Chronicling Babywise- Week 3

I'm taking this go-round with a new baby to chronicle our day-by-day use of the Baby Wise routine. We've used it to help all four of our older children achieve early full-nights' sleep; now we have a new baby- our sweet little Moses, born July 12. Click these to read the previous weeks:

Days 15 & 16: These were both average sort of days, with Moses eating every 2 & 1/2 hours or so, having good amounts of wake time during the day (anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half), and sleeping at night, waking up 2-3 times to eat (he's waking to nurse every 3-4 hours at night now), but then going right back to sleep. And of course we're still keeping up the basic cycle of Babywise: eat-wake-sleep, regardless of how long those waketimes are.

Though I'm really tired, I know rest will come, and so I'm pressing on-- being careful to still see that Moses gets full feedings, and not going longer than 3 hours between daytime feeds.

God has been so good to me, giving me reserves of energy and times of quiet and rest at some point in each day. I plan to write more about this soon, but I'll share a smidge of it here-- I'm really aware, more with Moses added to our family than ever before, of just how much I need the Lord. I'm also beginning to realize just how much I've relied on myself-- my strength, my determination, my grit, my plans... and how each person the Lord adds to our family requires me to cling more closely to Him. If there's any way this postpartum mom of five can be lovingly patient and kind, and both gentle and diligent in the consistent discipling of our kiddos, it's only by His grace and strength flowing through me. My prayer life is improving by necessity. :)

But thankfully, I'm witnessing some ultra-precious moments during this time:

Day 17: Today's feedings, waketimes, and naps were going along normally (eating every 2 & 1/2 hours, having pleasant wake times, etc.) and then this afternoon, I noticed he was rooting around again just one hour after a quite full feeding (one he'd gulped down!). At first I thought, "oh I'll just put in the pacifier," thinking that after that big meal and a short waketime he must be ready to sleep, but he didn't want the pacifier. And suddenly I knew why-- I even mentioned it in the comment box on last week's post. It came to me all at once-- he's about to hit a growth spurt!

Growth spurts are something I'd heard about but didn't fully understand when I first encountered it with our first son. When he was just a few weeks old, I remember a day and a half spent wondering, "what in the world is going on?" -- he wanted to nurse non-stop! I was utterly exhausted. He was my biggest baby- over 9 pounds- and I was still recovering from his birth, I'd had a breast infection (mastitis) for several weeks at that point, and (of course) he wasn't sleeping through the night yet. We were packing up our clutter-filled apartment to move across the country, and did I mention I was exhausted? He nursed all day long and then one night in particular, I remember that no sooner did I end a feeding than he began rooting around again. That night, I literally nursed him all. night. long. At first, I was confused and worried. I remember wondering if my milk wasn't enough, but I was fortunate to have 3 or 4 nursing books on hand and they explained the idea of the growth spurt.

Generally, for me, growth spurts have happened around these basic timeframes: when the baby is 3 days old, 3 weeks old (thus, the one I noticed today), 6 weeks old, (sometimes at 9 weeks old), 3 months old, and then 6 months (usually when we start solid foods) and 9 months old. These aren't exact times, but they help jog my memory when I suspect that our nursling is heading into one; it helps confirm my suspicions.

So today, when he wanted to eat every hour for 3 hours straight, I fed him. The goal of helping him to achieve nighttime sleep early must coexist alongside the goal of maintaining a good milk supply, and meeting the baby's needs. Generally speaking, the aim of giving a newborn full feedings every 2 & 1/2 hours or so supports a good milk supply. But on the days when a growth spurt happens, the time frame flies out the window and the whole goal, regardless of how often the feedings happen, is to satisfy the infant's hunger with full feedings. For me, this morning, that was still roughly every 2 & 1/2 hours, but for 3 hours straight this afternoon, that happened every hour. Then he did one normal cycle, and then wanted to eat an hour later. Again, I fed him because he was hungry.
If it goes like others have gone, at some point in the next 36-48 hours, I will probably feel like I'm nursing round the clock. I have often wondered if first-time moms who hit a growth spurt time might inadvertently think that they're not making enough milk. Because on these days (usually, in my experience, the crazy-hungry part of the growth spurts last about 36-48 hours), it would be easy to think, "see? He's not satisfied! We'd better just supplement with formula so we'll know he's getting enough!"

