Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Babies Are Confusing, Volume I

I figure 3 months of newborn bootcamp makes me a parenting expert, so it’s time to start dispensing advice. (And since there is no font to denote sarcasm yet, let me be clear: nope.) IF I was in a position to offer advice to anyone it would be this:

Newborns require flexibility.

And my second piece of advice?

Newborns require consistency.

So far, if I could sum Bo up in a brief description it would be 14 cuddly, squishy pounds of contradictions. Every day feels like a dance between learning to read cues and be flexible and at the same time, not varying too much from a routine and throwing everything off. I imagine it will get easier with time – so far everything else has – but in the meantime, Bo and I are definitely still learning how to hang out together without it ending in tears. For both of us.

At this point, we’ve got a pretty good routine going. At the suggestions of one of my friends whose baby is just 6 weeks older than Bo (Hi Anna!), I started a bedtime routine for him around 2 months. Not that he’s old enough to appreciate the fine literary works of Sandra Boynton, but I figured it was never too early to start. Around 7 every night, we do his last bottle, take a bath, read a few books, say our prayers and off to bed he goes. There’s something soothing about this routine now for all of us, and I find that whenever we stray from the routine – say, take him out to dinner with us and stay too late – ain’t nobody happy. He wakes up once in the night for a bottle and goes right back to sleep, which is more than I can say about big brother Buddy who still thinks we should get up two to three times in the night. (Unrelated: dog for sale.) He wakes up happy in the morning, and the day takes off from there.

Every three hours, he eats and then we play – tummy time, wiggling on the activity mat, chatting with his owl friends on his mobile, bouncing in the bouncer or jumper, et cetera. He’s grown more independent in the last month, which means I can put him down in the jumper and get dinner started or fold laundry or, gasp, blow dry my hair. (It’s the little things.) His wakeful period is short – usually an hour in the morning and up to 2 hours in the afternoons – before the fussing starts and he needs to go back down for a nap. I’m always amazed at how quickly that hour goes by, and I feel like I’m constantly putting him back down for a nap. (Note: that is not a complaint. I am overjoyed to have a child that naps well. It just surprised me how short babies stay awake for. I had no idea.)

However, while this all sounds like we have our days running on perfect little train tracks… the flexibility requirement comes in when I add in the fact that Bo’s wake up time varies from 6:30 am to 8:00 am. (And thanks to DST, 5:30 am to 7:00 am. Wheee!!). So the 3 hour increments kick off from the time he wakes up, but I never know when that’s going to be. Trying to plan a play date, or a doctor’s appointment or even when I’m going to the grocery store is often a matter of a day by day decision. I’ve sent lots of texts to friends saying “Sorry – we aren’t going to make it today. Still napping.”  (I have woken him up from a nap once and only once, and that was for a doctor’s appointment. To get shots.  If that’s not the meanest thing in the world, I don’t know what is.) So at this point, I’ve learned flexibility is key. Go with the flow. Be okay with cancelled walking dates and keep a handful of frozen pizzas in the freezer.

But while flexibility might seem like the law of the land, consistency – I’ve learned the hard way – is just as important. While we don’t have a schedule, we certainly have a routine. Anytime I try to push that hour in the morning (or two hours in the afternoon), the ugly starts. While he’s a great napper, he’s become pretty dependent on his pre-nap routine – a book, a swaddle, a white noise machine and yes, the swing – and naps on the fly just don’t happen like they did in month one with the exception of a moving car seat nap.  (And that is how sometimes you find yourself sitting in the Trader Joe’s parking lot for 45 minutes because never wake a sleeping baby.)

Just another nap in the parking lot.
This morning was a great reminder of the importance of the routine. I had made tentative plans with my friend Denise yesterday to meet her at a music class at the library at 11 this morning. Once the day got started, I thought it was looking like we could go. I was kind of excited – Bo LOVES when I sing to him (which leads me to believe he must be tone deaf) and he loves looking at other babies, so I thought he’d like the class and I was looking forward to seeing my friend and her sweet boy. It was only 30 minutes long, which is perfect for his attention span.

