Your 5-Week-Old Baby’s Development

Major milestones and everyday tips for your baby at 5 weeks old

In only a few short weeks, you have grown so much as a parent. By day 28, your baby graduates from being defined as a “newborn” to a full-fledged infant. You may be wondering where the time flew this past month, yet also feel like the days (and nights) stretched on forever.

No matter what the past four weeks held for you as the parent of a newborn, here’s what the next week will have in store for your 5-week-old baby.

5-week old baby milestones and development
Illustration by Joshua Seong, Verywell

Your Growing Baby

You can expect your 5-week-old baby to continue the plotted development on their personal growth chart and exhibit the following growth milestones:

  • Gaining about 1.5 to 2 pounds a month
  • Growing about 10 inches (25 centimeters) between birth and 12 months
  • Having a head circumference that grows at about 2 centimeters a month.

Developmental Milestones

Although every baby is different, your 5-week-old should be making the following physical and developmental milestones appropriate for their age:

Body

At 5 weeks old, your baby should be able to:

  • Hold their head up in a 45-degree angle while laying on their stomach or in a facedown position. This might mean when you are holding your little one to your chest, they could crane their head backward to look at you. Be careful—while they are gaining strength every day, they still don’t have quite the necessary strength to keep their head in that position, so continue to support their neck.
  • Hold a rattle or other small toy when placed in their hand. This is a huge development! Your little one’s “clutching” skills have come a long way from the newborn stage. Celebrate by breaking out some of those baby toys for playtime.

Brain

As your little one transitions out of the newborn stage, there are some big changes happening in their brain this week. The primary difference you might notice right away is that your baby will be a lot more alert. Gone are the days of sleeping around the clock—which is both good news and bad news. You will get the chance to see more of your baby’s personality and fun milestones start to emerge this week, which include:

  • Gurgling, as if they are trying to “mimic” your words with small gurgles and mouth movements
  • Following your movement from side to side, so it might feel like your baby is watching you as you move through the room, or watching a toy as you move it from side to side
  • Concentrating their vision on something, like your face or a mobile, for longer periods of time
  • Using actions to get what they want, like wiggling more when you come near or crying to get your attention
  • Calming down at the reaction to your voice

When to Be Concerned

As you are evaluating your little one developmentally, it's important to take into account any special situations for your infant. But remember, infants simply develop at different paces. However, if your baby isn’t able to follow horizontal movement visually and is not showing any improvement in the ability to hold themselves up, you may want to check in with your doctor.

A Day in the Life

At 5 weeks old, your infant might seem like an entirely new baby—they have more alert time during the day and begin to sleep for longer periods at night. You might start developing a bit of a routine together by this point, or find it helpful to create “baby stations” throughout your home where you are most active.

For example, if you spend time in the living room or kitchen, try stashing a playpen there for your baby to take a quick nap while you keep an eye on them, or to have a safe place to put them down for a minute while you start dinner.

Baby Care Basics

If your baby tends to get very fussy in the evening hours but has not been diagnosed with colic, they may be experiencing a normal part of infant development. One study in Pediatric Health found some infants will have “evening irritability” from two to 16 weeks as their central nervous system continues to develop. Because the central nervous system is still learning how to adequately process stimuli in the baby’s environment, your baby might quite literally be overwhelmed by the end of the day.

You may find it helpful to be intentional about creating a calming, quieter environment in the evening with minimized noise and soft lighting, without a lot of harsh stimulation for the baby. Your baby probably still enjoys being swaddled at this age, which can also help calm them.

Feeding & Nutrition

If you're like many working mothers who receive six weeks of maternity leave, you may be planning on returning to work next week. For mothers who have exclusively breastfed up until this point, the fifth week of their baby’s life can be a great time to start doing a trial run for having someone else handle the feedings. Introducing a bottle for the first time can be a challenge for some babies, but you can make the transition a little easier with these tips:

  • Have someone else give your baby a bottle for the first time: Recruit your partner, a family member, or a friend to help decrease any confusion. If you try to feed your baby the first bottle, they may get confused or frustrated by being close to you and smelling you, but not getting the breast.
  • Avoid nap time and bedtime feedings: Don’t try to wait until your baby is exhausted to introduce a bottle; they will most likely be too fussy or overtired to take to the bottle well. Instead, aim for an early morning feed, when they are more likely to be alert and receptive.
  • Don’t give up: If your baby doesn’t accept the bottle at first, don’t give up! It can often take several tries.

