Your 5-Week-Old Baby’s Milestones & Development

Your baby has completed their first month of life, and so much has changed. Although your baby is still really little, they are starting to feel less like a newborn, and more like a full-fledged baby. Your baby’s growth is really taking off by now, and you are probably finding that your baby has outgrown their newborn clothes and newborn diapers. You are probably also noticing that they are much more alert, aware of their surroundings, and engaged with you.

Five weeks isn’t without challenges, of course. Your baby still wakes up frequently at night, and may not have their nights and days fully sorted out yet. They may also still be quite fussy at times or have colic symptoms.

Let’s take a look at what to expect when it comes to caring for a 5-week-old baby—from development, to feeding, to sleep, to baby care, health, and safety.

At This Age

  • Development: Your baby’s newborn reflexes are starting to disappear, they are starting to become more social, and their movements are becoming more deliberate.
  • Sleep: Your baby still sleeps an average of 15 hours a day, but they are getting closer to distinguishing night from day.
  • Food: If you are formula feeding, the amount you give your baby may increase this week; breastfed babies might be trying their first bottle this week.
5-week old baby milestones and development
Illustration by Joshua Seong, Verywell

5-Week-Old Baby Development

Five weeks is an exciting time for babies. Each week your baby gets more and more alert, and this week is no exception. As Gina Posner, MD, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center explains, "[A 5-week-old baby is] just more alert and has slightly longer stretches of time to interact.”

As your baby becomes more aware, they also become more social and interactive. Your baby listens more intently to sounds they hear in the room, and will likely follow you as you walk across the room. You will probably notice that your baby’s eyes light up when you pick them up and look at them.

Many parents are starting to wonder by now when their baby will smile. All babies are different, but sometime in the next few weeks, usually by the 2-month mark, your baby will have their first social smile.

According to Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, that may even be happening already for some babies! He says that by 4 to 5 weeks, babies will occasionally smile, but this will increase in frequency as you get close to the 6-8 week mark.

Of course, all babies are different and develop at different rates, so if your baby shows no signs of smiling yet, don’t worry. You will start seeing glimmers of that first smile in no time.

At this point, your baby should be steadily gaining weight. Every baby has their own growth curve, but on average, babies are starting to gain about 1 ½-2 pounds a month, and grow about an inch in length each month. Your baby’s head size with grow by about ½ inch a month as well.

5-Week-Old Baby Milestones

As your baby moves out of the newborn phase, all of these newborn reflexes you may have noticed at birth—the startle reflex, the rooting reflex, the “stepping” reflex—start to decrease. With that, you may notice your baby’s movements becoming a little more deliberate.

You can see these more conscious movements in the ways that your baby uses their hands. Your baby may start to look at their hands and may realize that they can move their hands right into their mouth. What a cool skill!

If you lay your baby under a crib mobile or a play gym mobile, you may see them use their hands to try to swipe at it. Additionally, if you place a rattle or toy in your baby’s hand, they may even grasp the toy for a short time before they drop it. Before you know it, they will start to hold onto toys for longer and longer.

Additional Behaviors

  • Your baby should be able to hold their head up well when you place them on their tummy.
  • When placed on their belly, they may crane their head side to side and look around.
  • They may be kicking their legs more often.
  • Your baby’s neck muscles are becoming stronger every day.
  • Your baby’s cries may seem more purposeful, and they may start to have different cries for hunger, fussiness, sleepiness, etc.

5-Week-Old Baby Feeding

By now, you’ve probably got into a feeding routine with your baby that works for you. If you are breastfeeding, you should still expect to nurse quite frequently at this age. Most babies require 8-12 feedings in 24 hours.

Dr. Posner still encourages breastfeeding parents to practice responsive feeding at this age. “Babies can still breastfeed on demand—usually they will want to breastfeed every 2-4 hours at this stage,” she notes. “But sometimes they will want to feed every hour and other times will not eat for 5 hours.” All of this is common, she says.

If you are breastfeeding, you may also start to notice that your baby’s poops have started to slow down considerably. Many parents get worried about this, but it’s also quite common, says Dr. Ganjian.

