Half-way into the fourth trimester, your 6 week old baby is adjusting to the world more and more each week.
Major development is happening – you will see physical growth, but the growth in the brain is happening even more rapidly. Keep reading to learn about baby development and milestones to expect at this time.
How much should a 6 week old baby eat?
A 6 week old baby eats between 24-32 ounces (around 700-950ml) of breastmilk or formula in a 24 hour period. They are still eating 8-12 times a day.
Breastfeeding your 6 week old baby
Sometime between six weeks and twelve weeks, you’ll notice some changes in your breasts. You might worry you aren’t making enough milk. It’s reassuring to know this is actually a time to celebrate, not worry. Everything’s coming together and you are moving on to the next stage of lactation. Here are some ways you might notice the transition:
- Your breasts feel much softer – even before feeding. If you have been used to your breasts feeling firm or even hard before feeds, the sudden change is often a shock. Friends and family – even your doctor – might give you the idea and tell you that your milk has ‘dried up over-night‘. But you can relax — it’s all there, when you need it. Rather than storing lots of excess breast milk between feeds, your body is now efficient enough to make it on demand. The hormone prolactin is no longer pushing your breasts to make more and more, ‘just in case’. Now your baby is fully in charge, or you are, if you’re exclusively pumping.
- You might not feel the let-down or milk-ejection reflex so much, or at all. If you have been leaking between or just before feeds, you might find that isn’t such a big issue any more. These are more signs your body is working more efficiently now – not signs your breast milk has gone.
- The number of bowel movements your baby has may decrease. Some babies continue pooping several times a day, but it is also normal if your baby has just one bowel movement in a day.
- If you have been regularly pumping, you will probably notice a decrease in volume around this time – a shock if you have learned to expect a full bottle per session. Rather than storing lots of extra which you could access whenever you wanted, now you need to pump more frequently to collect less. It’s not a drop in milk supply. Expressing and bottle feeding is not part of nature’s original plan for lactation, which was simply direct feeding at the breast.
Expressing milk for your return to work, to supplement breastfeeding, or to exclusively feed your baby, are modern parts of breastfeeding. Your unlimited breast milk credit card runs out now, and you need to move to a piggy-bank method of expressing, in advance of being apart from your baby.
If you’re exclusively pumping in place of direct feeding, you probably won’t notice much of a change – it’s those additional expressions to store in the freezer where it’s most notable.
Improving your pumping technique can maximize the amount you do express, so if you haven’t already, learn how a specific technique can double the amount of milk you express!
The timing of all these changes unfortunately happens at a time when babies experience Wonder Weeks and/or a growth spurt. This means not only does it feel like you don’t have enough milk, but your 6 week old baby acts like you don’t too.
Many mothers unfortunately wean their baby earlier than hoped or move to mixed feeding when they don’t need to. Less than 50% of infants are still exclusively breastfed at three months – many have introduced formula because of concerns about low milk supply. This in turn can lead to actual low supply – but there are things you can do to reverse this. Read about how to increase milk supply – fast!
6 week old weight gain and growth
While the average baby gains about 1 pound a month for the first 6 months, remember that every baby gains weight on their own timeline. Your individual baby’s weight at six weeks will depend on their birth weight. Genetics also plays a big part in the rate of growth.
It’s good to remember that not all growth shows up on the scales. Growth in length and head circumference are important too.
The average baby grows about an inch a month in the first 6 months. This slows down a bit in the second half of the first year. This is also influenced by genetics, health, and the sex of your baby.
Some weeks you’ll see more development in measurements other than weight. Looking at all aspects of the physical growth of your little one can help you have an accurate picture of their wellbeing.
6 week old sleep schedule
Remember that “sleeping through the night” is an expectation that even older children and adults do not meet in reality.
By the time your baby is 6 weeks old, they may have a longer stretch of 4-6 hours of sleep at night now, though other babies are still waking every 2-3 hours to get more feeds in the nighttime hours.
