16 March 2015

Life with Baby P: the first three months

Over the weekend, we celebrated Baby P’s one-quarter birthday. He’s three months old, officially no longer in the “newborn” category!

I figured that means it’s as good an occasion as any to write an update on how we’re doing, plus to let you in on those tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. So yes, it’s another baby-centric post today (MOMMYBLOGGER MUCH?). I also realized that I actually had enough to say to divvy it up into two, YES TWO, surviving-new-motherhood posts. Today I’ll talk about those things I learned over Baby P’s first three months, and next week I’ll fill you in on all the products. Because retail therapy is real.

Here we go! In chronological-ish order...

Be prepared

I mean, duh. But still, that nesting instinct is not crazy, it’s worthwhile. Not everyone is fortunate to have a baby that arrives, as if perfectly scheduled, right on his due date. But most babies do give the courtesy of arriving within a window of a couple weeks, and that gives you opportunity to plan ahead for life after baby. I started before Thanksgiving to prepare our home for our mid-December baby: putting up the Christmas tree, assembling and organizing his nursery (where we changed his clothes and diapers, even if he wasn’t sleeping in there), and stocking our house with every conceivable thing we’d need for the first few weeks.

Yes, that is out of control, but I stand by it.

You also need diapers, at least a dozen a day at first. We held off buying a lot of them because we thought Baby P might too quickly outgrow the newborn size, and according to everything I read, a well-fed baby produces “6+ wet and dirty diapers a day”. That should have read 6++++++. We had a bit of a diaper mini-crisis that left me wishing I’d just bought the stupid bulk pack in the first place.

Another thing we did to prepare was take classes, which seemed silly at the time, but in retrospect helped a LOT. I was too busy with work during pregnancy to read up on caring for an infant, so attending a three-hour class at my hospital was a super efficient use of my time to learn the basic information and get my head in the game. I’m especially grateful for the labor & delivery class, because we toured the rooms and saw all the equipment we’d use, making his actual birthday way less daunting. I also think the breastfeeding class was super useful, which brings me to...

The right hospital may crucial for nursing success

I already told you that our birth plan was basically 1) have a baby 2) stay healthy doing so. We didn’t really care much about natural childbirth or alternative birthing suites or magical peanut balls. So I picked an OB based on a trustworthy friend’s recommendation, and I really liked her, so the hospital just sort of came with the doctor. The fact that it’s a world-class research hospital is nice, but that also means lots of trainees, so whatever.

However! I later discovered that my hospital is part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative set out by the World Health Organization. I didn’t know what that meant either, so I’ll tell you: it is a set of guidelines for hospitals designed to encourage, establish, and maintain a successful breastfeeding relationship. And while I wanted to breastfeed Baby P, I hadn’t realized how much this program set us up for success. Breastfeeding is crazy hard, both mentally and physically, even when you have a baby who is a champion eater like Baby P. But I felt like I was given everything I needed to succeed, starting with skin-to-skin time when he was first born.

Did you know that babies have the instinct and ability to seek out food and eat, immediately after being born? I didn’t, but they do! As soon as Baby P popped out (after six minutes, natch), they instantly put him on my chest, and I watched this brand-new person literally crawl around and start eating. He knew almost nothing about the outside world, but he did know how to find my boobs. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for the way biology meant it to be, I don’t know what is.

chubby cheeks at 7-week pediatrician visit = breastfeeding success

There were lots of parts of the Baby Friendly business that contributed to our success, but I think that helped most. I remembered that moment in the weeks to come, through sore nips and cluster feeds and many (MANY) night wakings, and thought, “Ok, this sucks right now, but this is how it’s supposed to be.”

I’m fortunate to have wandered into the whole Baby-Friendly hospital philosophy on accident, but I would encourage every expecting mom to seek out a hospital that is a part of the initiative (they may not be certified yet – mine wasn’t – but those still in implementation phase are worth checking out). And if you love your OB but the hospital has nothing to do with Baby-Friendly, then check out some of the recommendations – classes in advance, skin-to-skin time, rooming in, no formula/pacifiers, etc. – and make them a part of your birth plan at any hospital.

Sleep deprivation is no joke

Let me be honest for a second while bloodying my knuckles from furiously knocking on wood: Baby P is an amazing sleeper. He’s never had his nights and days reversed, he keeps a pretty consistent wake-nap cycle during the day, and he started doing stretches of six hours at night by eight weeks. Nowadays, after hitting his twelve-week growth spurt early... he often sleeps from 9PM to 7AM without a peep. I KNOW. ANGEL BABY JACKPOT.

That said... up until recently, I’d find myself standing someplace in my house, unable to remember the last several minutes or even why I was standing there. Or I’d suddenly start talking to Mr. P, only to discover that the first part of our conversation had not actually taken place out loud, but in my head. These sorts of things happened with alarming frequency, especially considering I was solely responsible for caring for a tiny human being while in that state of mind.

