6 weeks of age is seen as a milestone by many parents. The initial newborn-period for your baby is over and family life tends to have settled down a little. You might find it difficult to remember life before you had your baby, and even wonder just what you did with all your time.
It is common for parents to feel as if the weeks have passed by in a blur. This can leave a lot of parents – particularly mothers – feeling more than a little sad. If this sounds like you, try to set aside time each day to sit and enjoy your baby. The best time to do this may be when you aren't doing anything specific for them, other than cuddling and looking at their little face.
You and your partner will have both earned this pleasure.
If your baby is waking up after only having a short sleep, don't feel alone. This is a common behaviour at 6 weeks, where 20 minute sleep cycles seem to become the norm. You've probably suspected that this is nowhere near long enough for your baby to feel rested – and you are right.
Try not to always nurse, rock or feed your baby to sleep, and aim to place them into their cot while they're awake.
Although it is always important to settle your baby to sleep on their back, make sure they have some tummy time each day. The best time to do this is while you're watching. Although it's important, don't expect your baby to be able to tolerate too much tummy time at 6 weeks – a few minutes will suffice.
As they gradually become more used to it, you will notice the strength in their neck and upper body improving.
Behaviour and Development
In the 6 weeks since your baby's birth, your little one is likely to have gained between 500 grams – 1 kilogram. Their growth rate will be highly individual, but you will notice those newborn outfits getting a little tighter and tighter. Your baby may gain more weight in some weeks than others, so don't be concerned if that happens.
It can be helpful to look at weight gain over a few weeks to a month. This will give you a more accurate picture of normal variation. Try not to compare your baby with others of the same age. Although it can be tempting to do this, it doesn't achieve anything and often creates unnecessary concern and worry.
Your baby is likely to be smiling by now, giving you some well-deserved feedback for all your hard work. Smiling is a powerful way for babies and their parents to communicate with each other, especially when speech and language have not yet developed.
For many babies, the period from 6 weeks onwards can be the start of a more unsettled, wakeful time. Crying tends to peak in this age group and despite years of careful research, the true reason remains unproven.
Some experts believe that babies of this age become easily over-stimulated and crying is a means of venting their frustration.
Overtiredness, discomfort, boredom, hunger or a need for affection are only some of the reasons why babies cry.
There is no sure way to calm your baby, although most respond to being rocked and cuddled by their parents. Babies cannot regulate their own emotions, which is one of the reasons why they are so dependent on their parents.
Your baby will need your help to feel safe and secure. Because they won't yet know the difference between night and day, you will need to be on call for them 24/7.
There are likely to be times when your baby cries and you have no idea why.
Check for the obvious such as hunger, tiredness, a wet or dirty nappy, being uncomfortable or perhaps a tummy ache. The reality is that working out why babies cry can be very difficult. Generally, they will calm with feeding, rocking, soothing or having a warm bath. Ask for help and support from your partner, family or healthcare practitioner.
You'll have worked out the process of nappy changing, bathing and general hygiene by this stage. Aim to make these times as enjoyable as you can – after all, they soon add up to become a major part of your everyday life.
You are likely to be feeling tired and worn out. At 6 weeks, your baby may be having a longer, more uninterrupted sleep overnight, allowing you to have a little more sleep yourself. Unfortunately, tiredness is a fact of life in early parenting, and it can take months before parents feel normal again.
The symptoms of post-natal depression and exhaustion can be very similar. Many women worry that they are becoming depressed when they experience sadness and anxiety. If you are concerned that you may be depressed, speak with your GP or child healthcare practitioner. They will help you figure out what you need if you are suffering from postnatal depression.
Your Physical Recovery
You will need to have your post-natal check with your doctor or midwife this week. By 6 weeks, your womb and pelvic organs should have returned to their pre-pregnancy state. If you are still bleeding or have any concerns, write them down so you can raise them at your next post-natal check-up.
What You Can expect
This is the week when your baby will be due for the first of their post-birth vaccinations. These are available for free at your community health centres and/or clinics. Alternatively you could go to your doctor though you may need to pay a consultation fee.
If you are feeling anxious about the vaccination, go with your partner, a family member or a friend for support. Don't forget to take your baby's personal health record book so that their vaccination can be recorded. They will include a reminder for when the next one is due.