4 weeks have passed since giving birth and meeting your baby for the first time, and now your rapidly growing little one is already a month old!
Where did that time go? Although this early stage can be full of challenges, no doubt you already can’t imagine life without your precious little bundle of joy.
When you look at your new arrival, you probably feel the last four weeks have both dragged on and sped by, all at the same time.
Welcome to the complex emotions of parenthood.
4 week old weight
Your baby’s growth is rapid at this stage. During this time, most infants gain an average of 112-200 grams (4-7 ounces) a week. She’s already grown an average of 2.5 to 3.8 cms (1-1.5 inches) in length You’ve probably noticed she’s already starting to fill out all those onesies and baby grows you have stashed in the drawer.
Remember, though, these are just general rules, or averages. There’s a wide range of normal. Some babies will have moved into the next size of clothing and nappies already. Others will take a little while longer – making good use of newborn items while growing steadily at a pace perfect for them.
Your baby’s percentage (or percentile) on the pediatrician’s growth chart is used to chart appropriate growth patterns for your individual child over time. Be aware your baby’s percentages in these areas can be very different from those of your friend’s baby. However, both can be perfectly normal.
There will always be some little ones on the lower end and some on the upper end of the growth spectrum, and many more will fall somewhere in between.
Genetics play 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.
4 week old baby milestones
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.
Can a 4 week old smile?
You might be wondering whether it’s possible to see a glimmer of a smile at 4 weeks.
Your one month old is definitely capable of flashing you a brief smile at this stage, but smiles will become more frequent over the next few weeks and months.
Smiles at 4 weeks tend to be more what are known as ‘reflex’ smiles. They are brief occasional ‘accidental’ smiles that occur as babies practise their facial expressions, rather than in response to something. Did you know it is even possible for babies to smile in the womb?
Real smiles or ‘social’ smiles take longer to develop, and occur purposely as a way for babies to engage or interact with a parent or caregiver. Experts believe true social smiles tend to occur consistently around 2 months old.
After this first month there are some things about new parenthood you’re feeling confident about, and some parts you’re struggling with.
Your 1 month babymoon and recovery period is 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, as a new mom you can often feel a bit overwhelmed or lonely at about month 1.
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 whether 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?
This will depend on whether you’re using breast milk or formula.
If your baby is formula fed, following your baby’s lead is just as important as it is when you breastfeed.
4 week old baby feeding schedules
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.
Mixed feeding – a combination of breast milk and formula – is often used when formula top-ups are introduced, due to concerns about the baby’s weight gains. Be guided by your baby’s pediatrician or health nurse if this is the case.
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.
Be sure to read Does My Baby Need Water? What You Need To Know before you take on that advice.
4 week old baby sleeping
Nighttime feeding is still very frequent for a baby at 4 weeks.
It’s a known fact newborns don’t have a regular sleep/wake pattern, therefore sleepless nights are still very much a thing, unfortunately.
Remember, newborn babies have a physical need to feed regularly through the night. It’s not a question of whether they’re ‘good’ or not. They’re simply not designed to go long periods without food.
It’s perfectly fine for breastfed babies to wake 2-4 hourly for feedings at this age. If your baby is formula fed you might notice she sleeps for slightly longer periods.
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.
Try to take advantage of a daytime nap to keep you topped up and prepared for those sometimes long nights.
How long should a baby sleep at 4 weeks?
Unfortunately for us, babies don’t yet know the difference between day and night. Their bodies are still trying to regulate their day and night time rhythms, also known as their circadian rhythms.
In adults, the circadian rhythm is governed by light and darkness, and by our natural hormones.
Babies, on the other hand, haven’t yet developed this internal body clock. As a result, they tend to sleep for a short period at a time, usually ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 4 hours.
On average, a one month old baby still needs between 16 and 18 hours sleep over a 24 hour period.
Help your little one develop her natural rhythms, by teaching her that night time feeds are quiet and low key. Avoid turning on bright lights, and keep talk and engagement with her to a minimum.
Co-sleeping and bed sharing
You might also consider bringing your baby into your bed for feeding and sleeping.
Provided you are practising safe bed-sharing, co-sleeping with your little one can have many benefits – not the least being that you get better sleep.
Many new parents are nervous about the idea of co-sleeping, so we spoke to Emily, BellyBelly’s very own IBCLC, for some further information.
‘A baby’s needs do not switch off overnight. Just like during the daytime, babies need to be responded to, nurtured and fed throughout the night.
‘Co-sleeping promotes and protects a strong breastfeeding relationship.
‘Across many different cultures, babies have historically slept close to their mothers. Breastfeeding mothers are particularly responsive to their babies and breastfeeding is protective against SIDS.
‘When breastfeeding in a side lying position, babies will naturally roll off the breast onto their back when they have finished feeding. Mothers also typically adopt a C-shaped sleeping position that protects their baby from sleeping accidents’.
Benefits to your baby’s health
If you’re excluded from bed-sharing by any of the safe sleeping guidelines, you and your baby 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 Babies and Sleep: The Benefits Of Cosleeping.
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, as an adult might fall 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, 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 newborn 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 (including those made drowsy from prescribed medications) should not risk sleeping with a baby under any circumstances.
Why is my 4 week old suddenly so fussy/unsettled?
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 quite unsettled and fussy, 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 4 week old baby’s development is critical at this stage. She is in the important developmental stage of learning where her needs will need to be consistently met to help her feel secure.
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 you 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’.
What should babies be doing at 4 weeks? Your 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.
Tummy time is important, as it helps to prevent flat spots on your baby’s head, from always being laid in one position. It also helps to develop and strengthen neck, chest and shoulder muscles. This will improve gross motor skills, and prepare your baby for what’s to come as she learns to roll, crawl, move and walk in the coming months and years.
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.
Play and development
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 (obviously being careful not to let her fall).
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.
Newborn babies at this age are less interested in the pastel or bright colors you’ve chosen to decorate the nursery. They enjoy black and white or high contrast 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.
Your baby’s senses
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 baby recognizes your voice and other voices she heard in the womb. She also remembers songs and stories she heard before birth.
Baby social cues
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’s 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.
At one month, you’re also beginning to see your baby’s 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 more into the outside world.
Being prepared for your baby’s feeds and managing dirty diapers away from home might feel 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 if needed for the diaper change, or 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 our article Baby Hates The Car Seat? to find some survival tips to get you through your errands.
You might also have some anxiety about breastfeeding in public, or have heard of women who had a negative experience when they breastfed in public. Remember, the good news is that you have the right to feed your baby anywhere she needs to be fed.
Our article, 10 Things That Will Happen When You Breastfeed In Public, will help reassure you and prepare you for some common reactions and possibilities.