I’m sitting on our living room couch with a snoring baby snuggled under my chin. We’re the only ones home. Tadpole and Roo are out at Tad’s art class. My mom left last Monday. I’m enjoying cozy quiet moments like this as we all settle into this crazy newborn period and our lives as a family of four.
I feel really lucky that breastfeeding is going well overall. Tadpole struggled with breastfeeding from the very beginning. The saga of that is in this old post, but the gist of it is that he couldn’t figure out breastfeeding and we struggled with it for weeks and weeks. So it is a huge relief to have a kid who is breastfeeding without that level of struggle. Sprout usually latches on well, eats as often as she is supposed to, etc. She is gaining weight (though not quite as much as they wanted to se at her last weight check, after being on overachiever at the one before). Last week there were several times when I spent an hour and a half in the middle of the night struggling with a baby who alternately screamed (and refused to eat) or slept (and therefore wasn’t eating), but that is getting better. There are still some times when she takes a while to settle into a feeding, but that means maybe 5 or 10 minutes of working with her instead of 90 minutes. I’m supposed to be feeding her every two hours during the day and every three hours at night, and of course there are lots of times when she wants to eat more often than that. It’s exhausting, and doesn’t leave much time for anything else (especially when one feeding can take an hour). But I know this level of craziness is temporary and realize that things could be much worse.
I remember from Tadpole’s early days that this kind of schedule can be tough. I can get mostly enough sleep if I keep getting up with the baby and going to sleep when she sleeps until I’ve gotten about 7 hours total (albeit in less-than-two-hour chunks). But that means starting going to bed around 8 or 9 and getting up for the day somewhere between 10am and noon. And it means hardly leaving the house (especially since during the day I’m supposed to be feeding every two hours, and given Sprout’s resistance to eating I haven’t felt up for trying to feed her in public much yet). If I stay home too much I get stir-crazy. But if I go out too much, I get exhausted and get stressed about fitting all of Sprout’s feedings in. So I alternate between staying home and feeling on top of things but claustrophobic or going out and feeling less stuck, but also tired and worried about feedings. I’ve gone on walks around the neighborhood the last few days, which has been a good compromise. I’m hopeful that, as we both settle into nursing, I’ll feel confident enough to feed her in public soon, and that should make a big difference in terms of feeling more mobile.
I’m really glad that breastfeeding is going well this time around. It is so much easier to have these occasional struggles with her about eating, rather than the huge battles we had with Tad. And as hard as it is fit in all of the feedings, it is easier than fitting in pumping plus bottle feeding plus attempts to breastfeed (which is what we tried to do in Tad’s early weeks). But the fact that we are breastfeeding means that Roo’s and my roles are different this time around. With Tad, we could share middle-of-the-night feedings, and each of us could go out with the baby on our own. But since we’re still working on getting breastfeeding going smoothly, we’re not ready to introduce bottles yet. This means that I’m almost exclusively focused on feeding Sprout, while Roo is taking care of practically everything else. She has been getting Tad ready in the morning, taking him to and from school, and getting him out of the house for some fun adventures. She also has done countless loads of laundry and dishcs and just about every other household chore. For some families, this kind of trade-off might not be too unusual. But for us, we have long taken pride in dividing things up relatively equally. In our pre-Sprout life, we each had time on our own with Tad and we each helped out with most household chores. I miss spending one-on-one time with Tadpole. I miss being able to go out to run a quick errand without having to think about where Sprout is in terms of feedings. I miss being able to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time! And Roo has mentioned feeling disconnected from Sprout and worrying about how they will bond when she’s not the milk-producing parent. She has been uncomplaing about the chores, but I know she is tired of carrying all of that as well.
We’re working on sharing what we can. