Monday, August 2, 2010

Chronicling Babywise- Week 3

I'm taking this go-round with a new baby to chronicle our day-by-day use of the Babywise 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, Babywise 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]


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