Ok so this post is mostly for me to read when I am nine months pregnant with my next baby...
I don't know why it is but I seem to have completely forgotten everything I swore I learned from having my first baby...I remember saying, oh I won't make this same mistake, or I will be better at this- but for some reason I forgot all these rules and promises I made myself - especially regarding sleep. Now I have tried to figure out how I could really forget the first five months of my sons life - not his cuteness or even fun things we did, but how I actually went about taking care of him and raising him - I am a complete blank. I certainly can't remember how I used to put him to sleep or what sort of eat/sleep routine we had. Then last night as I was laying in bed at 4am with my baby Kyla screaming in the background it hit me, I can't remember because I was so sleep deprived then that even the most foundational parenting principles were not retained - its like now I am so sleep deprived that sometimes it takes me a good five minutes to remember what month it is, a few days ago I literally could not remember the word for lettuce. As I laid there last night I really tried hard to remember Calvin's infancy and some distinct memories came back to me. I think I forgot some of them because I like to block out negative in my life - but I do remember he was also a horrible sleeper and that I got maybe 3 hours of sleep a night the first three months of his life. I also remember reading parenting books like crazy, such as Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and loving them and swearing I would put all the principles into practice from the beginning with my next baby...did I do it, NO. In fact I reread the book before I had Kyla but I still didn't do it. So here are some things I am telling myself, in the future, in simple terms so that even in a sleep deprived state I can understand them.
1. It is a totally and complete lie that you can not spoil a newborn - the books tell you up and down but I am convinced they just say that because they don't want mothers to neglect their children. As my sister Lucinda so eloquently put it, "that is a load of Fooie". From the very first day you better start your routines and rules cause babies get used to things quickly and then there is no going back without a lot of pain. Of course you have to hold your baby and love your baby and respond to your baby, but my definition of spoiling in this case is - getting your baby used to something and him/her preferring it over anything else.
2. Never, NEVER feed your baby while in bed. Now we all know we shouldn't let a baby fall asleep while nursing - that is impossible by the way cause they always fall asleep while nursing - but a more important rule is: YOU never fall asleep while your baby is nursing. Why, because then before you know it you wake up -three hours have passed and your baby has come to realize she loves sleeping next to her warm comfy mom and snacking whenever she wants and I got news for you, her bassinet is not going to cut it after that. It is so hard because we are so tired and we just don't want to get up and go to the rocking chair, we want to pull the baby out of the bassinet, lay in bed and we promise we will put her right back - yeah right!
3. Don't even start the baby in a bassinet, just start her out in another room altogether - Again, all these things we do are because we are so tired, we don't want to walk down the hall to get the baby every time they cry. We want a little bassinet right by our side so it is easier. Well yeah but then trying to move them into a big scary crib and a lonely room is virtually impossible. Also, if the baby is in another room you aren't as likely to pick her up at every noise, and she isn't as likely to be awakened every time Moema sneezes.
4. At night, don't pick the baby up if she isn't hungry, calm her but don't pick her up - Now this is something all the parenting books say and I know I have tried to do it but maybe I just gave up to easy...I am not convinced this is even possible but I guess with the next one I will give it a try. This means you pat her belly or give her her paci (also perhaps not a good idea) but don't pick her up. Now with my little Kyla this is her big issue, any little noise or any little bit of gas and she is up like a light and won't calm down unless I hold her, rock her, and put her back to sleep. Now this can happen every ten minutes sometimes...right now I am up at least every hour with her.
5. Put her down to sleep awake - Again I have never been successful doing this but all the parenting books say to do this, I think the baby would just scream and you don't like a newborn to scream. Anyway, they are supposed to learn to soothe themselves form the beginning, Kyla absolutely does not know how to do this...so be sure and try and allow the baby to soothe themselves to sleep without nursing, paci, or any other intervention from you.
6. Really think twice about the Pacifier. Now I love the paci, it makes life so much easier for me. But the problem is that if the baby loves the paci too much and needs it to sleep then that means that if it falls out- you are the one who has to put it back in. Now newborns to 6 months old have no ability to hold it in their mouths so you are going to be replacing the paci dozens of times a night. In some ways I think sucking thumb would be better in the early days...now I know it is harder to break them of that habit but it might help with infant sleeping. Calvin is two and he still has his paci for naps and nighttime and we still have to go in several times a night when it falls out and he can't find it in his crib.
7. Cry it out Method - Now this is what I am doing with Kyla right now and let me tell you it is hell, and I have to do it because I have not followed the rules above, I feel like a horrible mother and it is a very sad few days...but I did it with Calvin and he was cured after one night of crying...Kyla seems to be stubborn but she is also a worse sleeper - she wakes up so frequently at night that I really had no choice, I had to sleep train her or die of exhaustion. I pray she gets it soon because it is so painful not going to your child when they cry! I lay their thinking: is she hating me, is she being traumatized, what damage am I doing to my child. But in the end, with Calvin he still loves me and it was way worth it! He is a great sleeper now (other than the paci addiction). Kyla seemed to be fine today after last night and doesn't seem to hold a grudge.
8. Swaddling - Do not swaddle beyond six weeks. I think six weeks is when the jerking is mostly subsided. Beyond that I think it really helps get the baby to sleep but I am convinced it makes them more gassy cause they can't move around and I know with Kyla it is another hard habit to break. With Kyla now when I don't swaddle her she wakes herself up easily when moving around, I don't think this would be such a problem if I had stopped swaddling earlier.
9. Naps and Schedules are so importnat - This is a lesson I learned with Calvin and have been trying to implement with Kyla. Depending on the age you will have different schedules but I think it is so important to read up on when your baby should be sleeping during the day and make sure it happens. This curtails your ability to do stuff...you need to be home between 9 and 11 for morning nap, and between 12 and 2 for afternoon nap...but it is worth it for your baby and for yourself. It should make her a better sleeper at night (hasn't worked so far for Kyla) and a happier child in general.
10. Never let your baby sleep on the bed - Now this is something I used to do with Calvin that I remember well the horrible outcome. I would take an afternoon nap with him on the bed. Now this was nice but then when he got to around six months I started to worry he would roll over and fall off the bed. When I tried to switch him to his crib for naps but he decided it was not going to happen, he simply would not sleep anywehre but on the bed. I had to build an elaborate fortresses to make sure he couldn't fall off the bed and bought a video baby monitor to watch him when I wasn't sleeping by him.
11. Tummy sleeping is not as evil as some people think - Yes I know about SIDS and I am sure in the long run you baby is less likely to die when on the back...however, I think that babies sleep so much better on their tummies, they can work their gas out, and Calvin would only sleep that way. I think if you make sure their are no pillows or blankets in the crib and their is breathable fabric on the sides you are pretty safe. But again, try the back first.
12. Don't nurse your baby everytime she wakes up - This is a hard rule to keep because you know as soon as you nurse her she will go back to sleep and be happy as a clam and you won't have to work to get her calm down again...but guess what, then she will be up every hour and will only calm down when you nurse and suddenly you are no better than a milk cow - even they have several hours between milkings.
Basically with anything you do with your baby you have to ask yourself...am I willing to have live with this intervention for the next year of this child's life. I am sure there is more I am forgetting but I hope this helps you...future me, and that you listen to these words and avoid the hell I am experiencing right now.