18 weeks already! Where has the time gone? Your little one is growing so quickly. Be sure to enjoy all the little actions your baby is learning and impressing you with right now. Before you know it she will be up and running.
If you’re wondering what most babies are doing at 18 weeks, then read on.
Feeding your 18 week old baby breast milk and formula
If you have been preparing for working and breastfeeding, you probably introduced your baby to a bottle a few weeks ago. For some babies, this is a simple process and they switch easily between bottle and breast.
Other babies do not, though, and it can be an ongoing struggle to get them to accept a bottle. This is particularly common in babies aged 4–6 months, which is unfortunate timing for your return to work.
It’s highly likely your baby will behave differently with her carer. An experienced bottle-feeder can usually coax your baby when you are not there.
Many babies take to a cup more easily than to a bottle; surprisingly, a simple straw cup can often be the solution. If you’ve arranged flexible work hours to begin with or if you plan to go to your baby, when needed, for feeds, you might find this works best for the first few weeks, while your baby adjusts.
If your baby is in the care of a friend or family member, you might need to remind them of your goals for infant feeding. If you intend to breastfeed exclusively until around six months (without formula or solids before that age), then your baby’s carers need to understand clearly what that means.
It might feel silly to list or specify what your baby must not be fed – including rice cereal, orange juice, rusks and other foods that were once considered appropriate for babies of this age.
Make sure you leave more than enough expressed breast milk, with clear instructions on how to store, thaw and feed it to your baby. This will ensure that formula is not given ‘just in case’ or because your own milk has been mishandled or wasted.
Starting solids at 18 weeks old
Your 18 week old baby might be showing interest and enthusiasm around others when they eat, so it’s important to let carers know this does not mean they should share with her. That includes giving her a ‘tastes’ of foods and drinks which they believe won’t hurt.
Part of parenting is you get to choose when and how your baby begins solid foods, and this needs to be respected. If your 18 week old baby is in a daycare facility that includes meals in the service, remind them regularly that your baby is not yet having solid foods and share your plan for introducing solids when the time comes.
Sleeping and settling
If you have used gentle methods for helping your baby fall asleep or calm her crying, it’s also important to share these with your 18 week old baby’s carers. Whether it’s informal care with family or friends, private care with a nanny, or formal care in a daycare center, the techniques you use at home should be supported and used. This provides continuity and familiarity for your child and peace of mind for mum and dad.
When breastfeeding to sleep is not an option, wear your baby in a sling or carrier, pat or rock her to sleep or hold her in your arms when she cries. You also need to communicate this clearly to your baby’s carers. It’s not for them to judge how you care for your baby, but to simply follow your directions on how they should do it. If they can’t or won’t do so, then you will need to work together to find techniques acceptable to you all.
Being back at work when you have a baby who is still waking regularly through the night is extra challenging. Others might think they are being helpful by telling you your baby should be sleeping differently. You are probably asking How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need? And the answer will probably come as a surprise
Extinction methods of sleep training, like controlled crying or cry it out (CIO), should never be used without a parent’s knowledge or consent. Make this very clear if you suspect your carer might consider using them.
Most mums find a warm bath helps settle babies for sleeping and soothe any diaper rash they might have. Try to use non-scented products in the bath, just in case of allergic reactions, and products that are gentle on baby’s skin.
Baby growth spurts and development
At 18 weeks, a baby’s growth will start to settle down. Your baby will continue to gain weight, but not as rapidly as in the last few months. Her reflexes are becoming more precise and she will be making lots of facial expressions, with smiling, frowning, and yawning.
Most babies are super curious about their surroundings at this stage. A baby’s vision also continues to improve, as does the hand-eye coordination. In fact, most babies will try to grab everything and put it in their mouths.
As part of baby’s development, the taste buds are evolving and your little one can now taste the difference between sweet and bitter flavors.
She is now having plenty of tummy time and has started rolling so be sure to watch out for those sharp edges on the furniture.
You might be concerned that being away from your baby during your working hours will mean you miss out on your baby’s development milestones. It helps to know that most professional carers allow parents to see their baby roll, crawl, sit or walk for the first time and they won’t mention it if they observe it first during care.
Your first time will be just as exciting, anyway, even if your baby already practiced a little earlier in the day. You might need to ask family or friends specifically to let your baby surprise you, rather than have them greet you at the door with news of what you missed.
If you are concerned about your baby’s physical development or feel there is any mental or developmental delay, contact your medical professional for advice.
You might be interested in reading Tummy Time – 6 Ways To Do It (And How To Make It Fun!).
18 week old baby and play
If your child care arrangements take your baby into a new environment at a care center or home, she will enjoy the excitement of having new toys to explore and play with. In a center, she should be surrounded by age-appropriate items in a safe environment. If you’re leaving your baby with family or friends, you will need to check that she has suitable toys to play with, and supply some if she doesn’t.
If your carer also has, or looks after, older children, make sure their toys are played with and stored in such a way that your 18 week old baby can’t get hold of them. Many toys designed for children older than three years can be a choking hazard for younger babies and toddlers.
Family members caring for a baby in their home might appreciate a safety checklist and a collection of toys left for your baby to use. Older relatives might need to be reminded, tactfully, about age-appropriate play.
Paid parental leave – 18 week old baby
With an 18 week old baby, childcare is an issue at the forefront of many parents’ minds.
If you are a parent in Australia, you are generally entitled to 18 weeks paid parental leave. Although some mothers choose to extend that time with unpaid leave or access additional paid leave through their employer, for many this week marks their return to paid employment after childbirth. In other countries, paid leave might be longer or might not exist at all.
If you’re leaving your 18 week old baby for the first time, this will be a big week for both of you, and one of huge adjustments.
Whether you feel sad at having to return to work or you’ve been counting down the weeks, returning to part-time or full-time paid work, while continuing to care for your baby will mean changes for the whole family.
Rest assured, this is usually a positive experience for all involved, once you fine tune the practical aspects. It’s normal for both parents and baby to feel some separation anxiety, and to find the transition period challenging.
Your 18 week old baby will thrive on the attention she gets in a good care settting, and your time together when you are not at work will continue to be most important to you both.
It is hard to deal with your baby crying or showing distress when you leave her – or even when you return. Most experienced carers know this is normal and lasts a very short time after you leave.
Rather than just disappear, say goodbye to your baby when you leave. Don’t linger, though; this only makes it harder for all involved. Your baby’s carer will distract her with an interesting toy or activity and her short attention span will, for once, work in your favor.
You might be interested in our article Going Back To Work After Baby – 5 Tips For A Smooth Transition.
Baby seat at 18 weeks old
According to Choice, one of Australia’s leading consumer advocacy groups, the first car seat for babies of 0-6 months should be an infant capsule that is rear-facing, which can be taken in and out of the car when required. For little ones of 6 months to 4 years, the car seat is front-facing and lock fitted to the car; it can also be used as a booster seat for children up to eight years of age.
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