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Your baby at three weeks old

By the time your baby is three weeks old, you might be feeling as though you're starting to get the wheels back on a bit. Life may not be so predictable as it was pre-baby (and probably never will be again) but you and your baby should be starting to emerge from the newborn fug at least.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 2, 2021

Three-week-old baby

At three weeks your little one will be beginning to look a bit less like an old woman/man and more like the pink, plump newborn you were expecting. Babies often emerge with a layer of lanugo (the fine hair that keeps them warm in the womb) and looking pretty battered and bruised, particularly if you had a forceps or ventouse delivery, which can leave the odd red mark. Babies born by Caesarean won't usually have the 'cone'-shaped head that often occurs during a vaginal birth, but even this will start to settle down around now.

By this stage the skin blemishes are usually gone and if she dropped a bit of weight in the days after birth she'll have put it back on by now and should be looking beautifully bonny. And don't get wound up about all the 'that first rush of love' nonsense people tell you. Not everyone falls in love with their baby at first sight. It comes with time.

What will my baby's routine be like at three weeks old?

Don't get excited – when we say 'routine' we really just mean that there's some semblance of order on the horizon. A day in your baby's life at the moment will still be very much dictated by her needs.

However, it is worth getting a few basics in place now, even if it’s just to give you a bit of normality. Try introducing a basic routine for bedtime of bath, feed, story or song, cuddle and then bed. Throughout the bedtime routine keep your voice low and lights dim. Your baby will probably take not the blindest bit of notice for now but you're laying down the foundations for a bedtime routine and she'll eventually start to pick up on the same cues night after night and wind down ready to go to sleep.

How much should a three-week-old baby feed?

If you're breastfeeding, just concentrate on feeding on demand for now. That might be every two hours, or even more frequently at some points in the day. You can't overfeed a baby at this stage so just feed her whenever she asks. You'll probably be starting to learn your baby's hunger cues, such as opening and closing her mouth and trying to latch on. Don't wait until she cries, as crying is one of the last signs she's hungry, but if she is crying and seems to want a feed don't worry – just get on it straight away.

If you're doing bottles, how much your baby gets to eat is a bit more in your hands. On average, newborns have around 40-85ml of formula every two to three hours.

However you feed, as long as your baby is latching on properly or feeding well from a bottle and producing plenty of wet nappies, you’ll know she's getting enough milk. If you're ever concerned, ask your midwife or health visitor to check her over.

How much sleep does a three-week-old baby need?

From now until around two months, babies sleep for an average of 15.5 hours to 17 hours in every 24. It probably feels amazing to you that she can be awake so little, but she'll make her presence known at all times when she's awake, fear not.

Be aware that at this stage your baby still can't really tell the difference between night and day so she may still be getting a lot of that sleep that's made up of daytime naps and being awake quite a lot at night time.

My three-week-old baby is crying a lot. Is this normal?

Yes. Sorry. Babies cry most during their first 12 weeks. Crying is their main method of communication, so expect a lot of it at first while you learn to understand each other's body language and fall into a rhythm. Within a few weeks you'll be able to tell a tired cry from a hungry cry or a pained cry. But for now, if your baby is crying, the best thing is to rule out any obvious problems, by checking if she's hungry, too hot or too cold, needs changing or wants a nap. Or is having her ear twisted by a curious older sibling.

If your baby is crying for long periods, particularly in the late afternoon or early evening, it may be that she has colic.

The following are symptoms of colic:

  • Intense bouts of crying, usually starting in late afternoon/early evening

  • Red and flushed face when crying

  • Baby pulling up her knees, arching her back and clenching her fists when crying

Colic tends to start around this age and petres out by around six months. No one really knows what it is but there's lots of advice on coping with colic around – from playing white noise to trying cranial osteopathy, anything is worth a go. It's also worth talking to your health visitor to see if she has any tips you can try.

However, it may just be that criers gonna cry. At this stage it's still perfectly normal for a baby to cry for no real reason. Our grandparents would have dismissed it as 'exercising her lungs' probably. Try keeping a list of anything that works, whether it's a CD, the Hoover going on or simply rubbing your baby's back a certain way, and then you'll have something to refer back to when things kick off next time.

That said, if crying ever gets to the point at which you really can't take any more (and everyone reaches that point at least once) it's absolutely fine to put your baby down in a safe place like her Moses basket or baby seat, and leave the room for a couple of minutes. Call a friend, take some deep breaths in the garden or make a cuppa – whatever you need to do to recharge briefly.

What's normal for nappies at three weeks?

Her stools have probably been yellow for a couple of weeks by now and will stay that way until you start introducing solid foods.

You'll still be changing around 10-12 nappies a day. Most will just be wet ones. How many code brown nappies you get differs hugely from one baby to the next. They could arrive once a day or with every feed. Breastfed babies tend to poo with more regularity than formula-fed babies, but the good news is your baby is less likely to suffer with constipation if she's breastfed. On average a baby of this age does about four poos a day.