And so: I needed as many fail-safes as possible. I learned it was necessary to write down when Baby P had last eaten, or at least use this timer to help.

I needed help keeping track of our medicine doses, too, so makeshift pill cups were introduced after being home from the hospital only a few days.

It only took one incident where I found myself standing there, holding the ibuprofen bottle, unable to remember if I’d actually just taken a megadose or merely thought about taking one, before I introduced those cups. (For the record, I skipped that dose because I just wasn’t sure – and endured a fairly painful six hours that followed.)

So yeah. For important things, you either gotta introduce every possible failsafe (medications, feedings) or do not let yourself be in charge of them in the first place (driving, taxes).

Keep making those to-do lists

And speaking of keeping track of things, I quickly discovered that my habit of making a thorough to-do list would stay in place with the new baby. This is nuts, but here’s my list from Baby P’s second week at home, which included Christmas.

At first, everything went on the list – from what to make for dinner, to a movie I wanted to watch. If I didn’t make a list, I’d know I had something to do, but wasn’t sure what. And so I’d pace from room to room in the apartment (or click from browser tab to browser tab on my laptop), feeling like a squirrel with ADHD and never actually doing anything. With a list, I’d make measurable progress every day, which was good for my getting-stuff-done soul.

As for when I actually got that stuff done? Well, I realize this is controversial, but... I didn’t sleep when the baby slept. At least, not during the day. I’ve never been a good napper, and although everyone said “OH YOU’LL BECOME ONE”, I still wasn’t after Baby P arrived. Napping just makes me feel ill and sluggish, no matter whether it’s ten minutes or two hours or anywhere in between. So instead, I went to bed insanely early – almost right after dinner – and got all my chunks of sleep at night. Having that “productive” time during the day was way better for my mental health those first few weeks than an extra nap!

But when it comes to Baby P:

Naptime is everything

Here’s the thing: while Baby P is a great sleeper on the whole, he is never interested in sleeping. He’s not fussy about it, he’s not crying. He would just always rather be hanging out, seeing what you’re doing, or best of all eating than going to sleep. Always. The sleepier he got, the more intrigued he looked. Oh yeah, and the kid rarely yawns.

The wide, interested eyes are a LIE

Since the super-helpful lactation consultants hammered the “nurse on demand” mantra into my brain, I felt like I was supposed to feed Baby P whenever he gave hunger cues. The problem was that he did that all the dang time. He might catnap for twenty minutes here or there, but after a few weeks of not napping and having major meltdowns in the evening, I realized... oh. Oh! Maybe he shouldn’t be totally in charge after all. Maybe after he’s been awake for an hour or so, he should take a nap, whether he wants to or not.

And so we started a three-hour routine of eating, playing, and sleeping – and about half of that time is napping. That way, he actually gets his recommended fifteen hours of sleep per 24-hour period. And you guys, it worked. Baby P got in that rhythm – later rather than sooner, but whatever – and his downward spiral of too-sleepy-to-eat-but-too-hungry-to-sleep came to an end.

Nowadays, a ridiculous part of our day is spent encouraging Baby P to nap – going through our nap routine (draw the curtains, swaddle, white noise, pacifier), encouraging him to get through sleep cycles transitions, even holding and rocking him. Because at this age, sleeping at all is more important than bad sleep habits. The result? A ridiculously happy baby – who, you’ll recall, sleeps ten hours at night.

And finally, the most important thing I’ve learned:

This too shall pass

A friend of mine told me not long ago that the only thing you can count on with a baby’s sleep is that it will change. She was giving me tips for traveling with a baby, but I have taken that to heart for everything. The best way to solve any problem with a baby is simply to wait. Want him to wake less frequently at night? Wait a few weeks. Want him to stop fussing while eating? Wait a few weeks. Want him to nap longer during the day? Wait a few weeks.

Even in these three short months, I’ve learned that I can go crazy looking for a solution to any eating or sleeping or whatever issue, or I can just wait a week. It’ll change, usually for the better. And while I don’t want to wish Baby P’s babyhood away, it is a great comfort to be able to chill out and say, “Whatever, this will be better next week.” Sure, there’s a new challenge every week, and yet, every week is more fun than the one before.

So that’s where we are, dear readers: older, wiser, and more well-rested. And since I said that in SO MANY WORDS, I’ll wait till next week for part two, when I’ll fill you in on all the products that helped us along the way! In the meantime, fellow moms: any tips for the next three months?!


Janice said...

You're going to see an explosion in the next three months. Hang onto your hats. The books have developmental milestones and Baby P will nail those puppies right on target. While the days sometimes seem long, the weeks and months are zipping by all too quickly. Could you even imagine 4 months ago you'd be where you are doing what you are doing now? It's a great ride. Embrace and enjoy it. Oh, well, there will be speed bumps along the way but you've already learned, "this too shall pass" ;).