(Continued from Babby Stuff – Part 1.)
#newmum + happiness
The first few weeks were okay. I’d made the decision to leave regular life for a little while — no household chores, no pants, that sort of thing. James had 3 weeks off. The baby slept, fed, cried. We all slept, on and off, from 5pm-12pm, and from 12pm-5pm, we had lots of visitors. We were in lala land.
Weeks 4-8 were hard. James had gone back to work. For some reason, maybe from sleep deprivation (I don’t think I got any deep sleep until at least 5 months, and I think deep sleep is what keeps you sane), the thought of leaving the house – and everything related to leaving the house (pram, nappies, spare clothes, blankets, my stuff, getting dressed) – seemed impossible.
So, between 4-8 weeks, I was going downhill. In week 5, my mum helped me get out of the house for the first time. We went to a cafe, then I got my hair did, and it was all amazing. Then I got stuck again. I was plodding through the days in silence, oscillating between being OK/sad/lonely. I felt really guilty that I felt glum sometimes (#worstmum) and I started forcing myself to “sound jolly,” talking to the baby or singing to the baby. Then, I felt like a ridiculous and glum idiot.
Around week 7, I was able to articulate, to myself, my unhappiness and loneliness.
Around week 8, our baby started smiling.
Around week 8, I told James how I’d been feeling, and that I needed to do some things differently. I booked in a massage. I asked my parents if I could visit them and hang out. I went with my mum and my bub to the shopping centre. I started lining up dates with other people – friends, acquaintances. I needed stuff to do, places to be, people to see. I tried to plan one thing for every day.
So, for me, week 8 was the turning point. For my mum, it was week 10. And then, of course, I’ve met other mums who found everything wonderfully easy for the first 3 months, and then had a mini or major breakdown at 3 months, or 6 months, or somewhere else. Who knows.
It was still difficult from week 8 onwards, especially until we got the sleep thing sorted, but that very first period was a doozy.
(Side note: There are two significant things that generally happen around 10 weeks. Firstly, babies smile, which is basically the first response you’ve ever had from them; until then, they’ve been like a little crying, hungry, sleeping, wriggling puppy who doesn’t even know you’re there. Secondly, they can start to get into a sleep pattern. Speaking of which… )
#newmum + sleep
The other thing I have to say about this #newmum stage is about sleep. Like I said before, I was overwhelmed by all the baby-related advice, books, websites, etc. I read parts of “Baby Love” because it was broad and objective (it was fine) and “Up the Duff” because it was given to me (it was terrible). Lots of other resources were recommended, but they were more prescriptive than “Baby Love,” and I didn’t feel like reading about a particular theory or approach before having a sense of the problem/job itself.
Until the baby was about 5 months old, I was quite sleep deprived. I think there were three main problems during this time:
- I was feeding the baby too often.
This was something that developed later on, maybe around 3 months. When the baby cried, James and I would go through our mental list of “the baby might be crying because…” and try to solve it, and sometimes James would say: “I’ve tried everything. The only thing I can’t do is feed him.” (I was breastfeeding.) To which I would say: “He’s not hungry, he just fed an hour ago.” To which James would say: “Well, that’s the only thing I can’t do, and that might be what he needs.” And for the first few times, I stood my ground, and then gradually I lost faith in my decision-making, and I gave in… and sometimes it worked; sometimes the baby stopped crying when I offered him another feed, so James would say: “Ah, he was hungry.” And so I was feeding the baby more and more often.
This was a big problem, and I have heard of it happening to other mums. So, dear partners out there: please don’t encourage more feeding. If you are doing the recommended feeding, and the health nurse says the baby is getting enough milk, please stick to the recommended feeding frequency. Soothe-feeding might stop the baby’s cries, but it can cause other serious problems. In our case, the baby went from a nice 3-4 hour break between feeds to 1-2 hours. (Aka “snacking” feeds). This was insane, and meant any nap-time for mum or baby was… almost negligible.
- We had an awful car crash.
That’s another story for another time.
- We trained the baby to fall asleep in our arms.
It was cute to begin with, I think: you have a little baby, and the baby is getting grizzly-tired, and you rock the baby in your arms, up and down, up and down, and the baby grizzles, and then gradually the baby calms down, and gradually the baby falls asleep, and you keep cuddling the baby while it’s sleeping (argh! so cute!) or you put the baby down in the cot… but then before you know it, the baby needs this pattern of events to get to sleep, and every time the baby needs to sleep, you are tied up for 20-40 minutes with this little routine, and you start going nuts.
It’s like how, when we are going to sleep, we might prefer lying on our side, or puffing up our pillow in a certain way, or being nude, or wearing a bear costume… we all have our preferred ways of sleeping, and the baby has a blank slate: they are going to develop their preferred way of sleeping, and you can influence that in many different directions.
So. At 4 months, I started researching “baby sleep,” because I knew I couldn’t go on with the same problems – feeding the baby every 2 hours, and rocking the baby in my arms for (at least) 20 minutes every time he needed to sleep.
I hadn’t tried any “routine” type stuff, but having no routine (although that was my mum’s preferred method) wasn’t working for me. If I was making plans to visit someone, I had to say: “I’ll visit when the baby wakes up,” and I had no idea when the baby would sleep or wake or anything that day.
From reading about routines, I came to Tizzie Hall’s website. The baby was 4½ months old. I bought her booklet on a routine for “Aged 10 weeks to starting solids”. Shortly afterwards, I was talking to a friend, and they loaned me Tizzie Hall’s book, “Save Our Sleep”, which was way better than having the booklet – the full book has loads of extra useful and important information.
I had read somewhere that a comparison of approaches to good-baby-sleep showed that various approaches all work – but the key is, you have to stick to one approach. You have to follow it to the letter and stick to it.
So I began reading “Save Our Sleep” and then, before committing to it, I read up on other baby-sleep methods, to compare them. I decided that I really preferred the SOS method, and wanted to give it a red hot go. I explained this all to James and he agreed.
From then on, we followed the SOS instructions. I think, for our baby’s age, one of the instructions was to put the baby in the cot at certain times (for sleep), and, even if the baby was unsettled, to leave the baby alone for 8 minutes before going to the cot and cuddling them and putting them back.
I felt massively relieved and exonerated, because this book officially said: “It is okay to leave your baby for an incredible 8 minutes!” but I think James found it much harder. 8 minutes seemed like an hour to him. I think that’s because he wasn’t around the baby all day and night, so he hadn’t gotten as accustomed to baby-crying as I had. It was still, for him, something that was excruciating, and a problem that he needed to solve immediately; whereas for me, my experience said that the baby cried sometimes, and if he wasn’t hungry or cold or hot or sick or neglected or hurting, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Following the instructions in that book changed our #newparent lives. Our baby started staying awake longer, having longer periods between feeds, sleeping longer… much longer. And it was wonderful, how quickly it became a routine, and how, alluvasudden, we got our nights back to ourselves, and how we could predict, like clockwork, when the baby would be awake, asleep, or hungry!
(I’m writing about this because, maybe, there is someone like me who would find this information useful. However, I gotta add the caveat, again, that it’s different for everyone. One mum I know tried the SOS instructions and didn’t stick to them, so it all fell apart. Another mum tried them and adapted them slightly for her own needs, and that worked for her. Several other mums heard about it and decided it wasn’t for them. Out of those mums, some of their babies have lots of trouble sleeping, and some don’t.)