One month has passed since you met your baby. When you look at your 4 weeks old you probably feel this month has both dragged on and sped by. Welcome to the complex emotions of parenthood!
During this time your little one has gained an average of 112-200 grams (4-7 ounces) a week. She’s grown an average of 2.5 to 3.8 cms in length (1 to 1.5 inches).
Remember these are averages. There’s a wide range of normal. Some babies have moved into the next size clothing and nappies already. Others are making good use of newborn items while growing steadily at a pace perfect for them.
Your baby’s percentage on the pediatrician’s growth chart is used to chart appropriate growth patterns for your individual child over time. Be aware of your baby’s percentages in these areas can be very different from those of your friend’s baby.
Genetics plays a big role in your baby’s weight, length/height, and head circumference. If you and your partner are tall, or short, then chances are your baby will be too.
At four weeks old, your baby has already mastered some developmental milestones, and her world outside the womb is beginning to seem more like home.
After this first month there are some things about new parenthood you could be feeling confident about, and some parts you’re struggling with.
Your 1-month babymoon and recovery are at an end. You might feel fragile and not quite ready to jump back into your normal routine. Or perhaps you’re feeling ready to join the outside world and show off your new baby. Either of these feelings – or a combination of both – is completely normal.
The normal emotions of ‘baby blues’ can come and go in the first month. As your baby gets older, and your support team dwindles, you’ll possibly feel a bit overwhelmed or lonely.
Keep reaching out for the support you need. Be sure to build a community of families and other parents. It takes a village!
If your emotions are more than occasional tearfulness, reach out for help. Postnatal depression and the more serious postpartum psychosis are conditions that can be treated by professionals. There is a range of treatments that can help you adjust to parenthood and give you the tools to care for your baby and yourself.
Feeding your 4 week old baby
A fully breastfed baby should be getting the hang of things by now.
If you still have sore or cracked nipples after this first month, it might be time to consult an IBCLC (a specially qualified lactation consultant) to investigate if problems like nipple thrush or tongue or lip ties are involved.
If you think there’s still room for improvement with your baby’s latch, try a different approach. This is often called laid-back breastfeeding or baby-led attachment.
If you’re bottle-feeding, you might be wondering: How often do I need to feed my baby?
That depends on whether you’re using breastmilk or formula.
If you are using the formula, following your baby’s lead is just as important as it is when you breastfeed.
She might swallow air while crying, which leads to discomfort after feeding.
No matter which method you use to feed your baby, it’s generally best to be flexible about the frequency and volume of feeds.
If you’re doing mixed feeding and want to return to fully breastfeeding your baby, you can do it gradually once you’ve identified and resolved the reasons your baby wasn’t gaining weight normally.
Some families prefer to use mixed feeding and this can continue as long as desired.
You might hear, especially if your little one was born during the summer months, that you should give her water to drink.
Here’s what you need to know before you take that advice on board: Does My Baby Need Water? What You Need To Know.
Nighttime feeding is still very frequent for a 4-week old baby.
You might even find she’s nursing more frequently than in the previous week. Remember, as your baby goes through growth spurts, some nights will be more restful than others.
You might consider bringing your baby into your bed for feeding and sleeping.
Provided you are practicing safe bed-sharing, co-sleeping with your little one can have many benefits – not the least being that you get better sleep.
If you’re excluded from bed-sharing by any of the safe sleeping guidelines, you can still gain most of the benefits.
You can leave your baby in her own bed, alongside yours; this will minimize the delay in your response to her feeding cues.
It also makes it easier to transfer your sleeping baby back to bed after her feed.
Learn more in our article about the benefits of co-sleeping.
In order to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), it’s recommended you have your baby sleep in the same room as her mother for the first 6-12 months.
For some families, though, this isn’t possible.
In these circumstances, a breastfeeding mother can rest easier if her partner handles everything apart from the feeding – for example, getting the baby, changing her if needed, and transferring her back to bed after she settles.
This allows the mother to remain in bed and breastfeed while safely lying down.
Babies sleeping in a separate room, away from their mothers, are more likely to be fed on a chair or sofa in the nursery or living room.
These are high-risk environments for a baby if an adult falls asleep while feeding or settling. It’s very important for adults to remain awake if feeding or settling on a sofa or chair.
One study found one in eight SIDS and infant sleep-related deaths occurred on a sofa.
The sofa is the only sleep environment in which sudden infant death syndrome incidents have increased – from 6% in 1993-1996 to 16% in 2003-2006.
A parent might try to feed the baby without disturbing the other parent, or watch TV or use a mobile device while up with the baby in the middle of the night. When this happens, the baby can end up sleeping on the sofa.
Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding a baby, a parent might accidentally fall asleep out of exhaustion.
Mothers are at particular risk of falling asleep while sitting up and breastfeeding, due to the sleep-inducing hormones released during feeding.
If one of you is sitting up to feed your baby in the night, the other should supervise. If this isn’t possible, it’s better to sit safely on the floor to breastfeed or stand up to bottle feed.
Adults who smoke, who are affected by drugs or alcohol, or who are extremely fatigued should not risk sleeping with a baby under any circumstances.
