Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting on the Right Foot

In a breastfeeding class, the instructor told all the pregnant women that we would only retain 60% of what we heard. Our mind wasn’t on learning, it was on our baby. In school, that percentage would be failing.

Before I had our precious daughter, I thought I had everything figured out. I had read all the books I had wanted to; I was ready. However, it had been some time since I had read some of the books. And if the instructor was right (which I think so!), I only retained 60% of it all.

In the hospital, dear Mia feel asleep on her own and slept great. On the second night, before going to sleep, I asked the nurse how often I should feed her. Every two hours like the day? Should I wake her up? “Babies tend to want to be near their mother from about 11 pm to 5 am. She’ll let you know.” was her advice. A bit confused, I went to sleep, only to wake up every hour – no cry. Finally, watching the clock endlessly, I got her up after four hours and feed her and she fell right back asleep. What was that nurse talking about??

The next few nights after we got home from the hospital were nightmares. Mia would nurse forever, then fall asleep, only to wake up 10 minutes later wanting to nurse again. The day was okay (honestly, I can’t remember that part as well – it was such a blur), but she simply would not sleep at night. We figured we had a baby that was just didn’t sleep much or well. After all, my brothers and I were all poor sleepers.

I looked at a book again, and reread that babies don’t reach deep sleep for 20 minutes after being asleep. That’s why people have rocking chairs (or sore feet). For some reason, I can’t recall ever thinking about how I’d put my baby to sleep, or that it would/could be difficult. I guess I was too busy worrying about breast feeding.

I figured she was confused about day and night. So I started implementing the EASY program during the day. Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time. We put her to sleep by swaddling her, dimming the lights, putting her in the bassinet and proceeding to pat her back while going “Shhhhhhhh” for 20-30 minutes. It worked like a charm, most of the time, and I was excited. But gradually, and as Will’s departure came closer, meaning I had no one to take turns with me, I dreaded doing that, what, 5-6 times a day!

The next thing I tried was wearing her in a carrier. The kind we had was highly recommended, but for infants, it required an insert, which we had. It was like a cocoon for the baby and reminded me of what Native Americans put their babies in, or at least what the pictures showed. I tried it a few times but it was just so huge on me. Plus, it was really hot and she got hot and I really worried about that. But she feel asleep and stayed asleep!

So I bought a cheap, light carrier and resigned myself to being doomed to be on my feet all day. Before this I was all about carrying my baby, some, but not all day… I mean, come on! But out of desperation and not wanting to say “Shhh” for hours, it became the norm.

Around the same time, I also I changed my thinking about night sleep. Will had left for his week long trip and I was spending the night in the glider, letting her nurse at will and trying to doze when she did. I had noticed there was a point that she finally did sleep for a few hours, but I never knew when that time was. While talking (ok, griping) to him about this he said, “Why don’t you just put her in bed with you?” He knew how I felt about it. I didn’t agree with co-sleeping. I didn’t want to have to ever “kick” my baby out of my bed so I just won’t put her there in the first place! But I listened to him. That first night I think I got two full hours of sleep and I felt great!  

So I went from not only imagining my baby sleeping in her own bed all the time, but being against anything else, to not only wearing by baby all day and co-sleeping with her, but LOVING it and not wanting it any other way. For now of course. As she gets older, I will teach her to sleep independently, but for now, I enjoy being her prop to get to sleep. She’s just a tiny one, new to the world. I’m the only thing familiar to her. It makes sense to keep me as close as possible. Not only that, I don’t feel normal without her.
So this is our basic day: We wake up together and I’m delighted to see her pretty eyes again. We nurse in bed, I change and dress her, and then we “get all wrapped up together” as I tell her. She stays awake some while I pick up the room, make the bed, and say some prayers. I then fix my breakfast and eat. She has either fallen asleep or is still contentedly observing. After breakfast I get ready by brushing my hair and teeth. If there’s time before she is to eat (which she always wakes up for!!), I start on my “to do” list for the day. After it’s been two hours since she ate, she eats again and I play with her some until she gets sleepy. Back into the wrap we go and usually take a walk for the beginning of this nap. The rest of the day follows that pattern, only what I do while she’s napping varies. As the day goes on, it’s harder to get her to fall asleep on her own. If she’s particularly fussy, I pace the room while patting her bottom and singing to her until she falls asleep, which takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes. If she’s not crying and I don’t think about what I’d rather be doing, then I really enjoy these moments. I can tell that I soothe her and she feels safe.

I won’t go into what our evenings were like before I started our bedtime routine. Our routine now is after the late afternoon feeding (around 4-5), I give her a bath and a massage. I get her all ready for bed and then we say some prayers. She is usually past ready to eat again, otherwise I’d read to her too. So we just start nursing in bed and we have a little playlist that we listen to and I sing to her too. It has a few folk songs, then Orthodox hymns, then Bach. While Bach is playing I review the day with her and tell her about the next. Right now she falls asleep a few times and wakes up again to eat before she falls asleep “for the night”, which is anywhere from 8-10. On a good night, she’ll only eat every 3 hours and go right back to sleep. Those are not exactly rare, but not the norm for sure! But I think we’re getting there. Things like gas and burps get in the way of having more of those nights!

So finally, I feel like I’m walking straight when it comes to caring for her. And if I get enough sleep, I can handle a day she’s a little more fussy or things don’t go as normal. If not, then it’s hard! I know things will continually change, but I feel like I at least have a handle on things which makes me more flexible for changes, instead of feeling clueless!

What about you? Did caring for your baby come naturally? Did you change your techniques after you had your baby?

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