Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap and Joe Fresh
Somehow—is it possible?—your baby is almost one month old. Hasn’t it been both the longest and shortest month of your life? The two of you are kind of getting the hang of this partnership, just in time for another growth spurt and for baby’s first big leap ahead in development.
This comes as your baby discovers their hands and feet, gains some neck control and starts to focus on both vision and hearing—a trifecta of new skills that will have you humble bragging on all your social media.
Your baby discovering her limbs may be stretching the description just a bit. But by the end of their first month, all that arm and leg waving becomes a little less brain synapse and a little more “Hey I meant to do that!”—even if it means your baby whacks themselves from time to time while wiggling.
It’s still a bit too early for your baby to manage getting fist to mouth on purpose, but it will happen accidentally just often enough for their neurons to begin firing toward the eventual goal of doing that on command in another month or two.
Four weeks is also the age when your baby’s senses are becoming acute enough to respond with a few new tricks, from turning their head to lifting it a bit during tummy time to cooing their first real happy sounds. With those first milestones, your baby’s personality comes alive!
With their vision sharpening, your baby can start to follow an object if you keep it within a foot of her face. But don’t worry if your baby is still cross-eyed sometimes—focus is hard work. Your baby’s hearing is fully developed and, with her nascent muscle control, they may be able to blink, startle or turn their head toward an unexpected sound.MJPS / Getty Images
Week four isn’t all coos and wiggles; this may be the peak week for baby acne for many little lampreys. My God, how can one tiny person have so many zits? If your baby’s cheeks are full of angry red bumps or white pustules this week, you’re in good company. While the cause isn’t clear, the timing is pretty standard, showing up two to four weeks after birth.
For many, it clears up as quickly as it appeared—your first chance to be amazed at how quickly babies can heal. Keeping your baby’s face clean with water and mild soap is fine, but avoid lotions and over-the-counter acne creams—baby is far too sensitive for them. Also, don’t squeeze the pustules.
If you’re worried about baby’s breakouts, talk to your doctor or midwife, but often your best bet is to ignore them—the acne will be gone before you know it.Olesia Kondrateva / Getty Images
Is sleeping going well? Is feeding a dream? Or is it all just one big crapshoot, going smoothly one day and ending up a disaster the next? With the first month behind them, babies typically start to find their own rhythm, but it’s too early to truly have it all worked out.
Some babies are stuck in a cluster feeding cycle and still want to nurse every hour or two, while others may be stretching it to four hours during the day and five or six hours at night. Try not to compare—as long as your baby is growing and you’re all getting some sleep, progress can be measured in tiny improvements.
If you’re still nursing your baby to sleep or unable to put them down for fear of ruining a nap, you’re not alone. But if you’re feeling desperate to help your baby fall asleep without you, there are better times to try these first steps at sleep independence.
Your baby’s first nap of the morning is the best time to try to put your baby down—drowsy yet awake—to soothe themselves to sleep. Later in the day, you and your baby may feel exhausted or overstimulated, and trying to work on independent sleep may be harder for both of you.
The same goes for letting your baby fall asleep at the breast or bottle—baby steps! While four weeks is too young to really worry about it, good sleep habits can be encouraged at this early stage. Try to put your baby down when they are tired but not asleep—and not during a feed—even just once in a while to convince both of you that it can be done.AleksandarNakic / Getty Images
Baby’s new ability to coo—and, in a few weeks, to legitimately smile—is one of the best milestones for mamas because it adds a response to what may have seemed a one-way conversation at times. And you’re ready for some better conversation at this point, aren’t you?
But you don’t want the unwanted advice that comes flooding your way when you have a new baby. Intrusive questions and unsolicited advice from strangers and loved ones alike are one of the hardest things about new motherhood. Somehow the presence of a new baby prompts a lot of opinions about what’s best.
And isn’t it amazing how people feel free to share? Pick your battles if you can, smile and ignore whenever possible, and aim a well-timed “How did that work out for you?” to deflect the know-it-all toward their own offspring when absolutely necessary.
Of course, you want the really great advice, especially for the stuff that’s a bit hard to ask, like what to eat to boost breastmilk production? Well, eating barley, oats and fennel (and fenugreek) will help boost breastmilk (while alcohol and peppermint will hurt the cause), and staying hydrated is always important. Here’s our full list.
