I was told that before the baby starts crawling was a great time to go out and bring the baby with you, as he's "very portable". This is sort of true. However, no one told me about feedings or more precisely, when babies are to feed. I knew that babies fed all the time, but before having Baby L, it was a fuzzy notion at best.
A typical textbook baby would feed once every three hours. What that means that if the baby starts feeding at 12pm and feeds until 12.30pm, the next feed is at 3 pm, not at 3.30 pm. They time feeds by the beginning, and not the end. My kid for the first 6 weeks fed from 1.5-2.5 hours. He also took about 45-60 mins for one boob. Keep in mind, that this is within a 24 hour period. Newborns don't have an idea of what day and night are, so they will wake and sleep whenever they darn well feel like it.
Cluster Feeding. If you don't know what that is, look it up. The longest cluster feed the kid had to date was one Friday evening during Week 6 where he fed for seven hours straight. I kid you not. What they say about cluster feeding, when it starts in the evening, it's only an average, and keep in mind that every kid is different. My nipples were also raw meat afterwards.
Sleep. My kid also was not a great sleeper at the beginning, he still isn't. The only way he would be put to sleep is if he's held and patted to sleep. It took a while for us to even put the bugger to sleep, let alone have him sleep for more than 1-1.5 hours. I was told that all I had to do was "put him down" when I saw signs of tiredness, and the baby should fall asleep. Well, I saw signs of tiredness all right, but my kid is also vastly curious abut his environment, and will not sleep on his own if put in his crib. For a while, he wouldn't sleep anywhere except in someone's arms, or on a flat surface (like his crib or our bed) if I was nearby. Let me tell you my kid is somewhat high maintenance from the get-go. He still needs to be patted to sleep.
Anyways, if you put the comments so far about sleep and about feeding together and do the math, I maybe got 1.5 hours sleep at any one stretch. Sleep deprivation at its finest. They say that I should nap when he naps. What if he never napped? or if he was sleeping when I was holding him? Needless to say I wasn't sleeping very much. It was also quite hard to go out as I had to plan everything around his feeds, plus I had to bring out a whole whackload of baby stuff.
I was also told that they could sleep in the car seat, or a sling/wrap, in a swing or bouncy chair, or give them a pacifier to soothe themselves to sleep. My kid has good days and bad days with the car seat, and when we do go out, he's too busy looking around everywhere to sleep. I've also learned that if we bring him to a very stimulating environment, he may not sleep in the car seat, even if it's a long car ride. My kid also hated being squished, so slings and wraps were out, and he hates being too hot, so wraps were again out. To date, I've bought four different pacifiers, and he hates all of them. I think he just hates the taste of cold plastic in his mouth. He will take a bottle, thank goodness. He still isn't fond of the swing, and for almost the first two months, he hated the bouncy chair, mostly because I think he was such a wee little guy and the bouncy chair was just a vast thing for him to sit on. That and it didn't provide the same comforts as a human body.
Breastfeeding. Let me tell you, I hate, hate, hate breastfeeding. I will do it because I want my kid to have the best, but up until a few weeks ago, I was really struggling. Breastfeeding was something that I thought I wouldn't hate, but I do. I had popped about 10 blisters up to that point. Yes, ouch! you can get blisters on your nipples. Breastfeeding was very painful (I still have my moments). Then I finally found out about the free breastfeeding clinic my community had and I went right away. I found out (or had confirmed) that I have a forceful letdown, and probably an oversupply of milk, which probably was causing a lot of the problems. Baby L instinctively was trying to adjust to this, which led to the blistering and callouses on my nipples. The other reason why I hate breastfeeding is because I'm force to sit in one location for almost an hour. Not fun. By day three, I was so bored that I asked Hubby to buy me an iPod Touch. I wanted it mainly for the Wi-Fi capabilities, and so I can feel at least connected to the outside world.
I suppose it was a combination of all of the above that really drove me up the wall, that and the sleep deprivation didn't help me cope well. Also, I feel that much of my own identity has been stripped away. What I used to rely on to be self-confident, well, that's pretty much gone. I felt very trapped, still do some days. Trying to get an infant to sleep when he won't and when you're so sleep deprived is very hard. I've had several meltdowns, and I even once called Hubby sobbing on the phone, telling him to come home instead of going somewhere else he was planning on going to after work. I'm always trying to think and plan ahead, hard to do when you have a demanding infant whose schedule is still a little loosey goosey. I sometimes still need to plan when to brush my teeth or eat breakfast.
It was very hard to hear that some people's babies were sleeping through the night already, or they were able to go to the gym, or they could still do this and that, and I wasn't able to do any of that, not without feeling sleep deprived or that I couldn't pull myself away for too long. My time is definitely not my own right now, not until he start being a little more independent. The loss of my independence is really tough on me.
People tell you that it "gets easier". I have no idea what that means, and for me, it was a very empty platitude. I'm a big picture kinda person, and I at least needed to know what the end result may look like, even if it may not be true for my baby. So here's how it's "gotten easier" for me from 2 months onwards:
- It's easier to put him down for naps, most times, and he will sleep for 30 mins and often longer. On his longer stretches, I actually nap with him. His longest nap to date has been for 3 hours, although he's averaging about an hour or so for naps.
- He now eats off of both boobs in the same time it took for one boob at the beginning, in that he's a more efficient eater.
- Even if he's hungry, I can make him wait to be fed for at least one-half hour or more, and he won't cry (at least not too much). I can get some stuff done, like eat or go pee.
- He sleeps longer stretches at night (2-4 hours between feeds). And on a very rare occasion, more than 4 hours!
- I'm actually able to get in a bit of exercise and am able to pump some days. For me, this a big thing.
- I can actually take a shower most days (if I remember)
Some things I've learned since then:
- It's okay for me to put my kid down and pee, especially if he's crying his head off. The kid won't remember it and certainly won't be scarred for life.
- Always let other people take care of your kid if they offer. I know I did at every opportunity. I love my kid, but I value my personal space very much, so having even an hour reprieve was a godsend. Hubby and I already went on one non-Baby L afternoon date, so to speak. We're aiming to do this at least once per month, and more as he gets older.
- I had to learn about my little dude's likes and dislikes, preferences and whatnot. He is, after all, another human being. Hence the reason why he likes being held, hates the bouncy chair, hates the swing, hates the wrap, hates the sling, and hates pacifiers is because he's got discerning tastes. I think he's picky like his father, ha.
- Just like an adult, his preferences and tastes can and do change, so what may work now may not work a few months down the road. Especially since he still physically changing and developing all the time.
- If I want to get anything done, I'd have to make a list. And it will get done, just at different times throughout the day. I'm lucky if I can even check one thing off of my to-do list each day.
- This parenting thing is really, really, really hard. I knew it would be hard, but it's harder than I thought.