Breastfeed babies' poos tend tend to be a greeny-brown or bright mustard shade, while formula-fed babies' stools are more of a pale yellow, and bulkier. Formula-fed babies' poo also tends to smell stronger and more like an adult poo, though – let's be honest – no baby's poo is going to have Jo Malone fearing for her business.

Physical development at three weeks old

Your baby's digestive system is still in development and experts often refer to the newborn days as 'the fourth trimester' for this reason. Around now is the time her digestion really kicks in so you can expect some pretty interesting nappies and impressive explosions.

After the first few days of black, then green, poos – and just about every other shade in between, none of this is likely to phase you, but it might be a bit of a shock for your baby, so if she seems grotty, bear in mind it could just be the shock of digesting milk properly for the first time.

Despite being only three weeks on dry land, your baby may already start trying to lift her head up when you put her on her tummy and by the end of this week may actually be succeeding in doing so for a second or two. Giving her lots of 'tummy time', when she lies on her tummy on the floor will help her to eventually get there.

Try lying down in front of her with your face near hers to encourage her to lift her head. At this stage her muscles and nervous system are still developing so it's very difficult for her to use the muscles in her neck. You may also notice that her movements are quite jerky. They will slowly become smoother as the muscles all over her body get stronger and she gains more control.

Is there a growth spurt at three weeks old?

Babies can have a sudden growth spurt at any time but experts do agree it's common for babies to have a growth spurt at two weeks AND three weeks. So if you're feeling as though you're feeding for Britain at the moment, that might be why. Things should settle down a little next week.

When you go and get your baby weighed, don't forget to take along her red book so they can record her weight gain on the graphs at the back.

How far can my baby see at three weeks old?

Her eyesight is improving rapidly but at this age your baby can still only focus around 30cm in front of her face. Everything else is a blur. Fortunately, 30cm is the distance from your arms to your face so she's able to get to know you as she feeds – not daft, that Mother Nature, is she? She can recognise your face when it's close enough to her now and you'll notice she stares at you for just a little bit longer from this week.

Brain development at three weeks old

At three weeks, your baby's brain is already moving on in leaps and bounds. Her concentration is improving rapidly, allowing her to take in lots more information about the world around her. The brain is also performing more complex tasks now, such as processing more complicated shapes – think zig-zags rather than just circles.

You may hear your baby starting to make gentle cooing sounds around now, especially when your face is close to hers. It's never too early to start 'chatting' to her. She obviously won't understand anything you're saying but she'll be fascinated by the sound of your voice and the changes in tone and might 'answer' you with little 'ooohs' and 'aahhs', which are the building blocks not only of language but of conversation. If she is close enough to be able to see the movement of your face she may even copy you if you open your mouth wide or stick out your tongue.

Play at three weeks old

If you're the sort of parent who has been gagging to get into the serious business of play since the pee dried on the pregnancy test, calm yourself. No need to crack out Connect Four just yet. However, you can start to encourage your baby's brain development with toys and games that will help.

At three weeks, a mobile is a good buy as she will be starting to practise tracking moving objects with her eyes. A black and white or high-contrast one is best. A toy mirror is another good idea. At this age your baby is fascinated by her own reflection, though she can't yet process that the baby looking back at her in the mirror is herself.

Milestones at three weeks old

At three weeks you might notice your baby starting to make her first sounds. Clearly she hasn't been silent thus far, but at this stage she starts to make noises other than crying. Watch out for little coos and gurgles.

She will also begin to notice cause and effect – that she can 'make something happen', however, she won't yet be able to remember this in order to use this knowledge again.

Your life with a three-week old baby

You might be feeling more on top of things now, but do remember to take it easy. Your body has been through an enormous amount with pregnancy and birth so don't push yourself, particularly if you had a difficult birth or a caesarean. It's best to leave any exercise until after you've had your check-up at six weeks, but a gentle walk is always a good idea, even if just to get some fresh air and remind yourself what the outside world looks like. Remember to look after your joints, and particularly your back, as your body is still flooded with the hormones that make your ligaments soft and loose, so it's easy to do damage.

There's so much still to get on top of and it's still very early days so if breastfeeding still hasn't clicked or you're still fretting about nappies, fret not. You're on a massive learning curve. It will all fall into place soon. Don't forget that your health visitor is always there for a chat and a bit of reassurance if you need it, and of course there's always support, whatever the time of day or night on the Mumsnet talk forums.

Mumsnetters say…

"I wouldn't worry too much about forming habits this early. Babies change so fast that what he likes today may well change in 10 days".

"White noise helped my son settle when he was this little. My brother-in-law lent us a CD of womb music – essentially untuned radio fuzz!"

"Three weeks is not too late to start swaddling. If he likes it, it may well help you to put him down for a bit".

"It is really tough but hopefully you will find it suddenly starts to improve in a couple of weeks. Hang in there".