The first few weeks with BabyDumpling have been easier than I expected, other than breastfeeding. She isn’t fussy about drinking formula (I’ve heard some babies can be very picky), and she usually sleeps 3-4 hours (even 5) in between feedings. That’s a long time for a newborn! It’s most likely because we are feeding her formula, and formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk so babies tend to sleep longer between feedings when they are fed formula. Technically, we are not suppose to let her sleep more than 4 hours between feedings because we need to feed her X number of times per day, but when it’s overnight and we’re asleep, she’s the one that lets us know if she’s hungry, so if she doesn’t wake up, we don’t wake up.
Being a new parent is a lesson in compromise. There’s the stuff you learn in the books and from the classes, and then there’s reality. The reality is that you can’t go by the book on everything, even if you know there’s a good reason why such-and-such is the recommended practice.
For example, the number of feedings thing. Everyone tells us newborns need to be fed 8-12+ times a day. That means every 2-3 hours on average. At the same time though, we are also told to feed “on demand” – meaning, instead of going by the clock for when each feeding should happen, we watch BabyDumpling’s cues and she lets us know when she’s hungry. However, if she sleeps longer than 4 hours, there’s almost no way we can get in 8-12 feedings a day. We were feeding her, on average, every 4 hours, which meant she was only getting 6 feedings a day. Of course, there is a possibility of “cluster feeding” – meaning, she wakes up every hour to feed for, let’s say, 3 consecutive hours, and then sleeps for a longer period of time. That’s fine in theory, except our baby didn’t really do that. So we threw out the rulebook on 8-12 feedings and let her tell us when she was hungry. If that meant 6 feedings a day, so be it. She was gaining weight and healthy, so as far as her pediatrician could tell, there was no cause for alarm.
Another example where we “threw out the rulebook,” so to speak, was on bedsharing, the practice of having a baby sleep in the same bed as the adults. Bedsharing is generally frowned upon, as there are many risks for a baby in an adult bed: adults could roll over onto the baby while asleep; the baby could accidentally suffocate under the blanket or pillow; and it is even said they could strangle themselves if their mother has long hair (source). However, there is some indication that bedsharing deaths usually result when there is at least one other independent factor:
[…] Recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths happen when an adult sleeping with a baby has been smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs (illegal or over-the-counter medicines) that make them sleep deeply.
Sometimes people fall asleep with their babies accidentally or without meaning to. This can be very dangerous, especially if it happens on a couch/sofa where a baby can get wedged or trapped between the adult and the cushions.
I recognize that there are good reasons why bedsharing is not as safe as having the baby sleep on her own separate surface, free of distractions like blankets and pillows. We hadn’t originally intended to bedshare, but it has now become an almost nightly occurrence. BabyDumpling refuses to sleep in her own crib, even though we put her crib right next to our bed, and I can reach in and pat her if she starts fussing. But no amount of patting will help if she doesn’t go to sleep in the first place, and she just won’t fall asleep in her own crib. Even if I place her in her crib after she’s fallen asleep on my body, she’ll wake up much sooner than if I put her down on our bed. How she knows the difference I have no idea. There are ways to reduce the risk of bedsharing, such as little bassinets/baby nests that you can place on the bed itself. Is it ideal? Probably not, but it works for us, at least for now.
And that’s the thing. As much as you go in with the intention of doing everything by the book, once you’re raising your own baby, you realize there are some things you do just to keep yourself sane, because you could drive yourself nuts if you tried to do everything by the book.