Making the decision to co-sleep may be the solution that you choose to get as much sleep as possible. Parents can work together to come up with creative ways to be sure you are all getting the rest you need. You will make the right choice for your family.
Baby crying peaks around now – it shouldn’t get much worse and will hopefully start to get much better! This, combined with rapid development from the typical growth spurt around 4-6 weeks and the Wonder Weeks at five and eight weeks, make an intense period for your infant and those caring for him.
Remember, wakefulness and unsettledness are normal for babies that are 6 weeks old, and it does not always mean your little one is hungry, tired or in pain. Sometimes babies really are just going through a stage, and your role is to soothe, not solve, his distress. It might be helpful to know night waking is believed to be protective from SIDS.
Many parents wonder if the amount their baby cries is normal and they may have questions about this thing called “colic”. At six weeks old, babies are at the peak of colic. To learn more about colic read our article, What Is Colic? 5 Common Questions Answered.
If your baby has reflux or is showing signs of discomfort reach out to your pediatrician.
Baby massage is a wonderful aid during this period. If you haven’t already introduced it, can become a positive part of your bedtime routine. You might find a class is offered by your child health nurse, community health center or well-baby clinic. You can also find instructors who run private or small group classes. Your local library should also have books and DVDs you can borrow to support what you learn in class or to use if no classes are available locally. Learn more here: Baby Massage – 7 Amazing Benefits For Your Baby.
Babywearing is another tool both parents may find helps to settle and soothe your baby to sleep during this time. It’s important to choose a safe and comfortable baby carrier – there are many on the market and some are better designs than others. You can find out more about them in our article, Choosing a Baby Carrier Or Sling – 7 Styles to Choose From.
Remember, it’s hard to learn anything new when you are tired, hungry or in pain. Choose a time when your baby is fed, rested and calm to introduce it. You can practice getting it on and off with a doll or teddy, so you know what to do before you try with your baby. Having someone with you to help may also mean you’ll be less anxious. Your local babywearing group is a great place to go for information and support in choosing and using your baby carrier.
6 week old baby milestones
You have probably seen a fleeting smile on your baby’s face in the first weeks–more likely as they were sleeping. Many people describe these smiles as a result of “gas”. We now know that these first smiles are a reflex. Babies have even been seen to smile before birth in the womb!
The first social smile may be seen at around the six week mark. This delightful milestone will be in response to your smile or your voice. This is just the beginning of your baby learning how to interact with you and is such an exciting start of your relationship and sharing of emotions.
Play and baby’s development
Your 6 week old baby’s immature brain is wiring itself for all sorts of future development. You’ll be seeing some of that earlier wiring starting to connect.
Those vague arm movements are the early attempts of deliberate movement–being successful at getting his hands to his mouth are the beginnings of purposeful gross motor skills.
You might see your little one getting excited as you bring him near the breast or show him his bottle – he is beginning to predict what happens next.
Your 6 week old baby will continue to crave social interaction and engagement with his parents, siblings, and other family members–your face is still his favorite thing to gaze at. He’ll enjoy looking at new things and generally observing his world. But he has no ability yet to screen out stimuli or the language to indicate when his brain needs some “white space” while he processes all this input. So watch out for non-verbal signs he’s had enough and allow some down time between play.
Signs of overstimulation and that baby may need a break:
- a fearful or wary expression on their face
- a blank expression
- attempt to move or turn away with their body
- jerking or startle when there hasn’t been a fast movement or loud sound
- turning their head away or simply closing their eyes
- pouting and whimpering
When your baby is going through a tough developmental stage, you might find yourself wishing he could just TELL you what he needs. If he could talk, here is what he might say: 10 Things Your Crying Baby Wants You To Know.
You and your baby are continuing to become in sync with one another. You’re seeing your baby a bit more alert and interactive with each passing week, a lovely reward for all your hard work thus far!