But what's actually happening is this: your body is being prepared for an increase in your baby's need for milk. The baby needs to grow, and for that to happen, the amount of milk that sustained his growth as a two-day old, two-week old, or two-month old is not enough. So, amazingly, God made it so that an infant will have these times of increased demand so that your body will produce an increased supply. It's a very simple idea, and yet in the stress of particularly the first time of breastfeeding, it would be easy to mistake this basic rule of supply & demand for a lack of milk. I can easily envision, without this information, being ready to give up on breastfeeding for fear that your body just "can't make enough".

Day 18: Well, I think we are moving into growth spurt mode. Last night, instead of every 3-4 hours as he had been doing, he woke and ate every 2-2 & 1/2 hours. Then this morning he wanted to eat at roughly the 2 hour/2 hour, 15 minute mark.

When this happens (a baby wanting to eat a bit "early"), with Babywise, I can opt to feed him early, given what I know, or I could try to hold him off a bit. And at various times, we do various things. Sometimes, like this, I know true hunger is present. So of course, I feed the baby. Which, again, I'll stress, is exactly what Ezzo recommends. If the baby is hungry, you feed the baby. But sometimes a noise wakes a baby up early from his nap, or he has a poopy diaper. At that point, it's not hunger that woke him up-- it was an intrustion/interruption.

So if that was the case, I'd use a variety of "tools" to maybe hold him off 15-30 minutes as needed. For example, when I had a backyard, I might take the baby out for a little 10-minute break on the back porch in filtered sunlight (and get a little vitamin D in the process!). Or I might change his diaper and give him a little bath afterward. We could hold him facing slightly outward in a sling and try to distract him by doing the dishes or watching his older siblings play. Or we might stand by the window and look at birds. There are a variety of ways to pleasantly help a baby to wait for a time so that he will be better able (with a more "ready" tummy) to take a full feeding.

But if there is hunger present, feed the baby. This is a critical aspect of Babywise, and one that's often missed by those who would cast it as a "schedule" or "strict" plan. "Parental assessment", as Ezzo stresses, is such an important component. Without it, there can be either rigidity or chaos. But with it, decisions like the ones I mentioned above are brought into clearer focus.

Days 19 & 20
I'm combining these days because they were similar, but also because I haven't had time to write because I've been so busy nursing! :) On both of these days, there were some normal 2 & 1/2 hour cycles, but many times when his hunger dictated an earlier feeding. Sometimes, he was even hungry just an hour or hour and a half after feeding! So he got fed. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but Ezzo makes it clear in the book that whenever a baby is hungry, you feed them. If there's confusion about why there was a short cycle, it can be examined/thought about later. In this case, as I wrote earlier, I had anticipated the three-week growth spurt, so whenever I noticed that he was rooting around and hungry, he got fed.

In the nighttime, he's been eating every 2 & 1/2 hours, almost to the minute. So even though he's eating more often during the day, he's still taking his longer cycles at night... which is brilliant. And sure enough, at the end of these days, my milk supply is quite a bit stronger and fuller than it was just a few days ago. Growth spurt success!

DAY 21
Things seem to be getting back to "normal" as far as his eat/wake/sleep cycle. Not only that but he's clearly satisfied, and is getting even chunkier.

He's had some spit-up (getting close, almost, to the amount of spit-up my second son struggled with when he had projectile vomiting). By the way, following the Babywise routine can be a great way to help a baby who struggles with projectile vomiting, because the mom is carefully tuned into the amount of time spent nursing and the amount of milk the baby is intaking. Because I just had the increase in milk production (from the growth spurt), I'm being careful to not just let him snooze at the breast after nursing for that 10-15 minute amount on each side. When I have let him go longer, those are the times when he has excessive spit-up, and I remember that from my second son. By helping him to take in a good amount, rather than an excessive amount, of milk, I'm able to help moderate the amount of excess that comes back up via spit-up.

This morning, I actually had to wake him to feed between 2 & 1/2 and 3 hours. That means my milk supply has increased, and he's satisfied! Also (hopefully), this will make for good, longer sleep cycles again in the coming evenings, because he's grouping his intake of calories during the daytime hours, and his sleep needs will be met both through good daytime naps and lengthier cycles in the nighttime.

