Just as soon as you get used to your newborn's habits, he hits the six-week mark, and the whole game changes. Here's what to expect - and how to cope.
Feeding’s almost second nature, you can change a nappy under 15 seconds (and without upsetting baby too much), and you’re just about used to your baby’s sleeping patterns and have worked out a way to sleep around them. But then suddenly your baby’s six weeks old and you find yourself wondering, “Who took my baby and replaced him with this little wailing and eternally hungry monster?”
Welcome to a growth spurt, a simple term for something that brings with it any number of baffling issues. It can be a really confusing time, but don’t let it make you feel inadequate! As challenging as this time is, you can also expect your baby to start smiling and laughing (and then it’s all worth it, you’ll see), and we have some answers here for some of the more common issues you’ll experience now.
#1 MY BABY IS ALWAYS HUNGRY
If you notice you need to feed your baby more often than usual to keep him settled, he’s probably going through a growth spurt. Your baby does a lot of growing in his first year, and there’ll be periods where he grows at a faster rate. These periods are referred to as growth spurts. Growth spurts happen at 10 days, three weeks, six weeks and six months.
Because he’s doing a bit more growing than usual, he’ll need more calories too. And because your baby’s stomach is quite small he’ll be feeding more frequently, which will make it seem to you that he’s constantly hungry and that one feed just flows into the next.
What you need to know:
Growth spurts are only temporary, and luckily things should settle down again in a few days. The best thing you can do is to feed your baby as often as he needs. If you’re breastfeeding, the frequent sucking should stimulate milk production, thus ensuring you have enough for his needs.
However, make sure you eat and drink enough to keep your energy levels up. If you’re bottle-feeding and you notice your baby is still hungry after he’s finished a bottle, offer more or offer an extra feed.
#2 HE'S WAKING UP ALL THE TIME
Again, frequent wakings are related to growth spurts, as a hungry baby is more likely to wake frequently. This is actually a way that you can recognise you’re going through a growth spurt – your baby will become unsettled, cry more and even sleep less during the day and wake more frequently at night.
What you need to know:
Once again, patience is key to riding out the growth spurt; things will get back to normal soon.
In the meantime, if you are topping up breastfeeding with formula or expressing milk, let your partner do the middle of the night feed so you can sleep a bit.
Take heart in the fact that after a few days of being unsettled and hungry, your baby will actually have a few days where he sleeps for longer than usual, so you’ll both get some time to recuperate.
#3 HE WON'T STOP CRYING
Colic is characterised by excessive high-pitched crying that isn’t soothed and that usually occurs at the same time every day (in the early evening in most cases).
It can set in anytime between one week and three months and so could be an explanation for this kind of crying in your six-week-old. If you suspect colic, take your baby to the doctor for a check-up to rule out any other causes first and then for a diagnosis.
It’s not really known what the cause of colic is, but it’s thought to be related to digestion. Colic doesn’t harm your
baby, but it can be quite distressing to hear him crying.
What you need to know:There are quite a lot of things that can help soothe a colicky baby, and very often it’s a combination of elements rather than one specific thing that helps.
Colic drops are available, and baby massage may also be beneficial. Babies also find white noise – the sound of the vacuum cleaner or washing machine, for example – soothing. Walking around with your baby held close to you in a sling could also help.
The important thing is to try to remain calm. If you find yourself taking strain, ask your partner, family or friends to help out for a bit while you take a break.
#4 HE POOS LESS AND LESS
A baby will poo once a day or even once a week, and if your baby is breastfed he may start passing stool less frequently at around six weeks.
Because of this you may think your baby is constipated. The thing to look out for is the consistency; his stools should be soft and wet, not hard and small. A hard and small stool,not necessarily the frequency of poo nappies, is an indication of constipation in young babies.
Besides small round balls of poo that look like rabbit droppings, other signs of constipation are if your baby’s straining and his tummy is hard.
What you need to know:
If your baby is actually constipated, don’t use home remedies like brown sugar in water. Give him a gentle tummy massage in a clockwise direction and chat to your clinic sister about appropriate laxatives – don’t just give baby anything. Lying him on his back and moving his legs in a bicycling action may also help.
No matter how tough things seem, or how confused you feel by your baby’s ever-changing needs, know that you are the best mom for him. Try to take things in your stride and be logical about figuring out the little problems that arise.
Your six-week-old’s niggles may seem overwhelming, but behind them is a baby who loves and needs you too - don’t lose sight of this fact!