The Blob Trimester: Baby’s Z’s 1st 3 months

As my youngest (baby Z) is one week shy of 4 months, I find myself fondly reflecting on the fourth trimester haze. If you are not familiar with the term “fourth trimester”, it is common terminology for the first 3 postpartum months. Due to human anatomy and the limitations of the birth canal, human babies are born neurologically premature. Thus my rationale for (very affectionately) calling my newborn a blob.

Let’s put it this way: newborns would never survive in the wild. They can’t hold their heads up, they can’t make meaningful movements with their arms and legs, they can barely see, and they are easily surprised. They can only communicate via crying and they spend a great majority of their days sleeping, drinking milk, peeing and pooing. This is one reason why the fourth trimester is so challenging for new parents: you are suddenly in charge of keeping a small, defenseless human alive. No pressure!

Prety daunting, huh? Couple this with the fact that new parents are chronically sleep-deprived (newflash: babies don’t know the difference between day and night, so you may find yourself pulling a lot of all-nighters), moms are experiencing a hormonal hailstorm (why does everything make me cry? why am I suddenly so angry at my husband? why am I so worried about every damn thing?) and everything you previously knew about yourself has gone out the window (so long hobbies, singular focus on career, social life). Given all of the above, we might as well also call this time period the sob trimester.

Never fear, however. Between 3-4 months, everything gets easier. Yes, there are still challenges (hello 4 month sleep regression!), but your little blob has turned into a reciprocal mini-human who tracks your movements, produces wide-toothed smiles and even cackles with laughter, which makes the experience much more rewarding.

For the sake of preserving my own memories, here’s a recap of Baby Z’s first 3 months:

  • Birth: By far the best of three (third time’s the charm!). Baby X was induced and we barely made it to the hospital with Baby Y. For Baby Z, we went to the hospital as soon as contractions started and were told to walk around until they intensified. We did this for quite some time, even coming home to shower and re-pack, so by the time we returned to the hospital, it was go-time but not baby’s-about-to-fall-out time. I was able to get an epidural (thank you, modern medicine), labor peacefully and when it came time to push, he was out after basically 3 pushes with no tearing involved.
  • Sleep: We purchased a Snoo for this guy, but I wasn’t quite comfortable having him sleep in it from day one. The rocking seemed a bit intense for me and I capped it (there is a function where you can limit the motion) and have kept it as such to this day. In the beginning, he honestly mostly slept in bed with me (my husband would supervise so I didn’t roll on him) and we also lay him down in the Snoo (without turning it on) or put him in the Rock n Play (which he honestly never liked very much and also isn’t safe for unsupervised sleep). We hired a weekend night nanny for those first rough nights and she fell asleep holding the baby on the third night she worked for us! As my husband would say: WTF? YOU HAVE ONE JOB!!! That was pretty traumatic, but baby was okay and we gently told her we were no longer in need of a night nanny. I have to be honest: the sleep was pretty rough early on. He would spend a few hours up each night and I often had no idea what to do with him around 2-5am. My husband was also saving his paternity leave so I tried not to bother him since he had to work the next day. It was pretty intense. I tried to establish an early bedtime for him, but he went to sleep around 11p for a long time! Just recently (close to/when he hit 3 months), he started falling asleep around 9. Early on, he would be up cluster-feeding for quite a few hours (e.g. 8p-11p/12a) but more recently he would do a longer stretch, waking up either at 1a or 3a. So most nights he’ll wake up 1-2 times. The first nap was also the first to fall into place, as it usually does. It’s the one I can actually set him down “drowsy but awake” for! At the moment, we are traveling (good-bye Snoo!) and have him in a Pack n Play. I have to say that he’s not loving it. Last night, he was up every 2 hours, and spent the bulk of the night in bed with me. I’m not sure if this is a Snoo transition issue, a travel/change of environment issue, or the start of the 4 month sleep regression, but I don’t like it.
  • Temperament: When we first brought him home, we were a bit concerned he would be colicky like Baby X. Turns out he was just a normal newborn who wanted to be held, cuddled and carried pretty much all day. With every need attended to/preempted, he’s happy as a peach. He likes tummy time, mat time, play time (songs and the occasional book when he gets his own) and of course still loves when we tote him around all day. So far, he’s a happy, go-lucky baby who can also entertain himself independently (for now, this mostly involves staring at something in the distance).
  • Feeding: Baby Z latched pretty easily. I had one of the nurses remind me of the appropriate position when they are little blobs and can’t hold up their heads, but he quickly got the hang of it. I don’t have him on any particular schedule at the moment. He should technically be eating every 3-4 hours, but sometimes it’s less. Of all the baby things, nursing has always been fairly easy for me. Yes, it was always painful in the beginning. I enrolled in a lactation class prior to the birth of my first, worked with lactation consultants in the hospital the first two times, and also had private lactation consultant visits after the first two were born. These steps allowed me to feel more comfortable nursing. And yes, I worried ALL all of the time whether they were getting enough to eat, especially my first. Was he colicky because he was hungry? Were those tears of starvation? Did he want to nurse all of the time because he wasn’t getting enough milk? I also always pumped just enough and was worried each time about how pumping at work would turn out. Yet I was able to nurse the first two for 15 months and pumped until they were 11 months, using up my freezer stash for months 12 and 13. We’ll see what happens with this guy. I’m a bit worried because I had 187 oz and 300 oz of milk saved up for my first and second, respectively, when I went back to work, but currently have only 55 oz with only a few weeks to go (poor third child!). But I am telling myself that the freezer stash really only helped me to stop pumping a bit earlier, so it isn’t the end of the world that his is so limited. After all, every lactation consultant I’ve spoken with has said you only need enough milk for your first day back (and this is true).
  • Developmental milestones: Baby Z was quick to roll from tummy to back. I know I sound like a delusional mom saying this, but he was doing it month one and still does it to this day. He’s flailing his arms around and kicking his legs much more now. He sees well, follows you around with his eyes, smiles and laughs, has coo-ing conversations, and has started to grip things and bring them to his mouth. Actually, everything is starting to wind up in his mouth – his hands, the carrier strap, teething toys, etc. He can also reach out with his hands to swipe things hanging above him on his playmat or on one of his chairs. His neck is pretty strong and I will often place him forward-facing in the carrier (if it’s not naptime) because he likes to observe the world. He’s actually starting to show interest in food already, which seems early to me, but I’m looking forward to introducing solids.

