As you settle into your new life with your 3 week old baby, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. In these first few weeks, you’ve been learning your baby’s cues and needs. While your “babymoon” continues, the outside world begins creeping in.
Family and friends want to meet the new arrival and there might be medical appointments to juggle — around baby’s feeds and sleeps of course!
Housework takes a back seat and maintaining order in the home is a different priority.
Tiredness, hormonal changes and a healing body can leave you vulnerable to tears and mixed emotions.
By week three, you (or others around you) might think you should have everything figured out and be back to your previous activities and life.
Mothers in cultures around the world have a tradition of 40 days to recover and heal, both physically and emotionally after childbirth. They’re also surrounded by wise women and guided through this transitional period.
While you mightn’t have this exact set-up, you can reach out to find the support you need and deserve at this time. You can hire a postnatal doula and/or asking family and friends for support. This might be with household tasks and bringing meals, to allow you time to concentrate on your newborn and to recover from birth.
Make sure visitors are there to help you. It’s a good idea to limit the time people come over and make them aware some kind of help is expected. Asking friends and family to run an errand or do a household chore may be hard. Remember this is your time to be cared for and you would return the favor when the tables are turned. Let’s make care for postpartum parents the normal and expected thing!
Finding other new and experienced parents to talk with about the joys and challenges this time brings helps put things into perspective. It helps build a community and make important connections as your journey of parenthood continues.
Take heart in the knowledge you shouldn’t be expected to have it all together at this stage! So forget about housework and expectations – it’s okay to put your baby and yourself first!
Your 3 week old breastfed baby will feed at least every three hours, including through the night. This about 8-12 times in 24 hours.
Most mothers and babies find it takes a month or more to get breastfeeding working well. You might find the demands of sore nipples, cracked nipples or breastmilk supply concerns are taking their toll. Perhaps you’re questioning if you can keep this up much longer. Rest assured, you aren’t alone. It’s common to feel this way.
Find out more in our article Breastfeeding: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Confidence.
Almost all mothers set out to breastfeed their babies after birth. However, maintaining this commitment in the early weeks is a challenge, and more than a third of babies receive some formula in the first month.
You might feel discouraged if you’ve occasionally or regularly topped-up with expressed breastmilk or formula after breastfeeds. Although it takes time, nearly all breastfeeding problems can be solved.
You might be consulting multiple professionals, including your child health nurse, local doctor, IBCLC lactation consultant and breastfeeding counsellor. It’s easy to feel frustrated if each offers a different opinion or conflicting information.
It’s important to be aware of the big difference in education and training for these professionals – see our article here about what training medical professionals receive about breastfeeding – it may shock you.
If you need to supplement breastfeeding, it helps to know this won’t mean the end of breastfeeding. Careful use of expressed breastmilk, donor milk or formula can allow you to work through ongoing issues and return to fully breastfeeding if that’s your goal.
On-going mixed feeding (the combination of direct breastfeeding with feeds from a bottle) is also possible, without always leading to full bottle-feeding. There are even supplemental nursing systems (SNS) which allows your baby additional milk while at the breast. This enables longer breastfeeding where there are permanent supply issues.
If you are weighing your options, you might like to first read our article 8 Things To Know Before You Give Up Breastfeeding to help you make your decision. If you decide to partly or fully formula feed your baby, here are some important tips to get you going in How To Get Started With Baby Formula In 6 Easy Steps.
If you’re formula feeding, you’ve probably noticed there’s a great deal more information around for breastfeeding mothers. You might resent this and even see it as a bias towards breastfeeding women. But that isn’t the reason – read more about Why There Are (A Lot) More Breastfeeding Articles Than Formula Articles.
Sleeping and settling your 3 week old baby
Everyone warns you about losing sleep once you have a baby. Somehow the reality is still a shock to most parents.
Babies wake about every three hours at night to feed, and they sometimes need a lot of support to settle back to sleep, only to wake again … unbelievably soon.
There are some nights where periods of sleep are few and far between, with the baby needing to feed constantly and not settling at all. For at least three months your newborn baby doesn’t know the difference between day and night, and just feeds and sleeps as needed, around the clock.
If you’re breastfeeding, you might wonder if your little one would be more settled and sleep better on formula. Other parents, family and friends might suggest your baby is waking too often and should be sleeping longer at night between feeds.