The class was at 11:00, meaning we’d have to leave the house at 10:40. It was going to be a close call when he woke up from a nap at 9:10, but I thought if he took a catnap in the car going over there we could pull it off. At 9:30, he had a bottle and I plopped him in his boppy with some toys to blow dry my hair and get dressed. 

Crinkly elephant provides hours of entertainment. And by hours, I mean ten minutes.
At 10:10 on the dot, his little face started to squinch up. I swapped out toys for a wubbanub but that only bought me a few minutes. “It’s okay,” I thought, “he’ll sleep in the car and will be fine for the class. And you know what, if not, we’ll just turn around and come home and he’ll get a long car nap.”

By the time I had put pants on him and had the car seat ready, he was in full out meltdown mode. I stared at that little red face and my gut loudly told me to shelf the library idea, get him in a swaddle and put him back down for a nap. One hour awake time in the morning. Consistency is key.

On the way upstairs to his room, he sealed the deal by spitting up all over me. “Oh, were you going to wear that cute shirt in public, Mommy? Sorry about that.”

Spit Happens.

Sure enough, 5 minutes after I put him down he was out. And stayed asleep for another 90 minutes.


It’s a slow work in progress, figuring out this new life of ours. Despite the fact that I thrive on routines, I’m generally okay with any lack of any real predictability of our lives because most days I have the ability to plan my errands – a grocery store run or what have you – around him and make sure he gets the naps he needs. And I know it will get easier to take him out when his wake periods are longer, but when that happens I’ll also be giving up the long nap periods. Each stage comes with its challenges and its blessings.

I do wonder if I should be helping guide him more to a schedule (waking him up at the same time?) or continue to allow him to set the tone for each day. I know if I was going to work each day and he had to go to daycare, we’d wake up at the same time every day and that’d be that. There would certainly be a greater level of predictability to our day if I knew he napped at, say 9:00 and 11:00 and 3:00 and 5:00.  But then I wonder if I’m rushing him towards something he doesn’t need, and since we have the luxury of flexibility do I just continue to let him set the schedule of each day? (Advice welcome.)

Measure what you manage.
These are the questions that bounce around my head and fill up my google search engine. There seems to be no right or wrong answer, like everything else when it comes to rearing babies. I also have a feeling that these are the questions in 3 or 4 months I will look back at and wonder why I worried about them.  But of course that just means by that time there will be something totally new for me to try and figure out.



Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I vote for allowing him to wake when ready in the morning. It is one of the BEST parts of being able to stay home,instead of having to get him up, NOT on his schedule, to drag him to a babysitter.
And, dog for sale? I get first dibs.
Love you all, Baby Bo and Buds and momma and daddy!

A Glenn said...

45 minutes in the parking lot, eh? At least you have time to tweet, email, etc.!

And I do believe the lovely lady before me has offered to take Spuds. Have you told Matt yet? Here, here to more sleep!

Unknown said...

very. cute. shirt. ;)

k. said...

I read this in the middle of the night last night & kept thinking, "Yup, yup... been there, yup... that happened once... yup"


Really though, I think you've got it - routine over schedule is best, I think - especially when you have the flexibility to allow that. Soon enough, he'll wake up on his own at the same time(ish) every morning & you won't even have to worry about it - & the naps will consolidate & you'll both fall into a new kind of normal that is really great (until the next transition comes, anyway). Soon enough, he WILL be napping at consistent times each day (once he's down to two or three naps a day) & life will slowly evolve again into something where you can actually plan things. :)

I remember those first several (!) months cancelling MANY a friend-date thanks to a long or a short nap. Sigh. And it still sort of happens now (with Q), except that he's older, & more flexible... but I was always mama bear about protecting those naps... Happy baby = happy mama.

Also - what is this notebook business?! Don't you have an app for all of this?! Get BabyConnect right this second.

chrisandabbie said...

Ok so I know I'm SUPER late commenting on this post but I was reading back through your blogs for some encouragement and I found it! I am very much a "schedule" person and, even though Hudson is only 3 weeks old, I have wondered if I should have him on a schedule since day 1. But, I love this post and how you put the emphasis on consistency and flexibility! I am going to keep that in mind and focus more on "routine" than schedule. So thanks!

Oh, and Bo is PRECIOUS by the way!!