Welcoming your baby into your family has probably changed your life. Each day is passing in a blur and it will be a challenge to find time to do anything other than attend to your baby’s needs.
At 1 month old, babies still want to feed frequently and are unpredictable with their sleeping patterns. Many are still fairly sleepy and apart from short wakeful periods of feeding and being alert, they sleep for at least a couple of hours between their feeds.
Expect your baby to need to feed at least 6 times/24 hours at 1 month of age. If they are breastfeeding this could increase up to 12 times. Try not to control their feeding times too much and let your baby determine how much and how often they want to feed. Unless they have been unwell or were premature, they will be able to gauge when they need to feed and are satisfied with the volume of milk in their stomach.
Give your baby plenty of opportunity to sleep and be sensitive to their sleep cues. The novelty of having a baby in the house probably hasn’t worn off yet. It’s easy to over handle small babies which, although done with the best of intentions, can cause them to become overtired. Even at this early stage, aim to place your baby into their cot when they are tired, rather than already asleep. Sometimes this will be easier than others. Most small babies go to sleep soon after feeding and their “sleep window” can be very short.
You may be seeing some early smiles when your baby is 1 month old, but these are likely to be due to their reflexes, rather than being responsive. Closer to six weeks your baby is likely to be giving you true smiles. Many babies develop colicky behaviour at 1 month old and find their lungs. This can alarm parents who may have been lulled into thinking their baby is reasonably passive and calm.
Crying is distressing to parents and their babies. What works one day in soothing them may not be as effective on another. Develop a range of comforting responses and give them all a try. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to soothe your baby. As long as you are gentle and kind, your baby will respond to your efforts. How long they take to respond however, is open to many factors.
Your baby can track with their eyes now and follow objects as they move. They will primarily look for your face and establish eye contact with you for a couple of minutes. Babies are primed to search for their parents’ faces, listen to their voices and turn in the direction of human sound. Early interactive experiences with you and other people will help your baby’s brain to grow and learn about the world. Although they are extremely vulnerable and dependent on you to fulfill their every need, they are also designed to seek out stimulus.
Your baby should be well above their birth weight by now. Most babies regain their birth weight within the first 2 weeks after birth. An average weight gain at this age is between 150-200grams/week. If your baby is not gaining weight and growing, there is a reason for this and it is important to speak with a healthcare professional.
Extra fat will be obvious on your baby’s thighs, their tummy and their face. They may have more rolls of fat in their neck and in their upper arms. Don’t be concerned that your baby could be gaining too much weight at this age. Breastfeeding babies normally gain a lot of weight in the first few months of life and then plateau or even off with their weight gain. Formula fed babies tend to gain weight at a steadier, more consistent rate.
Your baby will be due for their first immunisations in 2-4 weeks, so investigate your options on where you choose to have this done.
Try to minimise your baby’s contact with anyone who is sick. It makes sense to reduce any possible exposure to infections and although you cannot insulate your baby entirely, you will be doing them a favour by using sensible precautions.
Hand washing is the number one method of controlling infections and minimising contamination. After you change your baby’s nappy and before feeding them, wash your hands and dry them well. You may find your hands are drying out more than normally, so apply a good quality hand cream as frequently as you can.
Get into the habit of raising your baby’s cot sides before your walk away. Although it is still a couple of months until your baby will be rolling, this is a good habit to develop. Likewise, when your baby is on the change table, on the couch or any other surface, making sure you have one hand on them at all times. Active babies need to be watched particularly carefully.
Getting used to baby equipment and furniture takes time and lots of practice. Make a point of trying it out when you are not in a hurry.
Play and interaction
Provide your baby with supervised tummy time each day. This will help them to develop their neck and upper body strength. They may only tolerate this for short periods, but don’t let this stop you from offering it.
Play some music and try not to filter your baby’s world. Although it can be tempting to tiptoe around the house when your baby is asleep, this could lead to them being sensitive to environmental noise. Babies who come into families where there are already lots of young children seem oblivious to household noise and learn to adapt, because they have to.
What about mum?
Expect to be weary and a little teary around now. Your initial energy reserves from the pregnancy are likely to have waned and there will be times when you feel very tired. The common advice of sleeping when the baby does is sound. Try not to see their sleep times as an opportunity to get a lot of jobs done. Doing this will only exhaust you and wear you out further.
Try not to neglect the basics. Showering, changing into clean clothes, brushing your teeth, doing your hair will make you feel infinitely better. There may be times when you simply have to leave the baby to cry whilst you attend to your own needs. This is a fact of life for many mothers. No harm will come to your baby if you leave them for short periods in a safe place, such as their cot. Having a break and doing something for yourself can significantly change your perspective and give you renewed energy to invest into your baby.
Your sleep needs
Even if you never used to sleep during the day, learn how. Sleep isn’t necessarily the be all and end all though. Having a rest, putting your feet up, reading a magazine or simply doing nothing conserves energy. Expect your overnight sleep to be broken, this is normal in early parenting. Your baby does not know or appreciate your need for long uninterrupted sleep at night, so to expect more from them will be unrealistic.
This will be a busy time, leaving little opportunity to work on your relationship. Try to prioritise what is essential and avoid feeling guilty if you don’t have the time to invest into your partner or friends. Most reasonable adults understand that young babies absorb an enormous amount of their parent’s focus and energy.