As for Kegels and physio for your core, we’ll talk more about that on week six, when you’ll probably see your doctor for your first postpartum check-up and start thinking about resuming a normal sex life. Seriously? Too much too soon? Patience, young grasshopper.Milan Markovic / Getty Images
Does week four have you taking stock of all the ways you’ve nailed this (or, more likely, of all the things you’ve utterly failed to do that you thought you would)? Rest easy, mama, you’re now wise enough to know that the good intentions you had before baby are laughably ridiculous four weeks later. Do your unwritten thank-you cards give you nightmares?
Have you missed a few (dozen) entries in that baby book? Whatever happened to the daily salad-and-yoga you planned? Here are five things you may have failed to do, and it’s fine.
Cooing aside, have you discovered little ways that your baby says you’re the best? The snuggle, the look, the focus? The little things are the best reward of all.
Once you get out and about more often, figuring out what you need to bring—and what you pack every time and never use—is half the battle. Here’s a primer on the best way to pack a diaper bag. Some of our favorite must-haves for babies at 4 weeks old:
As you end your first month with baby, you’re gaining a little perspective of how much you didn’t know, right? No matter how much you read (and asked), there are many things that nobody mentioned, like how much time you’ll spend Googling the weirdest, grossest, most specific things or how much you won’t care who sees your boobs.
There are at least 55 things that nobody told us about baby’s first year, from the guilty realization that the excitement can fade a bit (and one-on-one time can get downright boring) to the fact that glow-in-the-dark pacifiers exist.Westend61 / Getty Images
Take home a peri bottle from the hospital or order one on Amazon. It will be your most prized possession for the first two weeks at least (aside from your baby). And, if you sign up for a free Amazon Baby Registry Welcome Box, you probably won't have to pay for one. It's not too late to sign up, if you're wondering.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me how much I’d love the hospital-issue disposable mesh granny underpants for my post-C-section tummy. They didn’t rub or cut across my incision but made me feel covered up. I wished I’d snuck more out in my bag.” —Lauren FB.
Did you run out? You can score more mesh granny panties here.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“That breastfeeding your first baby will most likely hurt like hell. That no matter what fun and excitement your nipples have seen in the past, they’re about to go through marathon training at warp speed and will feel raw, hot and horrible for ages.
With my first baby, despite having a great midwife and hiring a lactation consultant, it was literally six weeks before I could breastfeed without thinking that I’d rather chew nails. While everyone says that it can be ‘tough’ or ‘challenging,’ I don’t think we’re honest enough about setting expectations around this for new moms.
Those of us who have been through it are sometimes afraid to scare our friends. And like most things childbirth related, the pain kind of fades with time. But yeesh. I wish I had known to expect it. I would have been more mentally prepared and I would have cut myself some slack.” —Jessica L.
“Your baby might be born with a full head of dark hair, but sometimes it falls out after a few weeks or months and grows back in, possibly in a different colour.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I was surprised that I didn’t feel the instant, overwhelming love for my baby that I’d heard people talk about. My partner had a C-section, so I was the first to hold our son, and I felt like he could have been anybody’s. He was just a baby, and I didn’t feel a special bond with him immediately. But by the end of the first week, I really fell deeply in love with him.” —Tom T.
“Not all diapers fit the same and not all babies are shaped the same. Different brands work for different baby butts.” —Tara-Michelle Z.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Nobody told me about labour after-pains! I almost went to the emergency room. The second time around, I was more prepared, so I got some good drugs in advance.” —Tammy S.
“When your milk comes in, your boobs will feel like giant, painful, angry basketballs.” —Mandy M.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
How much time you’ll lose to googling the weirdest, grossest, most specific things.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Babies grunt a lot and make tons of noise when they’re sleeping!” —Adam S.
Just how willing you will be to keep walking (or driving) to extend a nap.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“You might need someone to hold the baby during your postpartum exams. Bring your partner or a friend—or ask a nurse.” —Sasha E.
“I was surprised by how much I didn’t care who saw my breasts, even if I wasn’t actively nursing right that second. I got to the point where I would totally forget they were out and about.” —Miki G.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
Go for sleepers that zip up, not the ones with a snaps that never line up. Faster is better when your baby is wiggling around and it’s the seventh outfit change of the day.
“Try to do only one thing a day—make that your goal. Sometimes it will just be showering and sometimes it will be an errand or bigger task.” —Tara-Michelle Z.
