Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap and Joe Fresh
There are so many milestones this week, from your postpartum health check-up to some of baby’s first facial expressions. Two possible green lights: one for sex and one for pumping breastmilk. Sorry, did grouping those activities together kill the mood? Or was the mood already a bit limp given your exhaustion, lingering soreness and spurting breasts? For all the six-weeks-and-sex talk that surrounds this week, the real world is way more variable, and honest conversations with your healthcare provider and partner about how you’re feeling should top your to-do list. But it’s not all serious this week: Your baby is starting to smile, react with delight at your arrival and coo in earnest, which are wonderful rewards for six weeks of sleep deprivation since that momentous day. It’s a big week for both of you!
Your baby may be about to embark on a growth spurt this week, and that could mean a fussy period and incessant demands to be fed. Of course, it’s just when you thought you’d figured out a feeding routine. If you’re nursing, offer your baby the breast as often as they want since the demand from your baby will increase your supply in turn. And, though some moms may have been pumping milk (or supplementing with formula) for weeks, many lactation experts feel that it’s wise to wait until the six-week mark (if there are no issues with nursing) to introduce pumping and bottle-feeding expressed milk.
Pumping between nursing sessions is also a good way to boost your supply to cope with that growth spurt, even if it seems like the last thing you want to do. If you plan to breastfeed for the long haul, you may soon want the flexibility to pump milk to boost your freedom and make it possible to leave your baby for more than a couple of hours at a time. If so, now is the time to invest in a high-quality breast pump and a hands-free pumping bra. Both items are unbelievably weird contraptions to outsiders, but they can be life-changing for nursing moms. And if your breasts leak regularly, you may be able to save enough milk to avoid pumping altogether with these genius “milk savers.”
Aside from feeding more often, your baby is growing by leaps and bounds this week. Your baby’s hearing is fully developed now, and they can remember you when you are separated, which means that now—or soon—you’ll get gurgles, wiggles and coos when you return. While all milestones are approximate and vary by several weeks, most babies gain more neck control by week six, learning to turn their heads to follow you or find a nipple and lifting their heads during tummy time. The wiggles will also accelerate as your baby works to figure out how to fire up their arms and legs and aim their fists and feet to best effect. Your baby’s focus and attention span are also growing, so giving them plenty to look at, listen to and feel will help them stay interested. They will also show you a few new tricks, including those long-awaited smiles and giggles. The coming weeks are magical for all those firsts!
By week six, you may be coming to terms with recurring problems, from reflux to colic to worries over your milk supply. Infancy is rarely smooth sailing, so remember that when you compare notes. Every baby is good at some things and fussy about others, and this parenting thing is a roller coaster! With both reflux and colic, your baby will have similar symptoms to many other infants, only more acute. Listen to your intuition and follow up with your baby’s doctor if you sense that a small problem has become a big one.
Spit-up is a fact of life for many infants, and it may be little more than a laundry problem, no matter what well-meaning people may tell you. But if your baby seems to be in pain, has forceful vomiting, isn’t gaining weight or has trouble breathing, it may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Read more about reflux symptoms and remedies here.
While there are treatments for reflux, colic isn’t as clear-cut (to the dismay of any parent of a baby who cries inconsolably for hours and hours) and it peaks at this age. There are no definitive causes or remedies for this condition, which makes babies wail and drives parents to frustration and despair, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help from your baby’s doctor or your own healthcare provider for the horrors of colic. Talking to other moms who have dealt with colic can also help, if for no other reason than to be reassured that it eventually passes. A trick that worked to soothe one baby may be the one that works for yours. Read more about the possible causes and ways to help your baby through it.
While colic is the time-tested word that parents and doctors alike use, others talk about a Period of PURPLE Crying: a normal developmental phase where your baby cries inconsolably and seems impossible to soothe for reasons you can’t discern. PURPLE crying isn’t about the colour your baby turns when they’re wailing (though it may get close at times) but an acronym to describe this very challenging stage of your baby’s development. If you have an inconsolable baby and are wondering about colic, reading about this concept to describe the phase may provide a new perspective.
