The early weeks of parenting can be a very one-sided affair. You’re doing a lot of work, sure, but like solo karaoke, feedback is negligible. But now that’s changed, because while baby was previously just kind of there, now they’re a fully engaged live audience: more animated, smiling, and starting to coo and really connect with you. And not just in the chorus bits of Livin’ on a Prayer. It’s time to sing your heart out. Or, at least, to really put in when it comes to engaging your baby back.
Communicate with your baby
Even if you’ve never had much to do with bubs before, you are likely to have some idea of how to talk to your own, so do try whatever you think might generate a smile. Remember to establish eye contact with them, speak gently, and to 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 naturally between a parent and their baby. If you feel awkward cooing to your baby, try reading them a story.
Your baby may show increasing signs of hunger this month and demand to be fed more often. Babies show hunger cues when they need feeding and it is often better to follow their signs rather than stick with a feeding schedule. If mum is breastfeeding and has only been offering one breast per feed, she may find she needs to start offering both breasts at feed times.
It can take up to six weeks for breastfeeding to establish. Note that it’s common for breastfed babies to feed 8-12 times in 24 hours. Babies can be insistent little gits. And hungry. Note that if you’re bottle feeding, you can help by taking turns to feed your little one, following the instructions on the formula pack and/or offering expressed breast milk to you baby.
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. You can catch up on missed TV later.
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, which is often the best time to place them into their cot for a sleep – and even if mum’s dominating the feed duties directly from the breast, this is where you can step in. Total sleep over 24 hours varies considerably and any amount between 9-18 hours is considered normal at this age.
First, the bad news: many babies peak in their crying episodes at 2 months, causing their sleepless and already strung-out parents to become almost as distressed. This can be one of the most gruelling stretches of new parenthood, like a video game boss fight that unfairly happens in the first part of a video game, or a sort of hyperpersonalised version of those Special Forces training shows where former SAS soldiers bellow at already broken celebrities. But remember: this is normal. 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 and mum 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 to take them out for a walk around the block, then do it—dressing gown and uggs be damned.
Your baby’s (hilarious) involuntary grasp reflex (where they pick things up but can’t let them go) 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. Amazingly, your baby is still too young to know that those interesting appendages belong to them – which means 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, your 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. 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 around 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 scale numbers and percentiles reflect. 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, although not a particularly good reason to leap out from behind things with a bullhorn. Most babies have a hearing screening test 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.
What about you?
Try to invest a couple of hours into yourself and your wellbeing each week and do something for you. Mum 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 muscle strain – while you, having not just had a small person retrieved from among your organs, can be much more strenuous.
If mum is breastfeeding, be aware that starting an intense exercise programme could reduce her breastmilk supply. If she wants to go for a run, she will also need to wear a firm, supportive bra which minimises her breasts from bouncing. If she’s had problems with urinary incontinence, jogging or repetitive jarring exercise will not be suitable.
If mum hasn’t had her 6-week post-natal check-up yet, support her to organise one. Her vaginal bleeding should have settled by now, and her uterus and internal organs returned to their non-pregnant state. Her post-baby body is forever changed and just enjoy that it has created life. 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 partner so they can speak with the doctor or midwife, despite the fact that she may feel like sex is the farthest thing from her mind. Don’t push her on this.
Some mothers, and even dads, 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 mum has been used to a busy working life, then adapting to full time parenting will mean having to make a significant mental shift. Try to give her opportunities to remain in contact with her old networks and friends, especially if you’ve returned to work and all the social interactions this brings, and she’s ‘stuck’ at home. It is important for her to still have mental stimulation and not feel lonely. Something as little as ten minutes of mindfulness is recommended.
Your partner may notice that her hair is falling out. Even if you’ve been bald for years, and you’re grimly jealous that hers will grow back, show some sympathy here. During pregnancy, her hair goes through a retention phase and less is shed each day. Hormonal influence and the end of pregnancy specific hormones means, for many mothers, that they lose more hair than they usually do, and you’ll often find what appears to be a doormat clogging the shower drain when you get in after her. Try to reassure her that 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.
Your sleep needs
You may find yourself going to bed extra early these days. Night feeds are still a reality so, if possible, aim to help mum sleep 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 could mean the difference between both of you getting through each day and you coming home to find her sobbing in the entryway, eating Tim Tams and sodden with milk puke.
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 by all means, make a gentle suggestion.
Be aware that just because she has had a baby recently, and even if her period has not returned, this does not mean she is infertile. Speak together with her GP about contraceptive options which are suitable for you as a couple.
Reviewed by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse on 10/02/2023
Last Published* April, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.