A few months ago, I posted 5 Things We're Doing Differently With Baby #2: Pregnancy and Birth. Now, I'm going to share what we've decided to do differently during the newborn period. Though our values remain the same -- attached, biological parenting -- this time around actually looks and feels so different. We've tweaked some things here and there, and it has made for such a sweet first few months (for all of us!).
We Finally Figured Out The Sleep Thing
In my first few weeks with Elan, I had no clue as to what normal infant sleep looked like. No clue. I thought I was supposed to put him down for naps in the dark, at certain times, for a certain amount of time. I thought we were supposed to swaddle him so that he "slept better" and didn't cry. I thought nighttime was supposed to be a struggle, one that every mom just had to push through. It was honestly a mess and I felt miserable most of the time.
But then Ruby arrived, and I was armed with knowledge and confidence. From Night One, she slept in the crook of my arm or on my chest and I nursed her throughout the night. No annoying side-car bassinet thing and no swaddle. It was just her and I in a queen bed. And guess what? I actually woke up feeling rested. Ruby's needs were met and so were mine. During the day, I nursed her around the clock. Sometimes (most of the time) she fell asleep right there on the couch in my arms, with the sun pouring in and her brother dancing around to loud music. Or I'd wrap her up in my stretchy wrap and she'd doze off in there. Some were cat naps, some were longer naps. And when she got a little older, I'd sometimes manage to transfer her to the futon couch in the living room. We were all in the room with her and she'd usually sleep right through the noise. Her sleep changed a lot as she grew, but the point here is that I never tried to analyze or control it.
By two months old, a pattern started to show up. She clearly wanted a solid nap in the morning and a solid nap in the afternoon, with the occasional cat nap in between. If we were out and about, she spent that time sleeping in the wrap. If we were at home, I'd nurse her to sleep in the king bed and then slip away. I also noticed a pattern with her nighttime sleep. She usually fell asleep around 9pm and would stay asleep for 3-4 hours, then wake up to nurse. Most nights average 2-3 wake-ups, but I honestly don't really notice them because all I have to do is roll over and offer my boob.
- No expectations and no attempts at forcing sleep. Instead, we let her guide us, watching for a pattern and reading her cues.
- No swaddling and no bassinet. She just sleeps next to me. During naps, she likes sleeping on her belly and I'm okay with that because I trust her instincts.
- Side-lying breastfeeding from the start! Game-changer! It took me months to figure this out with Elan.
- We're mindful of her circadian rhythms. Bright light during daytime naps, so that her body doesn't get confused. Low light in the evening and definitely no blue light.
- Trust. I know she'll get the sleep she needs, even if it doesn't look like a perfect routine every day of the week.
No measurements, no tests, no clock checking, no quantifying anything. We haven't weighed her since she was born and we don't know the size of her head. Because who cares? I don't. I'd much rather sit back, feed her my milk, and then watch her grow and develop on her own terms. Things are much more relaxed this time around and I am thankful for that.
Also, the biggest lesson I learned with Elan was to stop looking at the clock. When he went through periods of waking throughout the night, I would always check the clock to see what time it was. I'd wake up only feeling slightly annoyed. But then I'd see "11:00" on the screen and think, "I only slept ONE HOUR before being woken up?!" That's when "slightly annoyed" would turn into something much less pleasant. One day, I finally made this connection and vowed to keep my phone in another room. From that night on, I felt so much better.
Babywearing From The Start
I didn't put Elan in the wrap until he was over a month old and when I finally got around to trying it out, he was not happy about it. He immediately protested and it scared me away from using the wrap until he was a bit older. So with Ruby, I made sure that she grew accustomed to the wrap from the very start. I wore her for short periods at first and they eventually grew longer and longer. And anytime she starts to get restless or upset, I offer to nurse her -- no matter where we are or what I'm doing. (Yes, even if I'm in the middle of eating a meal myself).
