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.
For the most part, I think BabyDumpling is very easy to take care of. She usually only cries for three reasons: 1) she’s hungry; 2) she needs a diaper change; or 3) she has gas and needs to be burped. Of course, as she now enters her fourth week, her crying will likely ramp up, since a newborn’s crying is suppose to peak around Week 6. But so far, she typically only cries when there’s something actively making her uncomfortable, and will settle down once the problem is resolved. I have yet to see her continuously cry for a very long time – but I can certainly see how that would drive a parent crazy, because it’s impossible to ignore a baby’s wail. If I have tried to address all three of the common problems and she still cries, I usually just hold her against my chest and give her my finger to suck on. This is my go-to method of calming her down, and usually she’ll fall asleep after a while in this position. It’s not surprising that newborns want to be held close by their mother – apparently, it takes them several weeks to come to the realization that they are no longer in the womb, and that can be a very jarring realization. So, the more that I can mimic the conditions of the womb, the more comfortable she will be. This means skin-to-skin contact, where she can feel my body heat and can hear my heart beat, my breathing, and the sound of my voice. While I love the closeness of having her on my chest, I can’t sleep while she’s sleeping on my chest in case she rolls off, and she’ll wake up when I try to move her off my chest. So, when she sleeps several hours on my chest, that means several hours less sleep for MamaDumpling.
These days, BabyDumpling is most active between 11pm and 1am. I realized this coincides with the hours I usually went to bed when I was pregnant, and I would feel her moving around my belly the most. Newborns have something similar to jetlag (I’m going to call it “womb-lag”), because in the womb, they have no sense of night and day. If anything, in the womb they tend to be asleep more during the day, when the mother is moving around a lot and creating nice rocking motions for them, and more active at night, when the mother is sleeping (or trying to sleep) and not moving as much. According to our pediatrician, there is no point trying to correct womb-lag at this age. So we just live with it for now and entertain her at midnight. She’s quite funny when she’s awake. When she’s awake, she often furrows her brow in an expression of displeasure or concern. It could also be an expression that she’s thinking very hard about something – which is hilarious, because what could she be thinking so hard about at this age? I often wonder what what goes on in that little head of hers – I mean, what does she have to think about other than milk? Maybe she is always wondering where her milk bottle is. Sometimes I wonder if she sees me as a giant milk bottle with arms and legs.
When BabyDumpling is awake, she makes a lot of grunting noises like she’s trying to pass a bowel movement (sometimes she is). When she does poop, it sounds like an explosion – in fact, it looks like one in her diaper as well. Her poop looks like what adults would consider diarrhea, but that is apparently what passes for normal poop in newborns.
On most nights, BabyDumpling will fall asleep between 1 and 2am. Even when she’s asleep, she’ll stir and make noises every so often. She obviously dreams, although I have no idea what about. Maybe she is surrounded by giant nipples in her dreams, in a land of endless milk. Because, again, what else occupies her mind at this age?
I once heard someone describe babies as little drunk people, and I think that’s a pretty apt description. First, they do get “milk drunk.” They get this satisfied, drowsy, high look after having had their fill of milk. Second, they can’t hold their own heads up because their heads are so heavy and they don’t have a lot of neck muscles. They basically can’t hold themselves up at all. So they’re always lolling about. It’s especially apparent after feeding, when I sit her up to burp her, and her head will sort of fall forward onto her chest like a little drunk person. It’s hilarious and adorable.
We have been trying to take pictures every week because newborns grow so fast and also change so fast during this time. I wish she could stay this little for longer, because it’s so nice to hold her against my chest when she’s this small. I guess all parents wish their children could stay “little” at any given time for their entire lives, even when they become adults. She will always be my little BabyDumpling.