Here are the 7 science-based things every new parent should master

Nicole Ratcliffe, Founder of Baby2Sleep, shared seven things all parents of a six-week-old baby should know

The first weeks with your newborn seem like a whirlwind with visitors and celebrations, but then the dreaded 'six-week woes' set in.

Studies have shown that at this point, a baby's hearing is fully developed, they can distinguish their parents' faces from strangers and smiles are starting to form.

These happy moments can be overlooked because your newborn is also experiencing a growth spurt, sleep regression and sometimes colic - making this milestone a struggle for new parents.

A child and parenting expert has revealed seven science-backed things to that all parents should know to survive the six-week hump:

Seek out baby groups 

Nicole Ratcliffe, Founder of Baby2Sleep, told that baby groups are a way to help parents feel less isolated from the world and find other parents who may be experiencing the six-week woes.

'When looking for a baby or mum group, look for one with similar interests to what you like. Baby groups aren't really about the baby,' said Ratcliffe, who is also a speaker at The Baby Show in England.

'Yes, it's lovely to have the sensory and all the different colors, and it gives you ideas on the different things you can do with them at home, but actually, the baby tends to sleep a lot through the classes and the groups are more about you – the mom or the dad.'

A 2023 study by the University College London found loneliness can often contribute to depression in expectant and new mothers.

The team gathered accounts from 537 women from 27 research papers on four continents.

Lead author Dr Katherine Adlington (UCL Psychiatry and East London NHS Foundation Trust) said: 'We found that loneliness was central to the experiences of expectant and new mothers with depression. 

Ratcliffe, Founder of Baby2Sleep, told that baby groups are a way to help parents feel less isolated from the world and find other parents who may be experiencing the six-week woes

'We know that depression and loneliness are often interconnected -- each one can lead to the other -- and this may be particularly true for perinatal depression.

'Having a baby is a huge transition and upheaval period that can involve losing touch with people and existing networks, such as work colleagues.'

The research showed that some causes of loneliness included stigma, self-isolation, emotional disconnection, and insufficient support. 

Be honest with people and talk about your problems

'Be honest with the people who you meet. You might hear people saying that their baby's sleeping through the night, or they'll say they're absolutely fine, or everything seems great on the surface,' Ratcliffe said.

'But really, you might be sitting there thinking, 'Oh my goodness me, my baby's not sleeping or feeding well. I don't know how I'm feeling…' and you may be doubting a lot of things. But actually, you might not realize that they're feeling exactly the same as you, but everyone's scared to admit how they feel.

'If you're open and honest about how you feel, you might find this opens up a whole new type of conversation and a safe area to express yourself.

'It might give other parents with the same sorts of feelings that freedom to be honest too, and you might just save somebody's sanity or their relationship or make them feel less alone.' 

The same study from UCL found that many women fear being judged as a 'bad mother and hiding their problems from others, which can also lead to hiding mental health issues, thus making the individual withdraw and self-isolate.

Enjoy the smiles

Your newborn might appear to smile straight out of the womb, but these are 'reflex smiles, ' which means your baby's muscles are working as they should.

The expert urges new parents to enjoy the smiles, which are just starting to appear on the six-week-old's face. These are social smiles compared to reflex smiles that form when a baby is first born

But starting between 6 and 8 weeks, babies develop a 'social smile,' which is identified when the newborn uses their entire face, not just their mouth.

'Coming up to around six weeks, your baby is starting to smile, which is absolutely incredible – one of the most wonderful things that can happen, especially if they haven't been that interactive with you up until now,' said Ratcliffe.

'When your little baby starts to respond to you, it's one of the best feelings in the world. 

When you come in, they begin to wriggle, coo, smile, or tilt their head toward you. Make the most of this. 

'Spend time just looking at your baby, pulling funny faces at them, tickling them and making them giggle because the smiles your baby gives you and how that can make you feel can really help with your mood, especially if you are feeling low at any point. It's also amazing for bonding.' 

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