[Update Monday morning: he slept 4 & 1/2 hours, 2 & 1/2 hours, and just over 3 hours last night... so it does seem that the increased intake (post-growth-spurt) is increasing his sleep amounts... yay!]

(1) Some assert that Babywise is a cry-it-out system-- it's clearly not! Not from the way the book is written, and not from the way it plays out in our home. Babywise helps moms and babies group feedings and calories during the day so that babies learn to sleep on their own at night. There are methods that teach a baby to cry by following a set number of days, or set number of minutes to leave a baby to cry, but that is not what Babywise does. There may be times, with an older baby that has already consistently been sleeping through the night, that they grizzle or fuss a bit as they readjust themselves or fall back asleep... but this is not a cry-it-out method.

And as I've said, a newborn baby is never left to cry... to the contrary, when baby cries, Ezzo encourages a careful parental assessment to determine what's wrong... is it gas? a noise? a dirty diaper? Something else? Or hunger? That process of assessment helps the new mom to learn the differences between her new baby's cries, and meet the need of her baby. It teaches us to engage our minds as we think about what's causing baby's discomfort, and that's a good thing.

(2) I'm not a Babywise-only sort of gal. I've read "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" and "The Nursing Mother's Companion" and many, many other early-motherhood tomes. Almost every book has things we can glean from it, and some are more useful than others. I want to encourage new moms: read widely and broadly! Don't hold something (a system, book, or idea) so closely that you can't learn from other things that contradict it. Hold ideas out in front of you, like a precious stone, and examine them for inconsistencies or problem spots. Because virtually every "system" has weaknesses, or areas that can be problematic if not carefully thought through. Like I've encouraged before, I strongly suggest that new moms educate themselves about breastfeeding, parenting, and loving our children. It is wise and fruitful to look at what others have done well, and consider their ideas.
(Is this face not precious???)

(3) For the woman or family who (like me) just does not function well without getting regular sleep, Baby Wise can be a sanity saver! Others may not share that need and can function fine without large segments of sleep for long periods of their lives. For my part, I owe it to my kids to help them get the sleep they need, but also to be the mom they need by taking care of my body's need for sleep so that I can parent them in something other than sustained-survival mode (I'm not speaking about anyone else's needs-- rather, this is the way my body/mind works if I go long stints without sufficient sleep). Babywise helps me achieve both aims.

We can rely on God for strength when it's needed, and at the same time, we can wisely use natural processes to help meet our children's physical needs. It's my job to help my kids get both the food and the sleep that they need. So for me, Babywise is a real gift. It helps me to meet the baby's needs for calories AND meet both our needs for good nighttime sleep. When thoughtfully implemented, Babywise can be a real benefit for those moms who want to achieve healthy nighttime sleep with their babies.

[Here are links to this whole Babywise series: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Weeks 6 & 7, Weeks 8-14]


Catie said...

I read Babywise BEFORE I had my first child over 2 yrs ago. I didn't get a lot out of it then but I'm really enjoying this series!

We had our second girl on July 11th! :) So following along on your blog has been so great for me! Even though I'm not following Babywise to a "T", it's still comforting to read some of the things that you're going through as I'm going through the same things! :) I am trying to be a bit more concious about getting more calories in during the day.

I also really need to rely on the Lord a lot more!! I'm having a hard time and I think it's b/c I'm trying to do it ON MY OWN. Thanks!

Catie said...

Oh! And I forgot - your little guy is so stinkin' cute! :)

Polly said...

Smart post!! Very very useful!

And I'm enjoying his sweet baby photos. They are making me look forward to seeing my sweet baby #2's little face in january! He's adorable!

Elle said...

I'm curious... are you reading an updated or revised version? because the book I read going on 11 yrs ago was without a doubt recommending crying it out. I just got rid of the book recently (after it bombing with two of my 3 children I chucked it). and I am positive it made many a mention of crying it out. it also was very negative towards slings and attachment parenting (which is often misunderstood by Ezzo followers as "permissive parenting" which is certainly is not)

so I'm confused. what YOU are doing and the book I read 3 or 4 times through is simply not the same thing at all.

I wish I had that old book so I could pull the exact pages and phrases out... but goodness I read that thing so many times you'd think i'd know it by heart.

Jessica said...