By five weeks old, your baby may also need to adjust their feeding schedule. For exclusively breastfed babies, you may notice longer, more consistent feedings and fewer cluster feedings that were more common in the newborn days.

Formula-fed babies may also need an increase in the amount of formula they receive. Typically, a baby in the second month of life will drink about 4 to 5 ounces of formula with every feeding, every three to four hours during the day. At night, your baby may go longer, between four and six hours. Overall, the average baby will drink between 24 and 32 ounces per day.

There isn’t a proven amount of formula that is necessary for every baby at this age—every baby will be different, so pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues and work with a pediatrician to determine exactly how much your baby needs. You may consider increasing the amount of formula you give if your baby:

  • Quickly finishes a bottle and seems to be looking for more
  • Appears to want to eat more often, such as every two hours when they had been eating every three hours
  • Wakes up more frequently to eat at night
  • Isn't gaining weight well

On the other hand, if your baby seems to constantly want to eat and is not satisfied with formula feedings, you will want to talk to your baby’s pediatrician to make sure you have an adequate formula and there are no underlying medical conditions.

Sleep

Your baby will most likely not sleep through the night until at least two months of age. But this week, your baby will likely have more awake time during the day and begin sleeping for longer stretches at night. They will still sleep an average of 16 hours per 24-hour period. You may start to initiate some practices that will help encourage your little one to sleep well as they grow, such as:

  • Putting them down to sleep while awake or a little drowsy
  • Avoiding letting them nurse or feed to go to sleep
  • Being consistent with sleep routines, such as switching on a fan or white noise machine before laying your baby down, or performing a sleep ritual, such as an infant massage

Health & Safety

Sometime after week five, you will want to schedule your baby’s 2-month-old well-child check-up. This visit will include your baby’s first batch of vaccines. They will receive the pneumococcalDTaPHib, and polio vaccines as injections and the rotavirus vaccine via the mouth. If you choose, you can start researching why those vaccines are so important. Your baby will also receive the second hepatitis B vaccine at the 2-month check-up if they didn't have it at the 1-month checkup.

As for safety concerns, you should continue baby-proofing your home and make sure you are continually monitoring for potential dangers to your baby, including:

  • Checking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Even if you have both installed in your home, it’s a good idea to check them periodically to make sure they are still working and do not need any batteries replaced.
  • Removing all window cords in your home. Although it is still early, now is the time to make sure you have eliminated all window cords in your home. The majority of window cord injuries happen in children under the age of 2 and occur when window cords are near furniture such as cribs, changing tables, beds, or couches.
  • Installing a video monitor system that records temperature. If your baby is on a different level in your home, it may be helpful to choose a baby monitor that can also detect temperature so you can make sure they are never too hot or too cold.
  • Making sure no one smokes around your baby or in the home.
  • Keeping your little one in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2, or as your car seat safety guidelines stipulate.
  • Seeking medical attention for a fever over 100.4 degrees. You can take your baby’s temperature through the skin with a forehead thermometer or rectally for the most accurate reading.

    Must Knows

    This week, keep the following parenting tips in mind as you successfully transition out of the newborn stage.

    • Have a plan: If you’re heading back to work in the next week, make a plan for a seamless transition. Introduce your baby to the bottle this week, using the advice mentioned above.
    • Preserve memories: One of the most emotional parts about this week may be switching out your baby’s wardrobe. They may be fast outgrowing newborn clothes and that can be a difficult change for some parents. As you pack away your little one’s newborn clothes to store or donate, don’t be afraid to pick a few meaningful pieces for you to remember this special time in your life.
    • Keep your sanity: If you have a baby who is fussy in the evenings, remember this is a stage that will pass. Your baby’s nervous system is still adjusting to life outside of the womb, so it may take until 16 weeks for the evening irritability to pass.
    • Prepare for the next stage of life with an official infant: Hopefully, life after the newborn stage will include a lot more sleep and even more to look forward to as you get to know the new member of your family.
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      Article Sources
      • American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Ages and stages: baby. HealthyChildren.org.

      • Dosman, C. F., Andrews, D., & Goulden, K. J. (2012). Evidence-based milestone ages as a framework for developmental surveillance.Paediatrics & Child Health,17(10), 561–568. DOI: 10.1093/pch/17.10.561.