Sunday, 14 July 2013

Moving the goal posts

I don't know where the past 6 weeks have gone - it's hard to believe that Finley is already almost 7 weeks old.

The past week has been a challenging one as Finley's Fussy Switch has been flipped.  Apparently this is normal at 6 weeks.  My friend Julie calls it the "6 week terrors".  I stopped asking how long these little spells last, as I'm learning something sneaky about the dissemination of parenting advice: everyone keeps moving the goal posts!

When we were in hospital with brand-new Finley, he slept ALOT.  He cried when he was hungry and otherwise was a pretty content little guy.  The night before our departure he cried and cried and cried all night.  We tried all the tricks in our woefully understocked arsenal and eventually got the nurse to come in and help.  She was great and told us not to worry, that it was normal for babies to get really fussy on day 3-4 as the breast milk was not in yet and he was hungry.  She told us we just needed to get through the next few days and he would settle down once the milk came in.

We felt reassured and took a fussy, cluster-feeding 5-day old home the next day.  Our first few days at home were crazy!  We were struggling a bit with the breastfeeding and Finley only liked to sleep cuddled up on someone's chest.   Sleep deprivation was hitting new levels.

After we'd been home for a few days, a public health nurse by the name of Nancy came to the house to check up on us (this is a service offered to all new parents in B.C.)  She was like an angel!  She had all sorts of practical advice about breastfeeding, sleeping, and some tips for new parents.  "Until he's two weeks old, you should just be in survival mode", she warned us.  Great advice, but wait - did she say "two weeks"?  I thought we just had to survive the first few days until the milk came in.... Oh well, we could make it through two weeks!

Sure enough, those two weeks were hard, but we got through.  We got into a feeding rhythm and Finley started sleeping better.  He fussed at times, but for the most part, we felt we had a pretty easy baby.  As he got older we noticed he spent more time in the "quiet alert" state - just chilling out, looking all around him.  Yay!  We then make the mistake of marvelling in what an easy going little guy we had.

The very next day, someone flipped the switch!  Poor Finley had a wretched day - he cried all day, didn't manage a single nap (which made him even more cranky.)  Monday was the worst (I guess even babies hate Mondays!), but this week has been a fussier and crankier Finley, and subsequently, a more exhausted Mommy & Daddy.

Now I heard that crying and fussing hit their peak at 6 weeks.  Two of my good friends just had this experience with their babies and it's confirmed by two of my books and a host of online blogs (it must be true if its on the net!)  Whether it's a growth spurt, gassiness, increased alertness or just plain fussiness, it seems to be a universal truth. Wait, why didn't someone tell me this before?  I thought it was the first two weeks that we had to be in survival mode, but we are in it again!

Last week I ran into a patient of mine at the coffee shop.  She's pregnant with her second baby and I recall her telling me what a easy baby her first was.  I told her that I was having a tough week with Finley and she sympathetically told me that it would pass... "The first three months are like Baby Vietnam".  Her husband nodded his head in agreement.  Three months?  I thought it was a spell from 6 weeks to 8?

They keep moving the goal posts on us!  It's a secret conspiracy that veteran parents use to keep rookie parents in the dark! 

I've seen these tactics before in sports: you just need to get to that tree, or to that mountain, but around the corner there is always a new goal to achieve.  I guess that's the way it goes: parenthood is a ever changing playing field and we need to be ready with new tactics every time a new challenge appears.  But we are up for the task & when Finley flashes us that happy smile, all the sleeplessness is forgotten!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Drowsy but awake: Tales of a nap resister

"Drowsy but awake" - This is a phrase which makes me laugh.  First, it very succinctly describes how I am pretty much all the time.  After medical school and residency, I thought I knew sleep deprivation. Parenthood takes it to a whole new level!

I like to think I'm pretty relaxed person in general, but let's face it - you don't meet a lot of doctors who don't have some type A personality traits.  In the parenting department, my type A personality is trying to "solve" sleep deprivation.  I know that this is a fruitless exercise with a two-month-old baby, but something drives me to read every article, every website, and every book on the subject.  And believe me, there is a lot of material on the subject!

Lately I've been focusing my attention on the all important nap.  I know from my extensive reading as well as from my experience in the last two months, that the key to a good day and a good night is napping.  Before Finley was born, I imagined myself doing exactly what I tell my patients to do: "Sleep when your baby sleeps."  I had visions of my baby peacefully sleeping in the crib, while I peacefully slept in the bed next to him.  Well, unless I learn to nap while walking, that vision is not going to be a reality any time soon.

All the reading I've done on the subject seems to share one common thread of advice: put your baby in his bassinet "drowsy but awake". In theory, they say this will teach your baby to learn how to fall asleep on his own.   The last thing you would want to do is rock, sing  walk, nurse, or otherwise trick your baby into a sleep state before you put him down.   This is a joke that sleep "experts" are playing on new parents.  When it comes to napping in the bassinet, Finley is a conscientious objector.  On the recommendations of my books, I started doing what I call the "nap dance". As soon as I recognized that Finley was tired, I took him to his room.  I would swaddle  him up cozy, then sing and rock him til his eyelids were drooping.  Yes, I admit I sometimes let him fall right to sleep.  Once he was there, I would gently lower him into his bassinet.  The second his body would hit the mattress, he  would wake up crying.  I would then pick him up and repeat.  I once did this for five cycles (nearly two hours!). My book claims he will eventually get it and just peacefully drift off to dreamland.   We could do the nap dance for another hour, or I could pop him into baby-carrier and have him asleep before I get out the front door.  Which is what we do.  At least four times everyday!

Swaddle- check.  Soother- check.  Favourite blankie - check.  White noise - check.  Reassuring hand- check.  
Sleeping baby... er, not so much!

Our little nap-resister will sometimes nap in other places, like on our laps, 

on our chests, 

in Dad's arms,

in his Aunt Kari's arms,

in the big person bed with Throckmorton,

on the sofa,

or in the crook of Grandpa's arm while enjoying a beer with his friend Peter and watching the Tour de France.

But walking in the baby-carrier is his very favourite.  I suspect it's because I walked so much in pregnancy that he's used to jostling around all snuggled up to a warm body.  So we walk and walk and walk!  Finley gets his naps while mommy and daddy get their exercise!  It could be worse- it could be the middle of November, or he could be an environmentally-unfriendly baby who only naps in the car.

Here is a real time shot of Finley napping on me while I write this post.  He is fast asleep, I am drowsy, but awake.  I could do what the books say and wake him to transfer him, drowsy but awake, to the correct napping place, his bed... Or I could let him snooze happily and enjoy this time when my Finley is little and cuddly and just wants to curl up with his mama.  Yes, that sounds much nicer.