These posts have been MORE than helpful. I'm pregnant with our 3rd baby. We've done Babywise with our previous 2, but nursing hasn't gone smoothly for a variety of reasons. I'm really determined with this one to make it work along with Babywise. Thank you for adding the part about prayer/reliance on God at the beginning. One of the major struggles I've had with both of my girls is the intense emotional upheavals of having it infiltrates EVERY area of our lives, from not getting the house cleaned like normal, to not showering like normal, to not having our time with the Lord like normal, to all other relationships affected, etc. It has been a blessing to read how you handle it!

Elle said...

a previous post...This might be a dumb question, but I had posted a comment before and I was coming back to see if you had responded (I asked a question about babywise) but I don't see the comment... so I was wondering maybe I forgot to send it (I constantly do that for some reason! I write out the comment and then close the page without ever sending it! lol)

anyhow if by chance you just didn't post my comment, no biggie! I just wanted to make sure that it wasn't me that didn't send it :)


Herding Grasshoppers said...

What an adorable little guy!

Glad to hear things are going so well :D


Anonymous said...

The routine you describe sounds exactly like The Baby Whisperer. I really liked it compared to the Ezzo book back when I read them both several years ago. You said that all your babies simply dropped their feedings at night as they aged and slept through the night. What would you have done, or will you do, if that wasn't the case. If they regularly wake up if even though it isn't a feeding time and there isn't anything wrong? Just wondering as this has been the case with my most recent addition. She just wakes up for the heck of it :)

Kim said...

I'm just loving reading these - if for nothing more than to hear the goings on of your life. I seriously need to save bunches of money and come visit you. :) But at any rate. I have read parts of Babywise (I wanted to see what the fuss was about) and while I think you have to be a careful consumer (I know some people who went so far as to let their baby cry for 2.5 hours because on their schedule it was naptime...which was too much for me...obviously the baby wasn't tired!), I love how you're detailing really what is the proper way to use it and the science and thinking behind it. You are such a great resource. Someday I will need you for support in this, I hope! :)

Miss you. Let's skype soon!

Meg said...

I love all your posts but this was just more helpful for me
I have known too many gals who lost their milk supply on Babywise (you obviously know how to do it carefully and likely have a ample supply naturally) You probably won't post this, but I really dislike the nasty attitude in the Ezzo books toward parents who do things is not as kind as you are and promotes division, hence the controversy that you note. I just had my fifth baby, I go to bed earlier and get less done :) You have to warn other mothers that this may not work with their milk supply or they may feel defeated and discouraged!

J. Story said...

Hi Jess, Congratulations on your new little guy. I am a mother to 8 children. Oldest is 14 and the youngest is 5 months. We read Babywise before number one was born and I have appreciated the method with all subsequent children. Our Pastor's wife consistently encourages us (women) to stand firm in principles but be gracious with methods. I've found her perspective to be helpful when talking with other moms about "how do I do what I do?" Thanks for chronicling your journey. You are a blessing to me.

Jess Connell said...

I bought my version in 2000, when pregnant with our first son, and I think it had been updated at that point. I do know there is an older version, but I've not read it. Babywise does not recommend crying it out, but it does clarify a difference between tired fussing (what I call "grizzling") and out-and-out crying. The first is OK in the BW model, the second is not and should be investigated.

It's funny, because even on AP blogs/websites I've read, I have seen tons of moms testify that sometimes their babies just need to kind of fuss just slightly as they fall asleep. To me, that's not crying it out. That's just a baby being a baby, because whether being patted/rocked/laid down/sung to sleep, lots of babies have that need to just kind of self-settle a bit before finally biting the dust and falling asleep.

Best wishes,

Jess Connell said...

Anonymous, I've heard before that BW & the Baby Whisperer are similar in many ways, but never read the latter.

What have I done if they just wake up when it's not time to eat and nothing's wrong? A variety of things... sometimes (especially early on) just offer some gas drops and the pacifier and help them fall back asleep. Sometimes nurse, if they're hungry. Sometimes snuggle and help them fall back asleep. The key for me though has been to not create any unnecessary habits (i.e., needing 30 minutes in the rocking chair each night for a 6 month old, or needing to get a cup of milk for the 2 year old). Know what I mean?

