Baby’s First Year: Week 7
- October 28, 2020
- by Melissa Lawrence
Welcome to Week 7 with your baby — and with my baby. Mamas and papas, let’s look at the key issues for a baby this age, and then I’ll tell you about my first week at home with my little premie Bracey. Bracey is 7 weeks old but only 37 weeks old in terms of his gestational age since he was born early at 30 weeks, and we brought him home last Saturday.
Growth and Development of a 7 Week Old Baby
Babies Growth during the First Six Months
Your doctor will continue to track your baby’s growth against other similarly-aged babies, most likely against the baby boy and baby girl growth charts established by the World Health Organization. For the first six months of life, your baby will gain approximately 5-7 ounces (140-200 grams) per week.
How Big is a Baby at 7 Weeks
By week 7, your baby will have gained 35-49 ounces or 2.2-3 pounds (1 – 1.3 kilos). In terms of length, during the first six months of life, your baby will grow 1/2 inch to 1 inch (about 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters) a month.
Continue to keep track of feedings and schedule and attend pediatrician appointments to ensure that your baby’s growth and vaccination schedules are on track.
All babies are different and there is a huge range of normal. If you have concerns about your baby’s development, or worries that they are not reaching certain milestones, consult with your doctor. My babies did everything late and that caused a lot of stress, but they were all within the range of normal. Remember to keep that in mind!
Your baby’s coordination and reflexes will continue to mature and by week 7, they may be reaching and batting for objects that elude them like mobiles. Increased hand strength may allow them to tightly hold objects. Try testing their hand-eye coordination by passing a slowly moving finger or patterned toy or object before their eyes since by week 7, many babies can track such horizontal movement with their eyes. Bracey, of course, cannot because he is a premie. Generally, premie babies reach these milestones later depending on how premature they were.
Your baby’s hearing has matured and they likely will recognize your voice and react to other sounds like something dropping or — gasp — someone yelling, which is what happens in my house.
Social Smiles and Stimulating Brain Development
Your 7-week old baby may be continuing his new talent for “social smiles,” intentional smiles that are not due to gas and do not occur during dreams. Social smiles bear witness to your baby’s continued brain development. Smile back at your baby and continue to talk, make funny faces, and read to them. Hearing your words, although your baby does not yet understand them, is crucial to their intellectual growth. Don’t take to your baby like a baby, talk to them like an adult — you want your baby to hear as many words as possible per day. So buff up on your vocabulary skills and get the Scrabble games going!
Tummy time remains a priority and will help your baby to sit up, cruise, and eventually walk. Put your baby down on their stomach several times a day for a few minutes (never leaving them alone), extending the duration each week. Offer toys, change locations, and talk, play, and sing during this time. Check out my Week 3 video and post for more information on Tummy Time.
The Importance of Music for your Baby
Music is a wonderful way to soothe and stimulate your baby from the newborn stage onwards. Classical music can provide a peaceful backdrop to feedings and sleep, and lyrical songs are a great way to keep a variety of words, rhythm, and beats flowing to your baby’s brain. These aspects of music prepare your baby for the patterns and sounds intrinsic to human speech. A recent study showed that a series of play sessions involving children’s music with beats and rhythm improved babies’ ability to detect patterns in sounds. Mozart, anyone?
Crying and Fussiness of a 7 Week Old Baby
By Week 7, your baby might have entered a period of alertness and calm. The fussiness that accompanied prior growth spurts might well have quieted down. I’m not there yet since my 7-week old baby is only at 37 weeks in terms of his gestation so I’m jealous of you mamas of full-term chill babies. Enjoy!
Breastfeeding a 7 Week Old Baby
Hopefully, your breastfeeding sessions are getting more efficient by this point and you are able to feed your baby more quickly (and find time to pump for 10-15 minutes after each feed). Watch my earlier videos for tips on breastfeeding problems. Stick to an every three-hour feeding schedule and remember to fully empty one breast so that your baby can get as much hind milk as possible before turning to the other breast. Try to keep your baby awake by changing their diaper or outfit and to burp your baby, then offering them more food, so that you are sure your baby is awake, full and rejecting more food! Try to then put your baby down for naps between feedings.
