The First 3 Months – The Basics

I actually wrote almost this entire post a few weeks ago, but when I logged in the following day to finish it up, the whole thing was gone! Hopefully I’ll be able to get through writing it all again in time to post in a timely manner…

Baby Boy #2 turned 3 months old a few days ago. This means that the period commonly known as the fourth trimester, or alternatively as the 90 days of hell is now behind us. Given this milestone, I thought it was a good time to report how we are all doing.

First, a note about nomenclature – throughout this blog, I’ve referred to my older son as “Baby Boy”, however there is now a new Baby Boy in the house (in da house!), so to keep things simple from here on in, I’ll refer to my older son as “Gus”, and to my younger son as “Squeak”. Secondly, I won’t get into details of the birth story in this post, other than to say that Squeak arrived as expected, via a straightforward planned c section. If I find the time, I’ll write some more about that whole process, but for now I’d like to focus on what’s happened since.

Newborn babies do little other than eat and sleep (or at least it seems that way compared to our active 2 year old!), and the first two questions that everybody, from friends and family to the stranger in the grocery store asks a new parent are “How is baby sleeping?” and “How is baby eating?”. Unfortunately, simple as these two things seem to us adults, these are often loaded questions due to the myriad difficulties that new parents experience. So, below here is the skinny on Squeak…

Eat

I’m am thrilled to report that Squeak is a breastfeeding champ! He latched on in the recovery room post birth and has not looked back. I had all sorts of issues with breastfeeding Gus, but this time around things could not have gone smoother. While last time, we went through a period of cup feeding, syringe feeding, finger feeding, and nipple shields in order to get Gus to take breast milk, Squeak has so far only been fed either directly from the breast, or via a bottle of breastmilk. It is impossible for me to communicate just what a whole world of difference breastfeeding this time around has been.

We introduced the bottle to Squeak at around two weeks so that he would be used to if/when I needed/wanted someone else to feed him. On a typical day, he gets 1 or 2 bottles, which I give when we are out and about, and/or around dinner time. We often have family dropping in around dinner, and it’s a nice option to let one of them feed Squeak while I am getting dinner ready. It makes for a nice bonding experience and a better visit all around than being stuck watching me breastfeed.

To date, we have not had to supplement with formula, and I even have a formidable freezer stash as a backstop. With Gus I pumped several times a day for bottles to be used that day or next, and did not get any sort of freezer stash going until he was 7.5 months old (the month before he went to daycare). At that point, I made a concerted effort to devote one pump a day to building a freezer stash such that 1 of his 3 daycare bottles could be breastmilk.

This time around, I started out pumping 15 minutes once a day. My supply has been very good, so very quickly one pumping session would yield enough milk for 2-3 feeds. As I was only giving 1-2 bottles a day, in no time I was running out of space in my freezer (we do not have a stand alone freezer, so space is at a premium), and I have since taken breaks from pumping as I use up some of the stash.

We have also been successful with being more adventurous with breastfeeding this time around. I have breastfed Squeak out in public several times now, something that I never did with Gus (I was not able to ever figure out the proper positioning with him). I’ve also really enjoyed breastfeeding lying down with Squeak. We started this when he was about a week old, and got the hang of it the first try. Gus was six months old before I attempted this position with him, and it took us multiple tries over many days to get the positioning right before he would successfully feed lying down.

I have also been able to keep the mastitis mostly at bay. While with Gus I had two back to back infections (one of which was particularly nasty), this time around I had one mild case. I was actually really on the fence about whether to bother with the antibiotics, but after an evening spent massaging my breast in a hot bath, followed by hours of almost non stop sucking from Squeak did not help the pain, I decided it was better to be safe and nip the infection in the bud rather than risk it getting out of control.

I wrote several long breastfeeding posts about my experience with Gus, so rather than get into more comparisons, let’s just say that just about everything (everything?) is completely different (i.e. better!) this time around.

