now – it shouldn’t get much worse and will hopefully start to get much better! This, combined with rapid development from the typical growth spurt around 4-6 weeks and the Wonder Weeks at five and eight weeks, make an intense period for your baby and those caring for him. Remember, wakefulness and unsettledness are normal for a 6 week old baby, and it does not always mean your baby is hungry, tired or in pain. Sometimes babies really are just going through a stage, and your role is to soothe, not solve, his distress.
Baby massage is a wonderful aid during this period. If you haven’t already introduced it, can become a positive part of your day. You might find a class is offered by your child health nurse, community health centre or well-baby clinic. You can also find infant massage instructors who run private or small group classes. Your local library should also have books and DVDs you can borrow to support what you learn in class or to use if no classes are available locally. Learn more here: Baby Massage – 7 Amazing Benefits For Your Baby.
Babywearing is another tool you may find helps to settle and soothe your baby during this time. It’s important to choose a safe and comfortable baby carrier – there are many on the market and some are better designs than others. You can find out more about them in our article, Choosing a Baby Carrier Or Sling – 7 Styles to Choose From.
Remember, it’s hard to learn anything new when you are tired, hungry or in pain. Choose a time when your 6 week old baby is fed, rested and calm to introduce it. You can practice getting it on and off with a doll or teddy, so you know what to do before you try with your baby. Having someone with you to help may also mean you’ll be less anxious. Your local babywearing group is a great place to go for information and support in choosing and using your baby carrier.
Play And Development
Your 6 week old baby’s immature brain is wiring itself for all sorts of future development but right now. You’ll be seeing some of that earlier wiring starting to connect. Those vague arm movements are the early attempts of deliberate movement, though it’ll be some time yet before he can move is hands to his mouth, he is working on it! You might see him getting excited as you bring him near the breast or show him his bottle – though he can’t really predict what happens next, he has a vague idea these are good things.
Your 6 week old baby will continue to crave social interaction and engagement with you. He'll enjoy looking at new things and generally observing his world. But he has no ability yet to screen out stimulus or indicate when his brain needs some “white space” while he processes all this input. So watch out for signs he's had enough and allow some down time between play.
When your baby is going through these tough developmental stages, you might find yourself wishing he could just TELL you what he needs. If he could talk, here is what he might say: 10 Things Your Crying Baby Wants You To Know.