Half-way into the fourth trimester, your 6 week old growing baby is adjusting to the world more and more each week.
Major development is happening; you’ll see physical growth, but the growth in the brain is happening even more rapidly. Keep reading to learn about your baby’s development and which milestones to expect at this time.
How much should a 6 week old baby eat?
A 6 week old baby eats between 24 and 32 ounces (around 700-950 ml) of breastmilk or formula in a 24 hour period. She is still eating 8-12 times a day, or roughly every 2-3 hours.
Breastfeeding your 6 week old baby
At some time 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’re moving on to the next stage of lactation.
Here are some things you might notice during 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 – and even your doctor – might give you the impression, or even tell you, your milk has ‘dried up over-night‘. But you can relax — it will be there when you need it. In the early weeks of feeding, your breasts store lots of excess breast milk between feeds but now your body is 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 not at all. If you have been leaking between or just before feeds, you might find that isn’t such a problem anymore. These is a further sign your body is working more efficiently now – not a sign your breast milk has gone
- Your baby might have fewer bowel movements. Some babies continue having bowel movements several times a day, but it is also normal if your baby poops just once in a day
- If you’ve been pumping regularly, you’ll probably notice a decrease in volume around this time; this might be a shock if you have come to expect a full bottle per session. Rather than storing lots of extra breast milk, 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; direct feeding at the breast is the natural way.
6 week old baby feeding
Expressing milk for your return to work, to supplement breastfeeding, or to exclusively feed your baby, are modern aspects 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; when you express additional breast milk to store in the freezer is when you’ll notice it most.
Improving your pumping technique can maximize the amount you express. If you haven’t done so already, learn how a specific technique can double the amount of milk you express.
Unfortunately, the timing of all these changes happens at a time when babies experience Wonder Weeks and/or a growth spurt. Not only does it feel as though you don’t have enough milk, but your 6 week old baby also acts as if you don’t. Many parents are concerned by this but these are normal stages in your baby’s life.
Many mothers, unfortunately, wean their babies 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, as many mothers have introduced formula because of concerns about low milk supply. Doing this, in fact, can lead to low supply but there are things you can do to reverse it.
Read more in BellyBelly’s article How To Increase Milk Supply Fast | 9 Best Things To Do.
6 week old weight gain and baby’s growth
Most babies gain around 1 pound a month for the first 6 months of life. Remember that every baby gains weight on her own timeline. Your individual baby’s weight at 6 weeks will depend on her birth weight. Genetics also plays a big part in the rate of growth.
It’s good to remember not all growth shows up on the scales. Growth in length and head circumference are also important.
The average baby grows about an inch a month in the first 6 months too. This slows down a bit in the second half of the first year. However, all babies develop differently and at different times. Growth is also influenced by genetics, health, and the sex of your baby.
In some weeks you’ll see more development in measurements other than weight. Looking at all aspects of the physical growth of your little one will give you a more accurate picture of her wellbeing.
Reach out to your baby’s doctor if you have concerns regarding your baby’s health or growth.
Remember that breastfed babies might put on weight differently from babies who are formula-fed.
6 week old sleep
Remember ‘sleeping through the night’ is an expectation that even older children and adults don’t meet in reality.
By the time your baby is 6 weeks old, she might have a longer stretches (4-6 hours) of sleep at night. Some babies, though, still wake every 2-3 hours to get more feeds in the nighttime hours.
Making the decision to co-sleep could be the solution you choose to get as much sleep as possible. Parents can work together to come up with creative ways to make sure they are all getting the rest they need. When it comes to sleeping habits, families will make their own decisions based on what’s right for their dynamic.
You will make the right choice for your family.
Baby crying peaks around now. The good news is it shouldn’t get much worse and will soon start to get much better. This, combined with rapid development from the typical growth spurts around 4-6 weeks and the Wonder Weeks at 5 and 8 weeks, means these next few weeks will be intense for your infant and those caring for her.
Remember, wakefulness and unsettledness are a normal part of your baby’s development at 6 weeks old, and it doesn’t always mean your little one is hungry, tired, or in pain. Many infants really are just going through a stage and your role is to soothe and comfort, rather than solve, the distress. It might be helpful to know night waking is believed to offer some protection from SIDS.
As a new mom, you might wonder whether the amount of time your baby cries is normal. You might have questions about this thing called ‘colic’. At 6 weeks of age, 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 healthcare professional.
Baby massage is a wonderful aid during this period. If you haven’t already tried it, introduce it and make it a positive part of your bedtime routine.
You might find a class 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 even if no classes are available locally.
Learn more in Baby Massage – 7 Amazing Benefits For Your Baby.
Babywearing is another tool both parents might find helpful 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 designed 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. When you introduce it, choose a time when your baby is fed, rested, and calm. You can practice getting the carrier on and off using a doll or teddy, so you’ll know what to do before you try it with your baby.
You might be less anxious if you have someone with you to help. 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’ve probably seen a fleeting smile on your baby’s face in the first weeks – more likely while he was sleeping. Many people describe these smiles as a result of ‘gas’. We now know these first smiles aren’t really ‘proper’ smiles but reflex actions. Babies have even been seen to ‘smile’ in the womb before birth.
You might see your baby’s first real social smile at around the 6 week mark. This delightful milestone will usually be in response to your smile, your facial expressions, or your voice, and you’ll see more and more of them in the coming weeks.
This is just the beginning of your baby’s learning about how to interact with you. It’s an exciting start to your relationship and the sharing of emotions.
Play and baby’s development
At 6 weeks of age, your 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.
The vague arm movements you see are the early attempts at deliberate movement. Your baby’s successful attempts to get her hands to her mouth are the beginnings of purposeful gross motor skills.
At the 6 week mark, you might also see your little one getting excited as you bring her near the breast or show her a bottle; she is beginning to predict what happens next.
Your 6 week old baby will continue to crave social interaction and engagement with parents, siblings, and other family members; your face is still her favorite thing to gaze at.
She’ll also enjoy looking at new things and generally observing the world. But she has no ability yet to screen out stimuli, and no language to indicate when her brain needs some ‘white space’ while she processes all this input. Watch out for non-verbal signs she’s had enough and allow some down time between play sessions.
Signs of overstimulation and that baby might need a break:
- Fearful or wary facial expressions
- A blank expression
- Attempts to move or turn away
- Jerking or appearing startled when there hasn’t been a fast movement or loud sound
- Turning the head away or simply closing her eyes
- Pouting and whimpering.
When your baby is going through a tough developmental stage, you might find yourself wishing she could just tell you what she needs.
If this were possible, here is what she might say: 10 Things Your Crying Baby Wants You To Know.
You and your baby are continuing to be more in sync with one another. With each passing week you see your baby a little more alert and interactive. It’s a lovely reward for all your hard work so far.