Sleep

While I am extremely lucky that both my boys seem to be naturally good sleepers, I think Squeak’s sleeping patterns are more typically babyish (i.e. worse) than Gus’ were.

Gus was sleeping eight hour stretches at night within a week or two of coming home from the hospital, and very quickly was able to do ten hour stretches. Ahh, those were the days! He was not a big napper during the day though, and would easily stay awake for four or more hours at a time. In addition to the napping pattern, another reason why I think he slept longer at night is that he was able to fill up quicker on fewer feeds. Almost right from the start, Gus ate only 5 times a day (every three hours during the day, and then the longer stretch at night), and was taking bigger bottles much quicker than Squeak is, which I think helped him sleep longer right away.

In contrast, Squeak has been eating 7-8 times a day steady, or every three hours pretty much around the clock. I do load him up on an extra feed in the evening to give him a longer stretch of sleep at night, and  by about 6 weeks, he was consistently doing a 5 hour stretch at night. Then there was a glorious period where this 5 hour stretch changed to 6 hours, to 7 hours, and then to two nights of 8 hours.

Sadly, after those two 8 hour nights, in the last week or so we’re back to the long stretch being 4 hours max. I have no idea what has changed, but am hoping it will change back again soon.

As I mentioned above, the boys’ day time sleep patterns are also quite different. While Gus was able to stay awake (and in good humour) for long periods of time even as a newborn, I don’t think Squeak has ever been awake for longer than two hours! The first week or two he slept pretty much all day long, to the point where I was waking him for feeds during the day, and doing everything I could to keep him awake even a few minutes so that he would sleep better at night (as his only real awake time fell between 9 and midnight, or exactly when we’d like to be putting him down).

Related to both eating and sleeping, another big difference is that Squeak has been a Gassy baby. Early on, the hardest part of his sleep at night was not the number of times that he woke up, but that he would not fall back asleep easily after his night time feeds. He would grunt, snort, fart, and get disturbing wet sounding hiccups (almost sounded like he was choking). We’re now giving him probiotic drops, which I think have helped calm his system down. He is still quite farty, but has made progress on everything else (though recently with the poorer sleep habits, I find that getting him back to sleep is again hit or miss).

So that’s the skinny on the basics! I’m hoping to write some more posts about how things have changed for us going from one to two kids ūüôā

 

 

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You Are Getting Very Sleepy…Part 1 (the Rules)

So far on this blog, I have been pretty quiet on the topic of sleep, which may seem like a glaring omission for a brand new ¬†parent, given that sleep is probably the number one topic that people discuss when it comes to babies. The main reason for this omission is that Gus has been a very good sleeper, which I attribute partly to his innate nature (i.e. he’s programmed to be a good sleeper), and partly to our efforts from the beginning not to get in his way and mess up his ability to sleep well. However, baby sleep is a tricky thing, subject to regressions and changing habits, and even despite our best efforts, we recently found ourselves with a sleep problem on our hands.

Before Gus was born, my husband and I heard all the horror stories about how our sleep was going to be disrupted once the baby came. This was annoying enough early on in pregnancy, but got increasingly annoying as pregnancy progressed and my sleep got worse and worse. By the third trimester, I was getting up almost constantly to pee, and when I wasn’t, I was waking up uncomfortable due to aches and pains of late pregnancy and the inability to find a comfortable position to sleep in. So hearing that I should “enjoy my sleep while I can” was the last thing I wanted to hear!

While everyone was quick to tell us how tough sleep was going to be, I don’t think anyone had any helpful tips for how to avoid/minimize the pain. However, despite this, we were lucky to go into parenthood armed with what I consider to be two very helpful rules:

Rule #1 – Don’t set your baby down already asleep, but rather put them in their crib/bassinet sleepy but awake.

