In an effort to share about our breastfeeding journey, and hopefully encourage other moms, I decided to chronicle the eating, sleeping, and early days with our new little guy. We follow the routine laid out in the book Babywise, as we have done with our other four children. If you aren't familiar with Babywise, it's a book that outlines a basic routine: Eat, Wake, Sleep, that you follow with your newborn. By following this pattern, baby is alert during his most content period and learns to sleep on his/her own (rather than falling asleep at the breast and/or needing a prop to fall asleep).
Yes, I know this particular book is sometimes controversial. Though, after living it out five times over the course of the last 8 years, and having read the book at least 7-8 times in that same time period, I really can't figure out why it's so controversial. Each time I read it, I'm blown away by how many times the author clearly says to feed a hungry baby, to not live by the clock, and to carefully assess your baby's growth (all the areas where criticism generally focuses).
Anyway, this post is not about that. It's about our personal journey, this week, with a new little person who has joined our family. And it all started last Sunday night.
The night before our son was born, I got no sleep. My parents were in town, and so we stayed up talking with them, then went off to bed. Shortly after midnight, I was up reading, and the contractions began, fast and furious. They stayed at every 3-5 minutes for the next 6 hours, then got closer and closer, and finally, after the doc broke my water at 8:10, he was born at 8:26 in the morning.
Day 1: He's here!!! So much joy and excitement! He nursed right after birth, and then every hour or hour and a half thereafter for pretty much the entire day, and night. Like Ezzo writes, this first week or two, you feed them when they're hungry, without regard to the clock. And HE WAS HUNGRY. So most of the first day (and night) was spent feeding him. My main focus was keeping him awake long enough to take a full feeding (at least 10-15 minutes on both sides) every time he nursed.
Day 2: He's hungry and today, he decided to let us know about it! Obviously, my milk hadn't come in yet, so he was hungry with good reason. Again, every hour to hour & a half, throughout the day and night, he nursed. Towards the afternoon, and into the evening, he was quite fussy when he wasn't nursing. Because those fussy times came right after lengthy feedings, my husband would try to burp him, walk him around, or bundle him, before I nursed him again. Looking back, those times weren't long (a matter of minutes?), but at the time, it seemed interminable.
Though it made for long nursing times (45 minutes to an hour, and then less than 30 minutes later sometimes, doing it again), I kept working towards full feedings... not just snacking here and there. To me, this is the key to achieving good milk supply AND good sleeping skills with a newborn. I never, never let him cry. When he cried, we'd check his diaper and/or try to burp him, but then I fed him those full feedings right away.
Day 3: My milk started to slowly transition from colostrum to more mature milk, and our little 8-pound-plus-er was feeling the need. The need to feed. :) So we continued feeding him as described above.
On this day, it was more like every two hours, and I was exhausted. Just about the time I fed him, went potty, and laid down to rest, it was time to wake up and feed him again. Throughout the day, I focused on drinking plenty of water, resting if ever the moment came available to do so, and fed him pretty much every two hours or less throughout the day. Whenever he was hungry, he ate. And he got full feedings. Later this evening, my milk supply began increasing, and I could tell by his suck (and the evidence dribbling out of the corner of his mouth once he finished) that he was getting more. That night, he did one three-hour stretch, and then the rest were every 2 or 2 & 1/2 hours throughout the night. But that one 3-hour stretch told me his body was already getting into the pattern. Just three days in, he was beginning to catch onto the rhythm of full feedings, and resting in between.
Day 4: Throughout the day, he ate every 2 & 1/2 hours. I had to wake him up several times to encourage him to eat during the day (in hopes that we'd be doing our best sleeping at night!), even though he was sleeping soundly.
It's not easy to wake up a newborn and keep them awake. This is definitely a necessary skill during these early days of getting used to a Babywise routine. Getting them slightly uncomfortable (removing the extra layer of clothing/blanket, rubbing their backs between the shoulder blades, leaning them forward and talking to them) so that they'll wake up enough to eat during the day is so worth it! Their little bodies don't come out knowing the difference between day and night, and so we get to help them adjust. It's so worth it to do a little legwork on this end to help him establish the clear norms of eating more during the day and sleeping more at night time!
Soon enough, he'll be getting his calories during the day so he won't feel the need to wake up at night for more. This is the basic idea behind Babywise that I think gets overlooked-- I've never let a baby cry it out, nor does the book advocate doing so. That just isn't necessary. When we work to teach a baby to take in his calories in the daytime, through regular, full feedings, they don't *need* to wake up at night. All of our babies have achieved this all on their own.
Days & Nights 5, 6, & 7: These three days & nights looked very similar to one another-- all three days, I focused on helping him eat full feedings (for me, with a nursling who latches on well, that usually means shooting for at least 10-15 minutes on each side).
Because he was awake for 2 & 1/2 hours with my husband on night #5, we worked on days 6 & 7 to be sure he had more lengthy waketimes during the day, so that he would sleep at night. And it worked! And each night, we had one longer sleep cycle (3 & 1/2 to 5 hours between feeds), and two shorter 2 & 1/2-hour cycles. Again, I'll stress-- there is no "crying it out" in this scenario. The minute he wakes, he gets fed a full feeding, his diaper gets changed, and he's back to sleep.
Also, on day 7, I took him into the pediatrician and he was already back up above his birth weight, so that was great news!
Day 8: The last day or two, I've notice that he is naturally trying to sleep beyond the 2 & 1/2 hour cycle during the day. So if necessary, I'm waking him up to feed him during the day at the 2 & 1/2 hour interval, certainly before we hit the 3-hour mark. The goal is to get his body into the habit of receiving the necessary calories and nutrition during the waking hours so that he'll more quickly achieve not needing to wake up at night for additional calories and meals. So we don't stretch out the daytime feedings until extended nighttime sleep has begun.
Final Thoughts: So far, following the Babywise routine has "worked" for all of our kiddos by helping them to sleep through the night (defined as going 6-8 hours between feedings) from 5 & 1/2 to 10 weeks old. Moses seems to be doing really well already, and so we'll see how he does. But this first week has gone as well, I think, as a first week can go. It's such a pleasure to nurse this little guy and see him grow. The contentment is evident, and it's so sweet to see him already relaxing and readying himself just before I begin to nurse. It appears he's already at ease with the routine as well. He's a happy and content and alert little guy for just being 8 days out of the womb!
I hope this little day-by-day breakdown will be helpful for some future moms trying out Babywise. This is fairly typical for how my last four babies' Babywise routines have gone (my first son was in the NICU his first week, and so that adjusted our norms as well as affecting the strength of his suck... we still nursed past a year, but his nursing sessions took much longer, much more patience and intentionality, and I had a lot of pain from mastitis and the like).
My hope is that by writing this out, it will inform or reassure other moms using or considering the Babywise routine. I'm going to try to do a semi-regular update of our progress, but not making any promises! Life gets busy... but I will try. :)
[Here are links to this whole Babywise series: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Weeks 6 & 7, Weeks 8-14]