“Poop schedules change around 5 weeks, becoming less frequent,” he explains. “As long as the stools are not hard and are occurring every 5 days, it is OK to just monitor. If you have any questions, speak to your pediatrician.”

Five weeks is also the time that breastfeeding parents often introduce their first bottle, usually in preparation for an eventual return to work. Most experts recommend that you breastfeed exclusively, without bottles, for the first 3-4 weeks of life, especially as your baby is getting used to breastfeeding. But starting around now, you can introduce the bottle.

When you first introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby, it’s normal if they kind of look at it like, “Hey, what’s this?” Eventually, though, they will get used to it. At first, it can be helpful to have someone other than the breastfeeding parent introduce the bottle, so it’s less confusing. You can also try bottle feeding in different locations than where you normally nurse. Making bottle feeding fun and playful can also help.

If you are formula feeding, your pediatrician might advise you to start increasing the volume you feed your baby at around five weeks. When your baby was a newborn, they generally drank 2-3 ounces of formula at a time. But by the end of the first month, that amount probably increased to about 4 ounces at a time, about every 4 hours.

As you move past the first month of life, your baby will generally start to go longer between feedings, and take in a total of 24 and 32 ounces of formula per day. All babies are different, though, and you should continue to read your baby’s cues when it comes to feeding.

 5-Week-Old Baby Sleep

Five weeks is still a time marked by a lot of sleep, though not always with many hours in a row of sleeping. Your baby sleeps an average of 15 hours out of 24 hours, with about 7 hours of sleep happening during the daytime, and about 8-9 hours happening at night.

“Five-week-old babies are still sleeping the majority of the day off and on,” says Dr. Posner. One highlight is that they are starting to understand the difference between night and day a little better, she says, and that can come as a big relief to parents.

As time goes on, your baby will start sleeping fewer hours during the day and do the bulk of their sleeping at night. But your baby is not quite there yet. Baby steps, as they say.

You can do a few things to help teach your baby that nighttime is the time when most of their sleeping should happen. Even at five weeks, you can start to establish some bedtime routines. Starting around the time that they usually get sleepy at night, you can keep the lights dim, and play soft music. Some babies find baths relaxing; others might like a baby massage. The idea is to do the things that signal to your baby that it’s time to relax into sleep.

5-Week-Old Baby Schedule

As your baby becomes more alert and has somewhat longer stretches of awake time, you will start to integrate your baby more into the schedule of your home. Your baby isn’t a newborn who does nothing but sleep all day. There will be several times each day that your baby is awake and may even want to play!

Setting up a few “stations” in your house where you can give your baby playtime—or set them down for a second while you take care of something around the house—can be really helpful. If possible, consider investing in a baby gym or baby activity center. For those times when you need to keep your baby safely contained for a few minutes, having a playpen around can be a lifesaver.

5-Week-Old Baby Health and Safety

After your baby’s 1 month visit last week, they won’t have a scheduled visit at the pediatrician until 2 months. Now is a good time to make your 2-month visit, if you haven’t already. You should also know that just because you don’t have a scheduled visit with your pediatrician, you can also call with questions or concerns.

Your baby isn’t mobile yet, so you don’t have to start babyproofing your home right now with things like outlet covers and kitchen cabinet locks. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some measures to make your home’s environment as safe as possible for your growing baby.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Most of us have smoke alarms in our homes, but it’s important that you also install a carbon monoxide detector. You should have at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home. Now is a good time to make sure both your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm batteries are in working order. Continue to check these once every six months or so.

Window Cords

You might think your baby is too little to play with a window cord, but as they get better at grabbing things with their little hands, they might end up pulling on a window cord. Most window cord injuries happen to children under the age of two, so now is a good time to make sure that all of your curtain or blinds cords are completely out of reach of your baby, especially ones near your baby’s changing table, crib, or anywhere you set them down.

Smoking

Second-hand smoke is dangerous to everyone, but babies are particularly vulnerable to it. No one should smoke inside the same house as your baby; even smoking in a different room comes with risks. It’s best to smoke outside your home if you must smoke at all. For the best possible health outcome for your baby, it’s best to refrain from smoking altogether.