I honestly can’t believe he’s almost 4 months and am definitely patting myself on the back for getting through those tough first few months. Work is just around the corner (a story for another day), but I feel very fortunate to have had this time with him.

 

On the eve of your third birthday

On the eve of your third birthday, I sat besides your crib*, singing to you and rubbing your back because you had a cough and a runny nose and were so frustrated that you couldn’t get the ‘boogies’ out and were having a hard time breathing.

This brought me back to all of the days** and nights I spent besides your crib, rubbing your back and singing. I remembered your last sleep regression, when you were 18 months and I was 8 months pregnant and sleeping on the floor besides your bed just to get a bit of sleep. I remembered how long it would take me to put you down for a nap because you would wake up the moment the hardwood floor creaked as I tried to sneak out of the room. I remembered the months of you waking up between 4:00-5:00am, how sometimes I would just load you up in the stroller when you got up and head out for a (slow) run and then to grab some coffee, letting your dad sleep. Although most of the time I would try to coerce you to fall asleep again and, when that failed, I would make some coffee and bumble through the morning like a zombie. I could go on and on – so many memories of little you.

When you wake up tomorrow, you will be 3. I can hardly believe it. Where did the time go? You have zoomed into toddlerhood before my eyes. Your words, your ideas, your compassion – I have no idea how the helpless newborn I brought into the world in 2014 has grown to be this loving, imaginative, and awe-inspiring child. You amaze me every day, little nugget.

Love,
Mom

*We are not quite ready to move X to a toddler bed. Mostly we’re afraid that he’ll recognize he has the freedom to roam outside of his room in the middle of the night/early morning.

**Naps were also not easy for this kid.

Early birds

My youngest woke up at 5am this morning. Ouch. I wouldn’t mind so much if he didn’t wake up early every single morning! I know what I should do (according to my sleep consultant): set the wake-up time for him (e.g. 7:00 am) and let him fuss until that time. Eventually, babies are supposed to learn that wake-up time is at X o’clock. Logically, this makes sense. If I go to him when he wakes up at 5:15am, 5:30am, etc., then I am rewarding him for waking up early (if I wake up early I get milk! cuddles! play!).

I have a hard time doing that, for no good reason really. But I think: if he slept from 7p-5a, that’s actually pretty good! Or: maybe he’s not tired. Or: maybe he’s just an early bird (before kids, I used to be an early riser). And most times I just can’t deal with the crying. In sum, I make a lot of excuses for him. I did the same with my first. He used to wake up 4:30a-5:30a! I would prep my walking/running gear the night before, wrap him up first thing in the morning, and set off for the park to let my husband sleep in a bit. Other times I would try to see whether he would fall asleep again (he was much better at doing so than my second, who never falls asleep once he’s up in the morning). And probably 70% of the time I’d make coffee and see what games we could play that involved my laying horizontally the entire time.

Two weeks ago, I tried to nip this early wake-up behavior in the bud. I had razor-sharp focus because we were awaiting a family visit and I knew that the kids would be sharing a room. Now, I can deal with one child up at 5a, but I do not want to deal with two children up at 5a, especially when one is a toddler and nothing is worse than a sleep-deprived toddler! So when my little guy woke up at 5a, I let him fuss until 6a. It was easy to do because I was so tired that I just kept drifting in and out of sleep. Lo and behold, the first night they were in the same room, he slept until 6:45a. But this slowly deteriorated to 6:30a…6:00a…5:45a…5:30a…5:15a…and, today, 5:00a. But I don’t have the courage to let him fuss in his brother’s room at 5:00a because, again, the horror of sleep-deprived toddlers.

I just keep holding out hope that this early-rising phase will soon come to an end. My first started “sleeping in” somewhere between 18-20 months, and he was a terrible sleeper. So this little guy, who sleeps better overall, should start sleeping in soon, right? Fingers crossed. Until then, I’ll keep drinking that coffee…

Sleeping again (maybe)

My youngest turns 7 months in a week. This is truly unbelievable and I can’t believe how quickly the past few month have flown by! One of the perks of him turning 7 months is that he is now sleeping through the night – hurrah! This is happening because we’ve worked on it (by letting him cry and self-settle, more on that in a later post), but also because he’s getting older and doesn’t need to eat every 2 hours. Admittedly, he was eating every 2 hours approximately 2 weeks ago, at a time when he most certainly did not NEED to eat every 2 hours, but these little babies sure can be manipulative!

In any case, I am again amazed by how sleeping through the night gives you a whole new perspective on life. Granted, it has only been two nights, and I’m an old hand now – I know that regressions are around the corner – but WOW does it feel good to sleep without waking up every 2-3 hours! I can actually think more clearly, and act more quickly, and I have a much better temperament. Also – the possibilities seem endless! Now that I’m sleeping through the night, perhaps I will actually wake up early to go to the bi-weekly exercise class I signed up for in January. Or maybe I will blog more. Who knows? Again – endless possibilities.