Eating and sleeping habits are always evolving, so just when you think your baby has figured one thing out, a new issue may crop up. Your breastfed baby may have stretched out their feeding sessions to every four hours by now and suddenly be demanding to be fed every hour again. Formula-fed babies may also be wanting more this week—all part of a normal growth spurt that often hits at this time.
As for sleeping, there is a wide range of normal, including those mythical babies who are already sleeping “through the night”— our bar for “through the night” has been lowered dramatically since baby’s birth to simply mean “five or six hours at once.” Other babies are still struggling to perfect their circadian rhythms, to put it mildly.
This doctor or midwife visit is one that many moms have been waiting for, both for reassurance that you’ve healed normally and for clearance to return to normal activities, such as sex and exercise. It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions to ask, and don’t be shy about taking notes or asking the same question more than once if you’re not quite sure about the answer. Sleep deprivation means that you may not be as clear-headed as you’d like, you may be distracted by having your baby along for the check-up and you may forget all the things that you’ve been wondering about. Here’s what to expect at the check-up.
Six weeks is when you need to think about starting pelvic floor physiotherapy. There are already apps (and video games!) out there to help you with this task, but one-on-one therapy is a good idea for many new moms. You can read more, including what to expect at your first pelvic floor therapy appointment.
If your six-week appointment gave you the all-clear for sex, you may be ready for fun in the bedroom—or maybe you’re not! Never mind the exhaustion and distraction of a new baby, but the fear of painful sex can make this one of the hardest milestones. Here’s how to cope.
Many parents have given up on their plans for strict night-time routines at this point and may be considering “breastsleeping,” a version of co-sleeping that seeks to find a safe balance for mom and baby to get as much rest as possible. While the Canadian Paediatric Society continues to take a hard line against any form of co-sleeping, some breastfeeding and attachment-parenting advocates believe that bed-sharing with your baby can be safe. Precautions are a must, including putting your baby on their back to sleep, ensuring that no other children are in the bed and removing all blankets and pillows.
You’re bound to have witnessed a case of baby hiccups by now! Adorable or concerning? Here’s how to get rid of hiccups and prevent them.
Now that you got the go-ahead to start exercising, do you have, like, 15 minutes? Here are four easy yoga poses to boost your mind and body instead of scrolling through your Instagram account again.
How to do it:
1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, pointing forward. Take a deep breath in and raise your arms straight up over your head.
2. Push your shoulders down and away from your ears. Then, bend at your hips and lower yourself, as if sitting in a chair. Go as low as you feel comfortable. Lengthen through your spine, and breathe deeply. Try to hold this pose for six to eight breaths. Return to standing. Repeat.
How to do it:
1. From the chair pose, reach your hands up to the ceiling and return to standing. Breathe out, bend at your hips and lower your head as far toward the floor as possible.
2. Cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Let your head hang and relax. Breathe in, lengthening the front of your body; as you breath out, reach your hips toward the ceiling. Hold for eight breaths, then place your hands on your hips and, with a flat back, come back to standing. Repeat.
How to do it:
1. Place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and walk your feet back until you are in a straight plank position. Spread your fingers out as much as possible.
2. Lengthen through your spine and send the top of your head away from your heels in a straight body position. You should feel a stretch across the muscles of your back as you rotate your shoulders out from your body. Hold this pose for eight breaths. Lower to the ground. Repeat.
How to do it:
1. Get into plank position. Bend at the knee, reaching one foot foward, placing it between your hands.
2. From this position, reach for the ceiling with both hands so your upper body is now straight. (Your back leg remains straight and your front leg is bent at 90 degrees.) Your lower-body muscles should be engaged. Hold this pose for eight breaths. Return to plank pose and then repeat on the other side.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “Squeeze in yoga,” p. 58.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed in the first several weeks of motherhood, we get you—we’ve been there. Sometimes it helps to share the oddest things that bring you comfort, like this mom’s hysterical iPhone autocorrect.