An occasional "off" night is one thing, but for us, when this has happened (and it has!), we put some mental work into figuring out the source/problem. (For example, the call to prayer here is extremely loud and sometimes wakes up our kiddos, both in the evening, around 10, and in the AM, around 5). So balancing the need to have the airflow from the windows being open (we don't have a/c) with the need to have the windows shut at those times has required some attention (when I had all those pregnancy potty trips, I used them wisely!). That kind of thing. Just finding the root of the matter and dealing with it. If it's just a 9 month old who thinks it's fun to see mom in the middle of the night, we might solve that with a quick pat on the back, a sippy cup with water in it, and (if it extended over several nights), a "no- no, it's time to go back to sleep."

Each situation is different, but maybe that will give you some ideas.

Jenna said...

i LOVE babywise! and i love your blog, too :) I have an almost 8 mos old who is thriving off of it. It's a shame that so many people have a bad impression of it based on things they've heard. Glad its been such a help to your family :)

Moses is just precious!

Maggie Pelton said...

I posted last week, but just wanted to mention again how much of a blessing your chronicles have been for me. Our little one is just over 2 weeks old and has followed pretty closely as Moses. Although, my milk hasn't been enough for her. She only gained 1 oz the first week and a half. So, I've supplemented a few times a day this past week and she was up 12 oz today at her weight check. I'm still nursing first and my milk seems to be coming in more. I haven't had to give her a bottle since yesterday mid-morning, so I'm holding out hope. The reminder about the growth spurts is so helpful. I'd be worrying about my milk when that happens. Anyway, thanks a bunch!!!

Jess Connell said...

Wanted to come back and say, even though nobody is probably reading, that I got *MARRIED* in 2000, and had my first baby in *2002*, not *2000* as I wrote in a comment upthread. Sorry about that. I guess we'll chalk it up to the post-pregnancy brain-fog. :)

Shannon said...

Jess - I followed the link from your most recent post updating on Moses adventures with Babywise ;) and I am so thankful to read this reminder about the growth spurts since our new one will be arriving in a little less than 3 months. Even though this is number 4, it's always good to have a refresher course - hehe.

Meta said...

Jess - I stumbled across your blog as I was trying to figure out what to do with my 3 week old. I thought "we had it down" but now I'm questioning everything we've been doing. She is 18 days old today. We've been going on a 3 hour schedule, although with her growth spurt it's about 2 to 2.5 hours. I'm amazed that Moses has such waketimes and that's one of the things I'm so confused on! My baby doesn't give very strong hunger or sleep cues (only the occasional yawn and the occasional open mouth to one side) and she doesn't really open her eyes or is "awake" for much at all during the day. I'm wondering if i should try to get her fully awake before feeding? Make sure she stops stretching, her eyes open, etc? And if her eyes are closed after a full feeding (like 45 min!), do I try to enforce a wake time by waking her up or doing things with her, or should I just lay her down? Any advice appreciated.. i know you're not the babywise expert, but I'm looking for any help I can get!!

Jess Connell said...

Your baby sounds extra sleepy. Is she a bigger-than-average baby?

It's fine to have it be @ 3 hours @ this point, IF she seems satisfied, is going @ least 10 minutes on each side, & is having PLENTY of wet/poopy diapers (refer to the chart @ the back of the book if you're not sure). (Sounds like she's doing good if she's going 45 minutes for feeding.)

Yes, you should definitely try to get her fully awake for a feeding... and yes, she should wake up, at least for 5-10 minutes, after a feeding... unless it's the last one of the night. I would definitely do that... the eat-wake-sleep cycle is important. If you switch the sleep and wake around, you end up with a fussy baby.

Hope this helps!

Bonnie said...

So I'm reading your posts several years after they've been written (thanks for the great documenting, by the way!). Chances are you dont even remember the smaller details of these early newborn days! I naturally have been doing a very similar routine with my third as you've documented. My question is...did you try to keep him awake for a full feed during night feedings? My two week old is hard enough to wake up for day feedings, I feel like the night is even more challenging! And I don't want to do my whole 'strip her down and get her uncomfy so she will wake up to eat' routine during the night;) But I don't want to sabotage eventual longer nighttime sleep either!

Jess Connell said...

Hi Bonnie. I actually am nursing and typing one handed right now! Our baby #7 is 3 months old now.

But yes I definitely do fight for full feedings all the time, including night. You definitely don't want to get baby in the habit of snacking and grazing all night long. So yup same rules apply day and night.

I'm blogging at now fyi. Thanks for stopping by!