You might start to feel you’re doing something wrong. Although it might sound as though you’ll get more sleep by formula feeding your baby, research shows breastfeeding mothers get more sleep!
As demanding as night waking is for parents, for babies, it’s what they need to do. Frequent day and night feeding is important to maintain rapid growth in the first year. Night feeds help maintain your milk supply and support your baby through each growth spurt.
There are probably more myths and misconceptions about infant sleep schedules than any other aspect of raising a child – and you can’t believe everything you hear.
In fact, as many as one-third of parents admit to lying about their babies’ sleep patterns in an effort to conform to society’s beliefs about what’s normal.
Find out more in Baby Sleep Myths: 4 Major Myths Busted.
Not all unsettled behavior is due to hunger. Your 3 week old baby might start some periods of unexplained crying. We don’t really know why crying gradually increases from around 2-3 weeks, peaks at 6-8 weeks, and gradually reduces again by around 3 months.
This crying period appears to be common to all young mammals, although science is yet to work out why. Commonly known as “colic” or blamed on “wind”, which implies some sort of gut disturbance, there is no evidence to support this. It’s likely any tummy pain is the result of continued crying, not the cause.
While this type of unexplained crying is something you can only soothe your little one through, there are other times your 3 week old baby may be unsettled due to a known cause. Some of the most common reasons for infant crying can be found in our article 10 Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be Crying.
Lack of sleep and a frequently crying baby quickly take their toll on all parents. If you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to reach out for support. All parents need a support network they can call on for help. If you have a wakeful or unsettled baby, knowing who you can call when it gets too hard is crucial.
Take time out for your own mental health during long bouts of crying and remember this phase is normal and temporary.
Here are 6 Ways To Build Your Support Network After Having A Baby. No one can do this without help.
There are also some things you can do to make the most of the opportunities you do get to sleep. Here are some ideas to try: 6 Things To Do When You Need More Sleep.
Play and development at 3 Weeks Old
Your 3 week old baby still spends most of his time feeding, sleeping … or crying! While your baby seems pretty demanding, you’ll soon see more interest in looking around this strange new world and the people who live in it. Faces continue to be his favourite thing to look at, so surprise him with some of the things faces can do:
- Poke your tongue out and watch him try to mimic you
- Introduce him to a friend or family member with facial hair or glasses, which alter the appearance he expects
- Show him your face upside down and watch as he tries to make sense of familiar features in unfamiliar places!
At three weeks of age, he recognizes close family voices from life in the womb, though they are now much less muffled. Sing songs, tell him stories – if you did this during pregnancy, he will recognize the rhythm and pattern of familiar words. Play with your voice in high and low tones. Newborn babies prefer high pitched, exaggerated sounds – which is probably why everyone suddenly speaks this way when they meet him!
Your baby’s spending a bit more time in a quiet-alert state. When your baby is calm and makes eye contact with you, use this short time to connect with your little one by having a “conversation”.
You’ll be doing all of the talking, but hearing you speak with conversational pauses, using rising pitch as you ask questions, and changing facial expressions, are the very beginnings of learning about language and interaction.
Another way to promote language development, and also just give your baby context about your world, is by narrating your actions as you do them.
For example: “It’s time to change your diaper now. I’m lifting your legs. Now I’m wiping — is that cold? You don’t like diaper changes, do you? Now I’m snapping your onesie. I’m picking you up now … that’s better.”
This constant narrative might seem awkward at first or it could come naturally. There’s good research that hearing more words at home leads to a better understanding of language and also leads to greater intelligence.
Your baby’s movements are still unorganized but have more control over his neck muscles. You might see him lifting his head for slightly longer periods during tummy time, when held against your chest, or upright against your shoulder.
At three weeks old, he’s also slowly getting better at tracking objects as they move in front of him – mostly his own hands! He makes equal movements with his hands and feet at this stage.
After exceeding his birth weight, another possible change is he has fewer bowel movements than in the first few weeks. The digestive system is maturing and your baby might only have two larger bowel movements a day. As long as your baby continues to have frequent feeds, gains weight appropriately, and isn’t having signs of intestinal upset, this may be his new normal pattern. Some babies continue to have 5-8 dirty nappies per day.
The number of wet diapers should stay the same. Your baby needs frequent changes to avoid diaper rash.