Your baby at six weeks
It can take so long to grow a baby that it can be a bit of an anticlimax when she doesn't seem to do much. Sure, she's beautiful and you love her but you can't help wishing for the day when she'll take her first step or say her first word. Or even stop crying or feeding for a few minutes.
Everyone who's had children will tell you not to wish this time away. Babyhood is gone in a flash and you should try to enjoy each second of it. These people are annoying but right.
Your baby is not only a helpless, demanding bundle of mysterious needs, she is developing at a tremendous pace right there on her changing mat. Never will she change so rapidly as during these first five years of life.
You can make this process more fun and rewarding for both of you in the stimulation that you give her, but there is little scientific evidence that you can speed much of it up. Your baby may "do" things before or after other babies of the same age but you should realise that most of these individual developmental differences are genetically programmed - and not a sign of greater/lesser intelligence. By three years of age, most children have caught each other up and, by then, it really doesn't matter a hoot who sang "The sun has got his hat on" first.
At six weeks, your little baby will be doing lots of things - you may not have appreciated how clever she is...
She starting to smile. (Never be so rude as to suggest she has wind. Please.) She is smiling because she knows your voice and can focus on your face, and she knows you from all others. She may smile at the postman for a couple more weeks but her best smiles are increasingly saved for the main people who care for her (especially mum) and she is more smiley for longer around you.
Look at her while she watches your face. This is a cunning ploy on your baby's part to bring you closer to her. Who wouldn't want to spend time gazing at a smiley, gummy baby?
In a couple more weeks, she will turn her neck round to hear you. Soon, she will start to laugh and kick her legs when she sees you. She will notch up a lot of goodwill from her parents with this sort of behaviour. Your baby will already enjoy company, will increasingly spend more time awake without crying and may stop crying when you pick her up and talk to her.
She may not be able to say "mamma" but she is already making small grunty noises and cries. She will mouth at you and blow bubbles when you look at her and talk to her. Some of her noises indicate pleasure (reputedly, the little gurgling noises).
Babies are programmed to act as scanners, looking at corners of things and then up, down and across an object. They look for edges, which they see as a difference in light intensity and, from this, they work out what they are looking at. She will be able to focus and see your face. She can see out of the corner of her eye. She will start staring intently at interesting objects as though she'd like to be able to grab them.
Within three days, a baby can tell the difference between her mother's voice and that of a stranger's. Babies are particularly responsive to vowel sounds and human speech, which is why some language experts believe that babies are pre-programmed to learn to speak.
If you gently pull your baby up to a sitting position, she can hold her head up for a few moments. She can also lift her head off the surface when lying flat on her tummy.
Her hands are often closed but, occasionally, they will be open and, if you touch the underside of her fingertips, she will grasp your fingers in a reflex action. (But you can pretend she's holding your hand.)
She may be little but she still wants entertainment. Watch her face and you will see her show excitement and interest if you hold your face close to hers (about 30 cm – a ruler's length – away is good) and move it theatrically as you speak in that slow, up-and-down voice that most parents use (it's called parentese by language experts).
She loves skin-to-skin contact and tickles. She will enjoy watching a brightly coloured, musical mobile, the more tasteless the better. (Pastel understatement is for adults not babies.) Talk to your baby a lot (she, at least, will never be looking over her shoulder for someone more interesting). Attach safe toys to her cot and pushchair – use different textures and shapes and change them often as she will get used to them. Carry her around in a papoose/sling (see our reviews of the best slings) but let her see the world rather than muffle her up. She will love seeing trees, shadows and children.
Encourage her to play in the bath by moving her legs so they kick. It won't be too long before she'll give you a good soaking.
A word on reading our development calendar
Milestones of development are not carved in granite, but widely variable. (See our behaviour/development Talk forum.) It is not uncommon to have isolated pockets of late development, such as late walkers and talkers, and much of the individual differences between the development of babies and children is genetically programmed - so try and resist the temptation to be a competitive parent.
Some babies will be slower to develop in certain areas because they were born prematurely or because they are twins (or triplets). For more information on twins, triplets et al, see our multiple births Talk forum.
A minority of babies and children do have delays in development that may need specialist help. Doctors' textbooks tell them to take a parent's concerns about their child seriously. No health professional should ever trivialise a worry that you have about your child. If you are at all concerned, take her to see your GP.
We are also obviously aware that some children have special needs. You can get advice from other parents in our special needs Talk forum. We have included some site recommendations that may be useful in our webguide but the list is by no means exhaustive and we would welcome other suggestions.