Your baby: 3 weeks old

Growth spurts, cluster feedings and tips for soothing your fussy, gassy baby. Learn all about your 3-week-old.

Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap and Joe Fresh

After two weeks of feeding, diapering and getting the little creature to sleep, you may feel like you’re both ready to get out and see the world. Cooped up for 14 days amid burp cloths and bottles? Have an urge to get out and show off your beautiful baby? Or just need witnesses to commiserate over all the crying (yours or baby’s)? By now, you’ve accepted that the slog is real, you’ve learned a few things, and your partner or other helpers may have gone back to work. Whether you need to get out or are just ready to explore, there’s a lot going on this week.

As you emerge, squinty-like, from the blurry cocoon of the first couple of weeks, your baby is becoming more alert as well, your perineum or incision has healed a bit, and new challenges await. You may be ready to try some longer outings in the car, stroller or sling. You may be keen for the camaraderie of a mommy group. Or maybe you just need to get to talk to someone who doesn’t want to suck your nipples and pee on your yoga pants. The world awaits!

3 week-old development & milestones

Growth spurts and cluster feedings

A baby sleeping on his mom's chest after being up all night 3 signs your baby is going through a growth spurt Your baby has probably regained their birth weight and started to pack on some pounds, and they’ll still be feeding every two or three hours to keep their bellies full. Cluster feeding is common, and this may be the week for a growth spurt that vaults your baby out of their tiny newborn clothes and into the zero-to-three-month outfits that seemed huge just two weeks ago. Your baby may also uncurl a bit and seem a little longer, even if they haven’t actually grown that much.

Night feeding rituals

You may be getting longer stretches of sleep at night, so you might start imposing a little night-time discipline this week. No, it’s far too early to sleep-train, but now that you’ve got the hang of diapering and feeding, you can try to do it in the dark to signal to your baby that night-time is quiet and boring and that you’ll be happier to play during the day. That means making sure that everything is ready for a smooth midnight feeding and changing, including dimming the lighting and communicating in whispers. Developing the daytime-night-time pattern is the first step toward restoring some sleeping sanity to you and your baby.

Three-week-old sight and hearing

Your baby is becoming more alert in week three, which means that they may recognize your face by now, even if their vision is still limited to about 12 inches. (Don’t worry, they won’t know you’ve got bedhead—yet.) As your baby’s attention span starts to increase, they can follow your eyes or mouth during a close-up cuddle, which is why those feeding sessions are a great time to communicate.

This may also be the week to test your baby’s hearing, which should be done before they turn one month old. If your baby was born in a hospital, you may have already had the hearing screening done; if not, it’s easily accomplished and painless for your baby. The tester will just need your baby to be quiet—not fussing or feeding—and a sleeping infant is ideal. If your baby fails the hearing test, you’ll be referred for second and third tests as healthcare providers determine what your baby needs next.

Baby gas

If you’re not worried about your baby’s ears, you’re probably worried about their tummy from time to time. All babies can seem fussy after feeding, pulling up their legs or making faces when they cry, and gas may be the culprit. While some swear by tummy-trouble drops, belly massages and bicycling baby’s legs, others are sure that a change in formula or mama’s diet will do the trick (even if these attempts don’t help, they’re unlikely to do any harm). In many cases, time is the best cure as your baby’s digestive system develops, but it can be worth experimenting with a better latch, a nipple with a slower flow or more frequent burping.

Tips for calming your baby

If only better burping could prevent crying, right? By week three, you’ve probably come face to face with the awful realization that you can’t always stop the screaming or figure out what the heck is wrong with the screamer. Have you fed, changed and rocked your baby to no avail? Is your baby crankiest at the end of the day, when you just want chocolate and Candy Crush? The politically incorrect might call this the “witching hour,” and if you have a fussy baby every evening, you may be wishing that it only lasted an hour. Everyone has a trick they swear will work, so keep trying until you find yours.

Cradle crap

Is your baby more beautiful than ever or still fairly funny-looking? Even the most flawless babies may have a run-in with cradle cap or baby acne in the weeks to come, as hormones and the natural oils in your baby’s skin battle it out. Cradle cap is typically harmless and unlikely to bother your baby, but it can be hard for parents to ignore the white and yellow scales and crust that form on your baby’s head. Massaging your baby’s scalp with baby shampoo and a washcloth or gently combing their hair after applying a bit of olive or coconut oil can help remove some of the scales, but take care not to irritate the skin. A cute hat can be the best tool in the battle against cradle cap, which will typically resolve itself without any of your help at all.

Your life after baby

Postpartum depression and anxiety

Life with a newborn is a series of ups and downs, but if your downs seem deep and dark and your ups are few and far between, you may need to talk to someone about postpartum depression, a chemical imbalance that can’t be cured by being smart and strong or trying harder. It doesn’t help that the warning signs seem designed to accompany newborn babies: insomnia, tearfulness, despair, inertia and anxiety. Some of that came with the stork, but too much can’t be handled alone, so consider it something that you should check in on, just as you would check your baby’s hearing or weight.

Postpartum euphoria

Just to prove that it’s about the hormones in your body, not your attitude, postpartum euphoria is a thing, too. Are you feeling high and elated? Need no sleep? Check with your doctor because the imbalance can put your baby at risk as well.

Is it safe to drink alcohol?

Mother dressed up holding a baby and a glass of champagne Why mommy drinks: The scary truth about #WineMom As you try to return to some semblance of a normal life, you may be celebrating 10 months of alcohol abstinence with a glass—ah, sweet nectar, come to mama! Are you wondering if your indulgence will spoil your milk for baby? Do you have topump and dump,” a prospect that cancels out the joy of that glass? Motherisk (motherisk.org), an organization at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has an online guide to help you time your drink just right so that you can metabolize the alcohol before your baby needs to nurse again.

Stuff no one tells you

Baby-cry decoder

Have you figured out any of your baby’s cries yet? It can be a guessing game when the critter is crabby, so try this checklist when you’re looking for clues.

How to clean your breast pump

If your breast pump is already becoming a best friend, cleaning that sucker probably isn’t! But there are simple steps for keeping your pump clean and ready to go.

Baby soothers

Considering a pacifier? Like so many questions about baby, everyone’s got an opinion about the sense of a soother.

Just for fun

Cool uses for breastmilk

If lactation has been everything you hoped for and more, you may be ready to embrace a few other ways to use your liquid gold. From snot sucking to teething ice lollies, some of these tricks will blow your mind.

Lactation cookies that are actually delicious

Hoping for a better supply? Among the various recipes and recommendations for increasing your flow, try these lactation cookies (with enough chocolate and pecans to entice even those who aren’t nursing).

Read more:
Your baby: 4 weeks old
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