Why Schedules are Good from Day One
Having a schedule allows you to keep track of feedings to make sure your baby is getting enough, and to ensure that your baby gets the rest they need. If your baby wakes up or appears hungry before a scheduled feeding, by all means, feed them! My recent experience in the NICU confirmed my belief in this approach. In the NICU, Bracey was fed every three hours religiously and of course, the amounts of milk were closely monitored. Doesn’t it make sense that we mamas at home would try to replicate this approach? By schedule, I mean eating plan and by all means, when your baby demands a feeding, do the feeding.
Let me pop up the every three-hour feeding schedule again here, but keep in mind that every 3.5 hours might be an easier schedule for you, if your doctor is ok with this since your baby might be more alert and hungry after 3.5 hours. Also keep in mind that your baby might want to eat earlier than anticipated, in which event you will modify the schedule.
- 7am — sleep 8:30-10am.*
- 10am – sleep 11:30-1pm.
- 1pm — sleep 2:30-4pm.
- 4pm — sleep 5:30-7pm.
- 7pm — sleep 8:30-10pm.
- 10pm — sleep 11:30pm-1am.*
- 2am (or when baby wakes up)
- 6am (or when baby wakes up).
Side Lying Breastfeeding Position
This is a great position for tired mamas nursing a newborn because it allows you to rest a bit and takes all the pressure and stress off your back and neck. The safest place to practice this is on the rug in your baby’s nursery or bedroom. I would place a clean white sheet down. You want to lie on your side resting your head on your arm and keeping your other hand on the baby. Now, what I do is get the baby to latch on, and then I gently lower myself down while carefully cradling the baby, supporting their head and neck. You can also lie down first and then try to get the baby to latch on — which I did with my other babies when they were older — but Bracey is too little for this right now and I need to have him latch on while sitting upright or standing and then gently, slowly and safely lie down together on our sides.
The Side Lying Breastfeeding Position with Newborns
So those are the pros of the side lying position. The cons are that you inevitably fall asleep if you do this at night, and what can happen is that your baby falls asleep while sucking on your breast and you do not know whether they finished the feed because they are not awake, burped and refusing more food — the three criteria for making sure baby has finished a breast-feeding session. I have to confess that this has happened to me a lot over the past week. Bracey’s food intake and weight are crucial issues for us since he is so small and still a bit weak so we have to be sure that he is completing his feedings and gaining enough weight. I have been feeding him a lot in this position since I am so exhausted. But I never quite know what he ate. I am assuming he’s pretty good because he is sleeping next to me on the floor and not crying, but I cannot be sure since he could be just sleepy and not adequately nourished. So, as tough as this is, if your baby is small like mine and their weight gain is being closely scrutinized, your doctor might well advise you to breastfeed him upright during the night, doing your best to keep him awake, so that you can ensure that he is getting enough food. I managed to do this last night for the most part! I should add that because of the risk of SIDS you have to be extremely careful with this position in bed.
Bottle-feeding a 7 Week Old Baby
Throwing the information from prior weeks up here for your convenience. Formula-fed babies should have 2 to 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound of body weight over a 24 hour period for the first six months of life, which translates to about 20-25 ounces for a 10-pound baby, or approximately 3-4 ounces per feed, depending on the number of feeds per day. Since every four-hour feedings are still recommended, your schedule that looks something like this:
- 7am — 9am nap
- 11am — 1pm nap
- 3pm – 5pm nap
- 7pm – 8pm bedtime
- 11pm – right back to sleep
- 4am (or when baby wakes up) – right back to sleep
Make sure your doctor approves of having your baby wake up on their own at night rather than having you wake them to feed. Follow these guidelines for cleaning and sterilizing bottles or invest in a bottle sterilizer and warmer.
Formula-Fed Baby with Gas
If your baby is formula-fed and experiencing gas, try switching formula types and brands. Keep in mind that since your baby’s digestive system will have continued to change since the newborn days, your baby might now tolerate a formula type or brand that didn’t work for your baby earlier. Sample different bottle types and brands (some are specially formulated to reduce gas), and nipples — paying careful attention to the flow rate. Make sure to burp your baby well and to not overfeed, which can cause indigestion.
