The early weeks of parenting can be a very one sided affair, with lots of input and not much feedback from babies to let their parents know how they’re faring. But now is the time when your baby will be more animated, smiling, starting to coo and really connect with you.
Seeing your baby smile can be heart melting. Even if you’ve never had much to do with babies before, you are likely to have some idea of how to talk to your own. They won’t be critical of your attempts. Just remember to establish eye contact with them, speak gently and show some animation in your face. As your baby smiles in response to you, then you, in turn will respond to them. This is known as reciprocity or the “dance” of communication which happens between a parent and their baby.
Your baby may show increasing signs of hunger this month and demand to be fed more often. Try to follow their lead when it comes to feed times and trust their ability to know when they need to feed. If you are breastfeeding and have only been offering one breast, you may find you need to start offering both breasts at feed times.
It can take up to six weeks for your breasts to adjust to making the right amount of milk for your baby’s needs. You can help your supply adjust to your baby’s needs by feeding your baby according to need, rather than to a set schedule. It is common for breastfed babies to feed 8–12 times in 24 hours.
Your baby will still need feeds overnight, but they may be having a longer sleep period, perhaps 5-6 hours between a couple of their night feeds. This longer, unbroken sleep can be an ideal opportunity for parents to make up for lost sleep in the previous weeks, so take advantage of it.
Watch for more patterns of sleep developing this month, with your baby sleeping anywhere from 1-3 hours between most of their day sleeps. They are likely to be showing tired signs 30 minutes-1 hour after the end of their feeds and this is often the best time to place them into their cots for a sleep. Total sleep over 24 hours varies considerably and any amount between 9-18 hours is considered normal at this age.
Many babies peak in their crying episodes at 2 months, causing their parents to become almost as distressed. There are many reasons why babies cry, even when it seems that all of their needs have been met. Maturation of the nervous system, being overwhelmed by stimulus, becoming overtired or just wanting reassurance are some of the most common reasons.
In these early months there will be times when you just need to attend to your baby’s needs and follow your instincts on what they need. If it feels right to just cuddle and soothe them or take them for a walk then do it.
Your baby’s involuntary grasp reflex will disappear around now, only to be replaced by a deliberate grip. Make sure you have some rattles and small but safe toys which they can entertain themselves with. This is also the time when your baby will discover their hands and feet and will keep themselves amused for stretches of time. As yet, your baby is still too young to know that those interesting appendages belong to them which mean they’ll be just as fascinated each time their hands and feet happen to cross their field of vision.
Baby’s brain is hard at work learning to distinguish colours. As a result, baby will probably begin to show a preference for bright primary colours and more detailed and complicated designs. Encourage this development by showing baby pictures, photos, books, and toys.
Your baby’s vision is also developing at 2 months of age and they will be able to follow you with their eyes. Watch them as they track your face and fix on your eyes, then smile in recognition. Hold a toy in their field of vision and watch their eyes work in unison to focus on it. If you notice your baby has a squint or any other problems with their eyes, see your early childhood nurse or GP.
Vision development is rapid in the early years and early diagnosis and treatment of problems generally leads to better outcomes.
Your baby is likely to have a lot of growth and weight gain in the 2nd month, with an average of 150-200 grams per week. Don’t worry if they gain a lot of weight one week and not so much the next. Weight gain is only one indicator of growth. Head circumference and length, contentedness and general behaviour are equally as important as what the numbers and percentiles on the scales demonstrate. Look at their weight and growth over a period of weeks, rather than each week being separate to the others.
6-8 weeks is the age when your baby is due for their first immunisation. Mark the date on your calendar or diary for when your baby turns 2 months of age so you don’t overlook it. Many councils offer free immunisation services though these may be restricted to particular days of the month. Alternately, you may wish to go to your GP. Make sure you take your baby’s Personal Health Record book with you so the vaccine dates can be recorded with a reminder for when the next one is due. In Australia if children are not vaccinated it can affect the parents Medicare entitlements, and some child care centres will not accept children who are not vaccinated. Find more information here or contact your child care centre.
Provide your little one with lots of floor time every day. If you have pets, you’ll need to keep them away from the baby, no matter how interested they may be. Never leave your baby unsupervised on their change mat, on the floor or in an unsafe place. They are still small and can be accidentally walked on. Make a point of scanning areas where you place them and look for small objects they could pick up. Toys need to be rounded and soft, with no sharp edges.
Watch for your baby’s response to loud or even sudden noises. If they jump and become startled, this is a reassuring sign that their hearing is normal. Most babies have a hearing screen at birth and if there were concerns, a re-test is recommended. If you are in any doubt about your baby’s hearing, have them checked by your GP and enquire if a referral to an audiologist is necessary.
Try to invest a couple of hours into yourself and your wellbeing each week and do something for you. You may want to start some low impact forms of exercise, such as walking, swimming, yoga, light weight training – are all good forms which are unlikely to cause you muscle strain.
If you are breastfeeding, be aware that starting an intense exercise programme could reduce your breastmilk supply. If you want to go for a run, you will need to wear a firm, supportive bra which minimises your breasts from bouncing. If you have had problems with urinary incontinence, jogging or repetitive jarring exercise will not be suitable.
If you have not had your 6 week post natal check up yet, now is the time. Your vaginal bleeding should have settled by now and your uterus and internal organs returned to their non-pregnant state. Some women don’t return to have their post natal check, saying they don’t have the time and they don’t see the point. However, it is as important for mothers to have their post natal check up as it is for their babies to have one. It is also an ideal opportunity to discuss contraceptive options with your doctor or midwife.
Some mothers feel as if they are on auto pilot at this stage, especially if they have older children. It is common to feel very tired and drained, even after having some sleep.
Although the numbers of stay-at-home dads is growing, in the majority of cases it is the mothers who are the primary carers in the first year of their babies’ lives, and by this stage many fathers have returned to work from paternity leave. If you have been used to a busy working life, then adapting to full time parenting will mean having to make a significant mental shift. Try not to isolate yourself from your old networks and friends. It is important for you to still have mental stimulation and not feel lonely. Something as little as ten minutes of mindfulness is recommended.
If you notice your hair is falling out, don’t despair. During pregnancy hair goes through a retention phase and less is shed everyday. Hormonal influence and the end of pregnancy specific hormones means, for many mothers, that they lose more hair than they usually do. Try not to worry; it is more than likely to all settle down in the next couple of months.
Look after your teeth and gums now and don’t neglect your oral hygiene. Even if you can’t find the time to do lots of other things, giving some attention to your mouth is important. Parents who have active tooth decay can pass on oral bacteria to their baby through kissing. It pays to look after yourself.
You may find yourself going to bed extra early these days. Night feeds are still a reality so if possible, aim to sleep yourself during one of your baby’s longer sleep periods. Even if this means letting your own head hit the pillow at 8pm, so be it. Having a few hours of deep, restorative sleep each night can mean the difference between getting through each day and not being able to manage at all well.
Your relationship with your partner is likely to have been on hold for the last couple of months. Recovery from childbirth, physical exhaustion and being solely focused on baby leaves most mothers with little reserves to invest into much else. But if you are both ready to resume your sexual activity, then go with it.
Be aware that just because you have had a baby recently, and even if your period has not returned, this does not mean you are infertile. Speak with your GP about contraceptive options which are suitable for you as a couple.