“I wish someone had told us to invest in a swing ahead of time. I’ll never forget coming downstairs at 2 a.m. to see my baby on the couch, screaming, and my husband frantically putting together the newly purchased swing, like some demented version of Christmas Eve. That swing was the only place our baby would nap that wasn’t on me."
"It was where the grandparents would put him when they didn’t know what to do, and it was where I would put him when I didn’t know what to do, either. Total lifesaver. Our next kid is living in the swing for the first three months.” —Vanessa M.
Here's a baby swing we like.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I wish someone had told me, sooner, how awesome and convenient formula can be. For the first six months I struggled and stressed about pumping enough extra milk for feedings when I had to be away from the baby, but as it turns out, he was totally fine with the occasional bottle of formula. I was so relieved, and I felt pretty dumb for worrying so much, needlessly.” —Ariel B.
It takes a complex work-back schedule, two hours and at least one diaper blowout to MacGyver everything you could possibly need into the diaper bag and leave the house.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“A friend told me the fussiness peaks at six weeks and subsides by day 100. I marked both in my calendar and crossed off the days. It was true.” —Mandy M.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I was amazed by bazooka barfing, and I was stunned by how much poo comes out of a little person.” —Alex F.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I had no idea how hard breastfeeding can be. I know it’s easy for some, but for us, there were a lot of difficulties: engorgement, the baby didn’t latch very well, he had a smaller than average mouth, and he may have been tongue-tied. We spent the first two weeks at hospital breastfeeding clinics and having lactation consultants come. There was a lot of desperate microwave cleaning of pump stuff at all hours. That was really the worst. I knew there could be ‘difficulties’ but didn’t know how intense consequences would be. Everything turned out OK in the end, once he grew a bit more and became better at nursing. It was touch and go at first, though.” —Tom T.
“I was surprised by the arrival of my maternal super powers: hearing your own baby’s cries in a room full of screaming little ones, waking up from a dead sleep when the baby merely wiggles, and the ability to suddenly just handle getting puked or pooped on like it’s no big deal.” —Vanessa G.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I’m not a touchy-feely guy, and I hadn’t been around many kids before we had a baby, so I was surprised by the comfort my son finds with me. A tiny being wanting to lie on top of me and sleep, because it is such a safe refuge to him? That’s something I never knew could exist.” —Mohammed H.
“No one told me that formula is actually recommended for some babies. My son was a preemie, and the doctors in the NICU recommended one bottle a day of phosphate-rich formula to replace what he didn’t get in utero and what breast milk could not provide."
"I was still actively breastfeeding, but needed a bit of formula as well. Formula and nursing can, and did, work just fine together.” —Sasha E.
“I’ve been surprised by just how outrageously funny I think my baby is. We laugh so much more deeply and regularly than I’d anticipated. This is not generally hailed as a reason to pro-create, but it should be.” —Jacob K.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Babies are pretty good sleepers the first 24 hours they’re alive. So you should sleep, too, even though you’re excited and want visitors.” —Mandy M.
“Nobody tells you that you don’t actually get to decide what type of parent you’re going to be—your baby decides for you. Sure, you can decide ahead of time that you’re going to co-sleep, but if your kid keeps you up all night kicking, you’re probably going to get a crib (or vice versa, if your kid screams in the crib). Or you can decide to be the kind of cool, easygoing parents you’ve seen with their kids at hip restaurants, staying up to 11 p.m.—the ‘I’m not going to adapt to my baby, my baby will adapt to me’ crowd—but if you have a kid who melts down at 8 p.m. on the dot no matter what, those late dinners get old fast.” —Kalli A.
Your breasts will leak at the most inopportune times—if you’re wearing something nice, it’s basically guaranteed.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
When you sit down to feed the baby, your phone, the remote and your water glass (if you’re nursing, you will be dying of thirst) are always JUST out of reach.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“That your baby’s sleep the first few days or weeks may not be indicative of what kind of sleeper they’ll be for the rest of the first six months.” —Patrick F.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
Ah, the irony: When you need those sleep books most, you’re too tired to read them. And why are they all longer than War and Peace?Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I thought the very beginning with a newborn was easier than the four- to six-week mark. I hit a bump in the road when the visits tapered off and the excitement started to fade a little. Then the real tough part begins. But it’s OK to feel that way.” —Jacqueline L.
“Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers (if your baby uses a soother) are a game-changer at night. No more fumbling all over the corners of the crib, frantically trying to pop the paci back in.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me that breastfeeding might actually be easy, or at least not that hard. I was really, really worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe I’m in the minority, but it worked just fine for us. I think buying and preparing formula and washing and sterilizing all those bottles would have been much harder. Boobs are convenient. Boobs are free. Yay for boobs!” —Emily S.
“That babywearing might not work for you. I felt guilty or somehow like less of a mom because my baby hated the carrier. Yet all the hipster Instagram moms were all about taking babywearing selfies with their newborns snoozing peacefully. I lost patience with the complicated wraps and after about month 4 or 5, my son would totally freak out in the Ergo. Now I know he’s just a super active kid who wanted to crawl and walk and not be strapped to a larger human.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“How much mess my kid would make! She spit up or pooped on everything we own, so there is no point in investing in any nice clothing or furniture until she’s a teenager.” —Kate D.
Your diet becomes 90 percent coffee, 10 percent Mum-Mum crackers and Cheerios you stole from your baby.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me that 60 percent of parenting a baby is about logistics and how to get somewhere, in what type of clothing, and using which baby-transporting device. Is it close enough to walk or should you drive? What’s the weather like? Is the baby more likely to sleep in the carrier or in the stroller? Will he be warm enough? Actually, might he overheat in that cute bear suit once you’re inside the grocery store? What if you DON’T want him to fall asleep yet? Is that subway station stroller accessible? It was exhausting.” —Ariel B.
“That you might not love mat leave. I hated my first mat leave; I loved my second.” —Kim S.
“I wasn’t prepared for the unpredictability of the sleep patterns. I assumed that the sleep would get better and follow some sort of progression, but was surprised at how back and forth it all was. Case in point: Our eldest daughter slept through the night when she was a few weeks old. You can guess how many more times that happened before she turned 18 months old.” —Blaine B.
“What surprised me: How much I needed my mom and how isolated I would begin to feel from friends. And how my entire day would revolve around naps (his and mine).”—Kristin W.
“Read books about children—not about childbirth. Birth is only one day, but raising a child is forever.” —Kate D.
“No one told me about breastfeeding and diminished sex drive. I thought I would never want to have sex again. Then I stopped breastfeeding and my sex drive returned somewhat, and I was relieved. There must be something in those hormones.” —Emily S.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“New dads: make sure you get time alone with the baby, when Mama isn’t looking over your shoulder, judging weather you’re doing it right. It forces you to find your own soothing techniques.” —Mitch B.
“The realization that I’d never again be alone in my own head. I knew I’d love my baby, but I didn’t realize that there’d be a chunk of my brain dedicated to thinking about her all the time. Four years on, it hasn’t changed. Does it ever?” —Aileen N.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No amount of organizing can prepare you for not being able to plan. I learned that the only thing I could plan for was the likelihood that all plans would change.” —Tara-Michelle Z.
“No one told me that pushing a stroller engages your abdominal muscles, which is a too-strenuous no-no right after a C-section.” —Lauren FB.
“Just when you think you have got things figured out (or that you can’t take whatever stage you’re at for another moment), things change. Nothing is constant, good or bad, except your love, of course. And you miss it all when it’s gone.” —Jacqueline L.
“Babies don’t give a sh*t about lovely designer wooden toys. They want the loud, ugly plastic ones.” —Mandy M.
“As a new dad, I wasn’t prepared for the extent of the sadness you feel when you have to go back to work so soon post-birth. I was lucky enough to take a couple weeks off with each kid, but going back to work was a significantly worse downer than I expected.” —Blaine B.
“How much I obsessed about going back to work and how many tears I cried about the idea of leaving my daughter. It’s definitely been a transition, but it wasn’t as bad as I built it up in my head.” —Kate D.
“I’d like to scream this from the rooftops for new parents: you’re doing a good job. I don’t know why we don’t tell parents this more often, but seriously, you are. Babies are brutal to take care of, sleep deprivation is no joke, having problems breastfeeding is no joke: This stuff is HARD! Parenting a small child was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Everyone gives you advice about what to do, what not to do, how to do things perfectly, risks and studies, how cavemen did it and how mothers in France do it, and on and on. But if you are alive and your baby is alive and you make it to the point where your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you get a gold star. You are doing a GREAT job.” —Vanessa M.
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