You’re beginning to settle into your new life with your 3 week old baby. It’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. In these first few weeks of your baby’s life, 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 your baby’s daily routine.
Housework takes a back seat and maintaining order in the home is now 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 by now, and be back to your previous life and activities.
The reality, however, is usually something quite different.
The fourth trimester
The fourth trimester refers to the first 12 weeks after giving birth to your new baby. It’s considered a really important time in your baby’s development, as your newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb.
In many cultures around the world there’s a tradition of giving mothers 40 days to recover and heal, both physically and emotionally, after childbirth. They’re also surrounded by wise and experienced women who help guide them through this transitional period. The postnatal period is valued and seen as vital for the mother for healing her body and bonding with her newborn baby.
Almost in direct contrast, in Western cultures the exact opposite is true. There’s a societal pressure put on mothers to get up and go, and to carry on with all the things we used to do, as if nothing has changed. There’s a danger here that when a mother’s experiences don’t match these expectations, she might experience a feeling of shame and an underlying sense of ‘failure’.
Support for you
Although you might not have the exact setup that other cultures do, reach out to find the support you need and deserve at this time. Allowing others to support you means you’re in the best possible place to be able to support your little one. This is most important in the first week after you give birth, since this part of your journey is the most difficult one because of all the necessary adjustments.
You can hire a postnatal doula or ask family and friends for support. This might involve help with household tasks, or with caring for older children, or bringing meals. This kind of support allows you time to recover from birth and concentrate on your newborn in the first few weeks.
Make sure visitors are there to help you. It’s a good idea to limit the time people visit, and make them aware some kind of help is expected and very much appreciated. Asking friends and family to run an errand or do a household chore might be hard. Remember, though, 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.
Here are a few suggestions of ways friends and family can help out. They could:
- Pick up some shopping
- Bring over a cooked meal or something for the freezer
- Do a load of washing or ironing for you
- Fold some clothes
- Arrange a playdate for your other children
- Come over to help so you can take a nap.
- Simply give you some ‘me time’
Everybody always says, ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’. This is easy advice to cast aside when you feel other chores are mounting up at home. Trust me, though, it’s one of the best pieces of advice for new parents. Sleep whenever you can over the next few weeks. If that means the washing has to wait an extra day, then so be it.
Finding other new and experienced parents to talk with about the joys and challenges this time brings helps put things into perspective. Other parents’ views can have a huge impact on you as well. Sharing them helps build a community and make important connections as your journey of parenthood continues.
Take heart in the knowledge you are not expected to have it all together at this stage. Forget about housework and expectations – it’s okay to put you and your baby’s needs first.
3 week old baby and feeding
Breastfed babies at 3 weeks will feed at least every three hours, including through the night. This is about 8-12 times in 24 hours. Its seems a lot but it’s perfectly normal and expected. It’s really important you have this expectation, to avoid feeling as though you’re doing something ‘wrong’ because your baby is feeding through the night (and day).
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 breast milk supply concerns are taking their toll. Taking vitamin D every day is advisable, and especially good for your breast milk. Perhaps you’re questioning whether you can keep this up much longer. Rest assured, you are not 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. Maintaining this commitment in the early weeks, however, 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 breast milk or formula after breastfeeds. Although it takes time, nearly all breastfeeding problems can be solved.
It can be hard to find the right support to help you work out why your baby can’t get a good latch. Like all parents, you might be concerned for your baby’s health, and wonder why your supply seems low, or why you’re getting blocked ducts or mastitis.
You might be consulting multiple professionals, including your child health nurse, local doctor, IBCLC (lactation consultant), breastfeeding counselor, and midwife. It’s easy to feel frustrated if each offers a different opinion or conflicting information.
Your number one priority right now is your baby’s health. It’s important to be aware of the big difference in education and training for these professionals.
See our article The Shocking Lack Of Breastfeeding Education For Healthcare providers to read about training medical professionals receive about breastfeeding.