This is one of those things that while not intuitive (i.e. left to my own devices, I would have done the complete opposite), actually makes a lot of sense, and is probably the most helpful thing we learned in our very informative babycare class. The basic premise is that babies will wake up several times a night as they move from one sleep cycle to the next, and if they wake up somewhere that they don’t remember falling asleep, they will become disoriented and distressed and will have difficulty putting themselves back to sleep. ¬†However, if the baby wakes up in a familiar place, it will be much easier for them to put themselves back to sleep, often without the parents even knowing that their baby had woken up.

While this sounded so logical, I was worried that it would be impossible to implement in practice. On our first night home with Gus (technically his third real night) when it came time for him to go to bed, we swaddled him tightly like we were taught at the hospital, and placed him in his crib on his back. He smiled a tired smile at us, we turned off the lights and left the room. And…that was it. He was asleep within minutes. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! We did the same thing the next night, and the next night, and the night after that, and each time it was just as easy as the first night. Gus is now 8 months old, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve put him in his bed already asleep. The nice thing about having this rule in place, is that the few times where Gus was overtired and in full meltdown mode, we had the option of choosing to break it and using the standard parent bag of tricks to get him to fall asleep before being put in his crib (contrast this with with parents who already use all the tricks on a nightly basis, and then when they really need them, there is nothing left).

This brings me to our other rule.

Rule #2 – Don’t (breast)feed your baby right before they sleep.

Like rule #1, left to my own devices, I would have done the exact opposite (in fact, I remember when Gus was very young how many people would say “time for a nap” as soon as I finished feeding him). However, ¬†since Gus was born 13 days late, I had some extra time in late pregnancy to read a few parenting books. One book I read stressed the importance of separating the eating and sleeping portion of your baby’s routine with some activity (e.g. a walk, a bath, some play time), so that your baby does not associate feeding with sleep (and therefore need to be fed in order to fall asleep). This is particularly important with breastfeeding, which in addition to providing food, is such a relaxing and comforting activity, but I also applied it to bottle feeding.

Where necessary, we broke rule #2 from time to time (more often than we broke rule #1), however we were always mindful that we were doing something we shouldn’t and very careful not to do it too often/too many times in a row so that it would not develop into a bad habit.

Once Gus was born, we stumbled on another practice, which I think further helped him sleep well at night. I’ll call this rule #2a:

Rule #2a – Only bottle feed for middle of the night wake ups.

Due to initial challenges with breastfeeding, we introduced the bottle very early on, and decided that any middle of the night feedings would be bottle feedings. Our main rationale for bottles at night was so that my husband and I could share in the night feedings (however as it turned out, my husband only ended up doing a handful of them since I was always the one who woke up, while he managed to stay asleep!). A secondary rationale was that since breastfeeding was proving to be difficult to figure out (and taking a very long time), we would save it for the day time when everyone was functioning at their best and had the patience/time to figure it out.

While our reasons for bottle feeding at night did not have anything to do with ensuring that Gus slept well, I suspect that this practice did exactly that. Our feedings at night were purely a business transaction: Gus would get his bottle; I’d change his diaper; and then put him back to bed. This is very different than the soothing, cuddly practice of breastfeeding. At my baby and me fitness classes, sleep is a popular topic of discussion, and I hear of many women who get into a pattern of breastfeeding their baby every time they wake up, only to find that their baby is waking up more and more, and eating less and less each time, but needing the comfort of the breast to fall back asleep.

I should mention that when I refer to bottle feeding, I’m not necessarily speaking about formula (I only point this out, since many people suggest that formula fed babies sleep better – I personally have not found a noticeable difference between formula and breastmilk). We do supplement with formula, but Gus primarily receives breastmilk (whether via boob or bottle), and our night time bottles have been almost exclusively breastmilk.

Overall, these rules have served us well. However, even with the attention that we have paid to ensuring Gus sleeps well, and being blessed with a baby predisposed to sleeping well, we still found ourselves with a problem on our hands, which I will elaborate on in my next post.