Premature Babies at 37 Weeks Gestation
Baby Sucking on Breast and not Breastfeeding
Premies are born at different stages and encounter different challenges so you can’t generalize but I wanted to share two things that I have noticed this week. First, the issue of having a sleepy baby who falls asleep on the breast but continues to suck aka the human pacifier problem! Bracey does this all the time. You have to listen to hear the sound of the baby swallowing — that’s how you know they are drinking and not just sucking. When Bracey is drinking, I also see his jaw moving more vigorously. What do you do? First, I allow him to continue sucking while stirring him a bit to see if he will start drinking the milk again. If I can’t get him to drink like this, I take him off the breast and change his diaper or undress him and then try to feed him while he is wearing just a diaper, which is what the NICU advised anyway since “kangaroo care” or skin to skin is so important. The problem here is that his suck is so strong that I can barely get him off my breast. I usually recommend wetting a pinky finger in sterilized water and inserting that between your nipple and the baby’s mouth to break the suction and take the baby off the breast, but with Bracey I can barely get the finger in there. His mouth is vacuum-pack sealed onto my breast. I have had to rip him off a few times and I now have a huge white blister on the left breast. So, I’m now making a mental note to not rip him off and just stick to the pinky finger approach no matter how challenging it is! By the way, a few times my pinky has stayed in his mouth and I am flabbergasted by how strong his suck is. He’s a 5 pound baby that sucks like a hurricane. I have noticed that when he appears to have finished nursing, his suck is less strong and he lets me go, so the strong suck can be evidence that your baby is hungry and needs to eat more.
How to Burp a Newborn or Premie Baby
A lot of new parents wonder how to burp a newborn who won’t burp! Bracey has little strength in his back or neck, so burping him has been a challenge. What I have been doing is holding him with each hand under the armpit, and one hand holding up his neck and hand. Then, I stretch out his abdomen. The idea with burping is to stretch out the abdomen and not to bam the baby on the back. Gentle pats are enough. Yesterday I started burping him on my back by gently placing his head over my right shoulder and patting his curved back, but I think the lap burping position is better. I have to listen carefully for his burps because they are quiet ones and barely detectable.
Holding a Premie Baby
With my other babies, I breastfed them, played with them a bit, and put them in the crib from Day 1. Not so with this little guy since I have so many eager and loving older siblings who want to hold him and give him a bottle. So when Bracey is finished nursing or bottle-feeding, he gets passed around from kid to kid. By the way, we are trying to insist that the kids receive him when they are sitting down since the first few days they were all walking around with him, and that made us nervous. Anyway, this is already making for one cozy and happy baby who does not want to go in his crib. When the kids are in school and during the night, I try to get him in the crib. Since we learned in the NICU to hold him as much as possible, this seems like a fairly good balance.
Our First Week Home with Bracey
What a week it’s been, We brought Bracey home last Saturday after six weeks and one day in the NICU. The departure was bittersweet. I had grown to love the place, to be honest. We became friendly with the other parents and one of the head nurses is one of my best friends here in Spain so seeing her every day was a joy. Her name is Tricce and she has known Bracey now since his very first day of life. Paulus and I now consider her a close friend for life. I could barely watch her saying goodbye to Bracey without sobbing.
I tried not to break down on the walk home — I was so emotional! My girls Annaliese (11) and Marielle (9), otherwise known as the CloudMom baby — she’s the one you see in some of my earlier videos — walked their brother home.
Bracey’s older siblings were so welcoming and kind. They took turns holding Bracey and everyone now pretty much competes for who can hold him and give him a bottle.
The week proved exhausting for Paulus and me. The nights were long! Bracey’s little room is right off ours but several times I was so tired I did not even hear him wake up. Paulus brought him to me during the night. I was OUT, comatose!
We alternated between bottles with pumped breast milk and breastfeeding, trying to keep the bottles to 3 per day, which made me nervous but I followed the Nicu’s advice. Today we brought Bracey in for his one-week-home check. Thank heavens he had gained approximately 20 grams a day and the doctor told me I can now exclusively breastfeed. Paulus was not overjoyed with that news because he loves feeding him the bottle — sorry! I do think we will still give some bottles but it is a relief to know that our baby is growing and thriving while nursing.
Thanks so much for following and see you all back next week for week 8 with your baby.