If you need to supplement breastfeeding, the good news is it won’t mean the end of breastfeeding. Careful use of expressed breast milk, donor milk, or formula can allow you to work through ongoing difficulties and return to full breastfeeding if that’s your goal.
Ongoing 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) that allow your baby additional milk while being fed at the breast. This enables longer breastfeeding where there are permanent supply problems.
If you’re weighing up 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, there 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 focused on breastfeeding mothers. You might resent this and even see it as a bias towards breastfeeding women. That isn’t the reason.
Sleeping and settling your 3 week old baby
Everyone warns you about losing sleep once you have a baby. Somehow the reality of sleep deprivation still comes as a shock to most parents.
Babies wake about every two or 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 when 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. And again, this is totally normal.
If you’re breastfeeding, you might wonder whether 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 time 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 feeds and waking might be 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 growing baby through his many growth spurts.
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 how much sleep they’re getting and about their babies’ sleep patterns, in an effort to conform with society’s beliefs about what’s normal.
Find out more in Baby Sleep Myths: 4 Major Myths Busted.
3 week old baby crying
Not all unsettled behavior is due to hunger. Your 3-week old baby might have some periods of unexplained crying. We don’t really know why but persistent crying gradually increases in babies 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. It is commonly known as ‘colic’ or blamed on ‘wind’, which implies some sort of gut disturbance, but there is no evidence to support this. It’s likely any tummy pain is the result of continued crying, not the cause.
However, if you are concerned, contact your baby’s doctor for further advice.
Colic is often diagnosed when a baby cries a lot for no apparent reason. This type of behavior usually starts in newborn babies around the third week and it’s a common concern.
Symptoms of colic can be soothed by soothing sounds, gently rocking and winding the baby over the shoulder, and giving warm baths.
Although this type of unexplained crying is something you can only soothe your little one through, there are other times your 3-week old baby might 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 your baby cries frequently, or is very wakeful or unsettled, knowing who you can call when it gets too hard is crucial.
Take time out. Feel free to breathe, even if just for a few minutes. It’s for your own mental health during long bouts of crying. And remember, this phase is normal and temporary.
No one can do this without help. There is a great deal of truth behind the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Find your village.
There are also some things you can do to make the most of the opportunities you have to sleep for at least three hours.
There are some ideas to try in 6 Things To Do When You Need More Sleep.
Normal behavior for a 3-week old baby
Your 3-week old baby still spends most of his time feeding, sleeping, crying … or pooping.
Although your baby seems pretty demanding, you’ll soon see him take more interest in looking around this strange new world and the people who live in it. Some complex shapes can be a great help as well.
Faces continue to be his favorite 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 that 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.
Does my 3-week old baby recognize me?
At three weeks of age, he recognizes close family voices from life in the womb, although they are now much less muffled. Sing songs and 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.
Play and development in 3 week old baby
Your baby is now spending a longer period of time in a quiet, alert state. When your baby’s face is calm and he makes eye contact with you, use this short time to connect with your little one by having a ‘conversation’. Your baby loves talking to you and that’s for sure.
You’ll be doing all of the talking. obviously, but when you speak with conversational pauses, using rising pitch as you ask questions, and changing your facial expressions, these are the beginnings of his learning about language and interaction.
Another way to promote language development, and also just to 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 but is hugely beneficial for your baby’s development. There’s good research that shows hearing more words at home leads to a better understanding of language and also leads to greater intelligence.
3-week old baby’s development
Your baby’s movements are still unorganized but he will 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 days and weeks. The digestive system is maturing and your baby might only have two larger bowel movements a day. Some babies might only have one dirty diaper a day but most babies don’t.
As long as he continues to have frequent feeds, gains weight appropriately, and isn’t having signs of intestinal upset, this could be his new normal pattern. Some babies continue to have 5-8 dirty nappies per day. Always remember to use mild baby soap when cleaning your baby.
The number of wet diapers should stay the same. A wet diaper is a good indication of adequate fluid intake. But be aware, your baby’s skin is very delicate at this stage. He needs frequent changes to avoid diaper rash.