“He’s Never Going Away!” And Other Thoughts on Parenting a Newborn
It’s 4 p.m. and I’m sitting down to watch Ellen and write this post. (Who knows when I”ll actually finish it.) I feel anxious and flooded with relief all at the same time. I’m not sure what I’ve done today, but I think it consisted of a lot of poop and boobs. Somehow it’s already late afternoon., which means my day at home alone with my newborn son Holden will be ending soon. (Hubs usually gets home from work around 5-5:30.) Today is Friday, which means my first WEEK at home alone is also coming to a close.
Like my previous post about my labor and delivery story, I feel it is important to document my first few weeks of motherhood so that I can give an accurate account of exactly what it has been like and possibly offer some tips and tricks that I’ve found useful in managing Holden’s first few weeks of life.
Before I go any further, let me say that Holden is a relatively easy baby. He eats and sleeps fairly well for a newborn, so any advice I am able to offer comes from the place of one who is not overly sleep deprived or stressed out by a screaming, colicky baby. For those of you who ARE dealing with a fussy, sleepless newborn, I can honestly say that my heart goes out to you. You are more of a mother than I have had to be thus far.
Now back to the first few weeks of Holden’s life…and the anxiety and relief I’m feeling today…
We brought Holden home on Tuesday, January 8th. As I’ve mentioned before, I hate hospitals, so I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Driving home, there were so many things going through my head, but if I’m being honest, my main thought was “Oh my gosh. This kid is gonna be around forever. I can’t give him back.” That thought has come back a few times since then, especially during that first week when I was learning how to breast feed and getting up every two and a half hours at night to do so.
About four nights after we brought Holden home from the hospital, he woke up screaming with a rumbling tummy and lots of gas. Clearly something I ate did not agree with his digestive system. Fortunately, I had been keeping a detailed log of the food I’d been eating along with his sleeping, pooping, peeing and nursing schedule, so I took a look back and narrowed Holden’s stomach issues down to the peanuts and cashews in the trail mix I’d eaten earlier. This leads me to newborn management tip number one: Keep track of your baby’s schedule and your diet.
In those first few weeks, when things seem so out of control, it’s helpful to have a reference point for how your baby is doing and how your food intake may be affecting him. Plus, keeping track of your child’s dirty diapers as well as the times you fed him/her will help you know if he/she is getting enough to eat. Holden will be three weeks old on Monday, and I’ve stopped keeping track of his poops and pees (there’s definitely nothing wrong with his plumbing) but I’m still keeping track of my diet and nursing schedule.
After the peanut incident, I began to wonder what else I might be eating that was upsetting Holden’s stomach. One spicy sausage, some hummus and yet another screaming fit later, I decided it was time to watch my diet a bit closer. Starting this past Monday, I began cutting out spicy, fibrous, sugary and, of course, nut-based foods from my diet. Monday night, Holden slept for five hours and then four hours. He did the same Tuesday and Wednesday night; and last night, he slept for a solid six and a half hours in one stretch. While I can’t say for sure that his good sleep is due to my diet, I am sure as heck going to keep eating bland until my son proves that the two are not related.
Before Holden was born, I read a LOT of books about baby sleep habits, including: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child; The No-Cry Sleep Solution and Babywise. I took notes on all of them and have referenced them numerous times since Holden’s birth. Newborn management tip number 1.5 is to do as much reading as you can BEFORE your baby arrives. You won’t have time after they enter the world. Newborn management tip number two is to take all of that reading with a grain of salt. No baby will fit perfectly into the mold laid out in these sleep books. However, they all provide good guidelines of things to do to help your baby get on a schedule and sleep well.
I’ve tried to organize Holden’s day into three hour shifts, starting right after his first morning feeding (usually around 5 a.m.). So, if he nurses for 20 minutes around 5 a.m., I try to keep him awake for another 15-45 minutes after that (more often than not, I am not successful at doing so) and then let him nap for the remainder of the three hours. Oftentimes, Holden wants to keep sleeping well past the three hour time block, but I rarely let him. Yes, you are reading that right: I wake a sleeping baby. And so far, that baby has been doing just fine, thank you very much. Which is why newborn management tip number three is: Follow your instincts, not what books or other people tell you is right or wrong.
As I mentioned earlier, Holden will be three weeks old on Monday and he appears to be going through his first major growth spurt. At least that’s what I’m gathering from the info on
the What to Expect the First Year app on my smartphone (Tip number 3.5: Download that app.) A growth spurt means that I’m nursing a fussier than usual baby every one to two hours. And yes, this means I am not following the three-hour schedule as closely as I’d like to; but if I’ve learned anything from Holden’s first few weeks of life, it’s this: Be flexible. (That’s newborn management tip number four, in case you were wondering.) Babies are unpredictable and cannot be controlled. Believe me. I am the queen of control freaks and would try to force my son into a routine if I could.
Having a baby will rip every last vestige of control you might have over your life out of your hands. Hence, the anxiety I mentioned that I was feeling earlier. While I desperately want Holden’s sleep schedule to become consistent and his naps to be a predictable length, the fact is that he is not even three weeks old yet. So, when he does go down for a nap, I feel a strange mix of relief that he’s asleep and anxiety over the fact that he could wake up at any moment.
I’m fairly certain that the commingling of anxiety and relief is something I will feel throughout Holden’s entire life. So, I’m thankful to serve a God who is big enough to handle those feelings and all the emotions in between. And that, my friends, is newborn management tip number five: Trust God and pray like crazy. If you are not the religious type, now might be the time to reconsider. At a time when so many things are out of YOUR hands, it’s nice to put those things…and your child… in the hands of the one who holds the world.