Saturday, September 28, 2013

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...

    The two questions I get asked most often about Perrin are "Is he a good baby?" and "How long does he sleep at night?" or some variation of those two.
    The first one is stupid. All babies are good babies. What people really mean is the second- does the baby sleep? Is he/she relatively quiet? And people ask this question like there is a right answer. Some people really think there is. Your baby should sleep the entire night by some arbitrary age. My baby never cried because I did this one thing, and if you do it too, all your problems will be solved. Blah, blah, bullshit.
     I'm not saying that there aren't some people who have amazingly easy, quiet babies. All I'm saying is that those are exceptions, not the rule. In fact, I think many parent's lie or exaggerate how easy their child is because generally the people who ask the above questions ask them like there is a right answer. And if you don't say what they are expecting, it's a reflection on you as a parent. Whether or not that is what the asker intends, I don't know. But I know as a parent that is how it feels and even I sometimes feel the pressure to stretch the truth or at least qualify it for others. So for all of you out there who's two-week old hasn't figured out how to tuck him/herself in for the night yet, here is my reality- the truthful answers to all those fun questions.

Is he a good baby?
    He only fuses when he needs something. This is always my answer. All babies are good babies. They have biologically imperative needs which they are completely dependent on you to meet and they are working with limited communication skills, how cooperative would you be? If a baby is not acting contentedly it is because he/she is not content. There are many types of needs and they are all important for proper growth and development.
    Perrin is actually a half-way easy baby. He is very high needs, but over all he is good natured and generally happy. He rarely cries because we have learned to communicate well and can usually figure what he needs when he is just starting to get fussy. We haven't had to deal with anything like colic or reflux, so it could honestly be a lot worse. Perrin needs to be held. That is what makes him feel secure and allows him to sleep best. I honestly forget that a lot of kids get "put down" for naps. Perrin doesn't. He either sleeps being held in a chair or being worn for all of his naps. His moses basket is basically a changing table (which we don't have, so score!). Perrin also doesn't entertain himself for long periods of time. This is probably because he is only 3 months old and not that entertaining. We play with him in the floor or on our laps. About the longest he will be content by himself is while I get a shower and he is in his bouncy seat in the morning (sometimes about 20-30 minutes at best).
Is he sleeping through the night?
    Hahahaha. No. There are plenty of biological reasons why babies aren't designed to sleep through the night and shouldn't. For the first 8 weeks, Perrin would go a maximum of 2 hours (sometimes only 45 minutes) at a time sleeping at night. However, his sleep cycle (I use this to describe the time in which he exhibits a night time sleep pattern versus his day time pattern, which became differentiated around week 2) has always lasted 10-12 hours.
   I honestly couldn't tell you how often he wakes at night now, because at around 8 weeks he finally got to where he would nurse well in a side-lying position. We cosleep, so now if we wakes up at night all I have to do is latch him on and fall back asleep. I rarely remember exactly how many times he woke up. Sometimes he actually latches and nurses, sometimes he just needs help changing positions. I don't really pay attention because the most he ever requires me to do is roll over. My bladder gives me more sleep trouble than he does.

How often/how much does he eat?
    I have no idea. He is breastfed, so there is no measuring involved. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. If he seems discontent and I'm not sure the cause, I usually offer the breast as a first recourse. He eats whenever he wants for however long he wants. He often nurses all the way through nap times. When he was younger, he would cluster feed a lot, sometimes for 6 hours at a time. He nurses whenever he wants at night, because like I said we cosleep and side-lie nurse so I barely even wake up. He is gaining weight and healthy and happy. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

How many naps does he take?
   No clue. Usually he takes several and they only last for 30-45 minutes. Sometimes he'll sleep for two hours, sometimes only for fifteen minutes. Some days it seems like he's up all day, some days he sleeps constantly. He sleeps when he is tired. We don't plan around his schedule because he doesn't have one. Sometimes he naps while we are running errands, sometimes he is awake and feeding the whole time.

So there you have it. I can't answer most of the questions because honestly, I don't pay attention. He doesn't sleep through the night, he never sleeps by himself. He needs one on one attention about 23 hours of the day and eats and sleeps whenever he feels like it.

It makes me sad when I hear people tell new moms that there baby should be on some kind of schedule or meeting some kind of deadline or doing this or doing that. Especially because the reason is often for convenience rather than necessity. The whole "don't make a rod for your own back" argument. This at best leads to a lot of stress and at worst can interfere with breastfeeding and cause low supply, poor weight gain, an overly fussy baby, and a very tired parent.

Two things about that argument, while we are on the subject: 1) That is not anthropogically accurate. Babies have needs that should be met and their little bodies and brains do not conform well to our adult schedules. They are designed to be needy and to have immediate and appropriate responses to those needs.
2) Our way is easier. I don't stress about watching clocks or recording feedings or this or that. We can just go with the flow. And those same people who tell me that Perrin will be 16 and still nursing and sleeping in my bed are generally the same people trying to convince their toddler to give up a pacifier or running out to buy a lovey because the other one got lost or dirty and the little one just can't get along with out. Or who's kids fall apart if the daily schedule has to be changed. All kids need things in their lives to make them feel secure. Sometimes it is a relationship, sometimes it is an object, sometimes it's a combination of both. But don't tell me that an attached and biologically appropriate relationship with a child is any more of a crutch than dependence on a schedule or inanimate object.

So for parent's who feel uncertain because their child isn't doing everything the way they "should"'s normal. You are normal. If there is one thing that talking with tons of moms has taught me, it's that everything is normal. If baby is happy and healthy and you are at least partially sane, you are doing it right. Don't sweat it. And don't listen to those naysayers who are telling you that you will ruin your child by meeting his or her needs. You can't spoil a baby.They will be grown and independent soon enough. Giving them the time and attention now will give them a firm foundation to stand on.

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