Your baby at three weeks old

Baby three weeks

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

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 the cone-heads will start to settle down around now.

If you're feeling a bit ambivalent about a furry, cone-headed child with the imprint of forceps still on her cheeks, rest assured you won't be the first mother to look back at photos of her days-old baby and wonder how on earth you thought she was such a stunner! Unfortunate early photos aside, 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 (and is easier when she looks less like a werewolf and more like your child).

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'll 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 producing plenty of wet nappies, you’ll know she's getting enough milk.

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. This 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 and it's worth talking to your health visitor to see if she has any tips.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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 his 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.

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. 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. 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.

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.