5-Week-Old Baby Care Basics

This week, you are probably focused on how to calm your baby’s fussiness. Five weeks is one of the weeks that colicky symptoms tend to peak. Even babies who don’t exhibit signs of colic often are extra fussy and irritable at this time. Researchers believe this is because of the rapid changes and development that happen as your baby’s central nervous system starts to develop.

So what to do about all the crying and fussiness? Besides keeping in mind that this is all developmentally normal, and will pass, there are a few things you can do as they navigate your baby’s fussy period.

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that sometimes colic and fussiness can be caused by something your baby is reacting to in your breastmilk. Eliminating dairy products and other irritants can help. You might need to do some experimenting to see what your baby is reacting to. If you are formula feeding, you might want to consider switching formulas, or trying a protein hydrolysate formula. In either case, take care not to overfeed your baby, as that can upset their tummy as well.

Other tried-and-true ways to soothe a fussy baby include swaddling them, offering a pacifier, walking them in a baby carrier, holding them while you bounce on an exercise ball, and using a white noise machine. If nothing you are doing seems to help, and your baby seems inconsolable, you should consider calling your doctor to rule out any medical issues.

What Else to Know About Your 5-Week-Old Baby

Five weeks is a bit of a transition time for you and your baby. Your baby may be literally transitioning out of their newborn clothing, in fact! They are also just becoming more and more a little person as opposed to a sleepy, bundled newborn. You may also be thinking about returning to work, and what that will mean for you and your baby.

Try to be gentle with yourself as you face all of these changes and transitions with your baby. Some of them may make you feel sad and nostalgic. Some may be confusing and challenging. You should know that you aren’t alone. Many parents have faced similar transitions with their babies.

It’s totally common if you feel like you need someone to talk to as you move through these changes with your baby and your life. Consider joining a new parent support group, or connecting with a counselor or therapist who can listen to your concerns and help you sort out your feelings.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should babies be doing at 5 weeks old?

    At 5 weeks, babies are discovering their hands and might start deliberately putting them into their mouths, or even starting to swipe at objects nearby.

  • What can 5-week-old babies see?

    Your baby is still pretty nearsighted. Things that are more than a few inches away may be blurry. But your baby’s vision is also gradually starting to improve.

  • How do I play with my 5-week-old?

    Babies this age are having longer periods of alertness, and love to interact with their parents. Your baby might start to enjoy a game of peek-a-boo, or will enjoy any funny faces or sounds that you make.

  • Can a baby smile at 5 weeks?

    The week that a baby has their first smile varies. Most babies will smile by the 2-month mark, but some babies will break out in a smile as young as 5 weeks.

  • How long should a 5-week-old sleep?

    Most 5-week-olds still sleep close to 15 hours a day, but they rarely sleep more than a handful of hours in a row.

  • How much breastmilk does a 5-week-old drink?

    If breastfeeding, your baby should nurse about 8-12 times in 24 hours at this age. Formula-fed babies drink about 24-32 ounces a day.

  • How often should a 5-week-old poop?

    When your baby was younger, they probably pooped several times a day. Starting now, it’s normal if that pattern has slowed. Even going a few days between pooping may be normal for your baby.

A Word From Verywell

Many parents expect things to get easier as their baby gets older. But life with a baby is never really a linear progression. Just as you are starting to understand how to care for your baby and fit their needs into your own life, things change.

By five weeks, you probably feel like you’ve mastered feeding your baby, changing their diaper, and taking care of their other basic needs. But then, suddenly, they become more alert and fussier, and you have a whole new set of challenges. You are probably also aching for more sleep right now, or at least, more uninterrupted sleep.

Just as things changed before, they will change again. Your baby’s fussiness should resolve in a few weeks, and their sleep should start to get a little bit better soon. Hang in there, and try to remember that it’s normal to still feel a little overwhelmed during this stage.

If you have any questions about your baby’s behavior or development, or if you are feeling more than just a little overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional for support and advice.

Originally written by
Chaunie Brusie, RN
Chaunie Brusie, RN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.
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13 Sources
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