A Healthy Relationship With The Car Seat
First of all, we decided not to purchase an infant car seat for Ruby. I didn't want to fall into the habit of lugging her around in the carseat instead of taking her out and wearing her on my body, close to my heart. That closeness is biologically and emotionally important, and I knew I might get lazy if I had the chance. So we opted for a convertible seat instead.
Second, I won't let her scream alone in the car seat. Here's why:
- It's not fair to her. Imagine this. You're an infant who just spent many months safe in your mothers womb. She's all you know and you want to be near her, on her body, at her breast. Then she straps you into a plastic seat, backwards in a metal box that is flying down bumpy, curvy roads. You start waving your arms, looking for Mom, wondering when you'll see her again. This just breaks my heart.
- If she has one or two traumatic experiences like that, it could create an association between fear / distress and being strapped into her car seat. Her survival instincts would tell her, "Red alert! The last time Mom strapped me in here, I thought I might die!" This could snowball into an outright fear of the car.
- I don't want her to ever think that I won't come to her when she needs me or that her crying doesn't elicit a response from me.
It took me a few weeks to really understand this with Elan and from then on, I made sure to avoid car trips as much as possible. We scheduled errands for when my partner could drive us and I could sit in the back with Elan. Yes, it isn't fun staying home all the time, but it's only a few months out of my life and my babies are worth it.
We Really Got Minimalist This Time
You probably know that we chose not to have a nursery and we didn't purchase any of the common "must-haves", for good reason. And most of what we did need, we had leftover from when Elan was a baby. We were plenty happy with the following: A wrap / baby carrier (the most important item!), a few hand-me-down or thrifted onesies, one pair of cotton pants, one pair of socks, cotton blankets, cloth diapers and a baby potty. With Elan, I had an elaborate registry. Here are some of the things we had with him, but ended up getting rid of:
- Buckwheat Nursing Pillow. This was useful, but not necessary. And honestly, kind of bulky to keep around. Not to mention that nursing pillows can negatively impact positioning when nursing your baby. I preferred to keep Ruby on my body, using pillows under my elbows for support.
- Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper. No, just no. This huge thing ended up functioning as storage for blankets and pillows and clothes. Everything is so much easier when I share the same sleeping surface as my baby. I can roll over to nurse her without fully waking and I can even do quick changes in the bed without disrupting her too much.
- Changing Table. I know some people say they love their changing table, but it's really not for me. I don't see the point. There are a million other surfaces in the house, and chances are, Baby isn't going to poop in the room with the table anyway.
- Diaper Covers. With Elan, we bought several PUL diaper covers because I heard they were great. But then I realized that a) I don't want to put plastic on my child, and b) We don't need diaper covers if we change her consistently or use Elimination Communication.
- Glass Milk Bottles. We got these bottles in a small and larger size, but I only used the small bottle a handful of times and never even touched the larger size. This time, I have no intentions of leaving Ruby until she's old enough to last several hours between feeds.
Bonus: We Watch The Way We Talk Around Her
It took us a long time to realize that our words impact our babies, whether or not they can use words themselves yet. Many of us seem to think that babies can't understand what we're saying. We complain about them or parenting, or we talk about our financial anxiety, or about how scary the world is. What we don't realize is that the first six years of a child’s life are spent in delta or theta brain states -- also referred to as "hypnagogic trance" -- during which they are absorbing everything. Bruce Lipton says, "A child’s perceptions of the world are directly downloaded into the subconscious during this time, without discrimination and without filters of the analytical self-conscious mind which doesn’t fully exist. Consequently, our fundamental perceptions about life and our role in it are learned without our having the capacity to choose or reject those beliefs." Because of this, we try to choose words that help her feel safe and loved. (Though it is very tough sometimes, I'll admit!)
Aside from her internalization of our words, I also choose to use language carefully because I know that my words create my reality. If I continually say "This is so hard!", then it will feel and be hard. I'll be reinforcing that feeling and making it stronger. If I, instead, say "I'm so grateful for my family" or "I love having a toddler, it's so fun!" -- my reality will look a lot more like that.
What about you? What did you do differently with your second or third or fourth child? I'd love to hear what lessons you learned!