Settling your 4-week old baby
By the time your baby is 4 to 6 weeks old, you’ll begin to experience what’s referred to as the ‘arsenic hour’ or the ‘witching hour’.
Unfortunately, it’s a little misleading: it can actually last longer than an hour.
It describes a period of time in the evening when your baby is quiet unsettled, and you feel like nothing seems to help.
This stage usually lasts until around 12 weeks of age, so having some great strategies in place will make a big difference.
Be sure to read our article on surviving the arsenic hour – it could save your sanity.
As your 4-week old baby grows, so will the unsolicited advice you get about how to care for her.
Some well-meaning friends and family members might suggest you use the ‘cry-it-out method. This method is not recommended by experts and doesn’t support optimal brain development.
You might be accused of ‘spoiling’ your baby if you respond to her cries.
Your newborn baby is in the important developmental stage of learning that her needs will be consistently met.
Responding to your baby actually decreases the time she spends crying. With this prompt attention, she’ll form a secure attachment to you and other care providers.
Studies even show the way babies are handled has long-lasting effects into adulthood.
Make sure to listen to your intuition. You know your baby best.
A good response for people who criticize your methods of caring for your baby is simply to explain, “This is what works for our family”.
Play and your 4-week old baby’s development
Tummy time will now be a regular part of your 4-week old baby’s day.
Perhaps you both enjoy it. Or maybe your baby doesn’t, which causes you to worry.
If you are struggling, there are some ideas to help you in our article Tummy Time For Baby – How To Make It Fun.
Your 4-week old baby might be holding her head up well when you hold her upright. She might be lifting her head when she lies on her tummy. Her neck muscles are getting stronger every day.
One way to encourage your little one, and to give her some sensory stimulation at the same time, is to lie her gently over a fitness ball and slowly roll it backward and forwards.
The movement stimulates her vestibular system, while the changing scenery engages her visually.
She will want to look up to see more, strengthening her neck and upper body.
Keep this playtime short so she isn’t overwhelmed. Allow her time to rest and process the experience with some quiet time in your arms afterwards.
The fitness ball is also handy to sit on and gently bounce your crying baby, to soothe and settle her to sleep.
To keep her interest during tummy time, take advantage of her new favorite things to look at, such as high contrast shapes and patterns.
They will provide your baby with something simple and interesting to focus on. This period of intense concentration allows her mind to rest. It’s like a mindfulness activity for newborns.
Babies are this age are less interested in the pastel or bright colors you’ve chosen to decorate the nursery. They enjoy black and white geometric shapes.
But don’t rush out to repaint the walls or buy a new collection of toys.
This stage won’t last long. Your baby will be just as happy with a few printouts from online sources as she will with the most expensive ‘educational’ toys and books.
You can also check out your local library and toy library for ideas.
Remember, a baby’s favourite things to look at are human faces.
Your baby will spend more and more time in a quiet alert state. Take advantage of this time by holding her where she can focus her eyesight best (8-12 inches away).
A newborn recognizes your voice and other voices she heard in the womb. She also remembers songs and stories she heard before birth.
Although your baby is still a long way from using words, she has cues to show you she’s listening and learning.
Your 4-week old can:
- React to loud sounds
- Turn her head toward sounds and familiar voices
- Watch your face as you talk to her
- Vocalize pleasure and displeasure
- Make cooing sounds (vowel sounds like “aaahh” and “ooooh”).
Talk to your baby. Imitate her cooing and her facial expressions. Sing favorite songs and recite nursery rhymes.
It is easy to get caught up in our busy lives as parents. Even so, it’s important to take the time to slow down to your little one’s pace and enjoy each other’s company.
You’re also beginning to see your baby has her own temperament and personality.
If this isn’t your first baby you’ll quickly notice this baby’s responses and reactions might be different from those of your first child.
Temperaments are in-born and some babies are more adaptable than others.
Reading your new baby’s cues is an important part of parenting and meeting her needs.
Some babies are easily overstimulated while others have an easier time adjusting to new sights, sounds and activities. Pay attention to her non-verbal cues.
Here are some ways new babies can use their bodies to communicate and show you they need a break:
- Fearful facial expressions
- Glazed over eyes
- Shuddering or jerking suddenly
- Turning their heads away from a stimulus
- Putting hands into tight fists
- Agitated crying
There are also ways for babies to show pleasure and readiness for activities:
- Relaxing their bodies
- Faces brightening
- Direct eye contact
- Smiling or having wide eyes with inviting facial expressions
- Being alert and attentive
Narrating your actions and your baby’s reactions can help you both to integrate your interactions with each other. This helps you get into a ‘rhythm’ with your baby and teaches her what to expect.
First outings with your baby
Now your baby is a month old, you might start thinking about venturing into the outside world.
Being prepared for feeds and diaper changes away from home might feel very overwhelming.
For your first few outings, it’s wise to bring your partner or a friend, so you’ll have an extra pair of hands to help with all the baby gear.
Some babies love the movement of the car and don’t mind the car seat, but some seem to hate this necessary part of life.
Read this article to find some survival tips to get through your errands.
You might also have some anxiety about breastfeeding in public. Remember, you have the right to feed your baby anywhere she needs to be fed.
Our article about public breastfeeding will reassure you, and prepare you for some common reactions and possibilities.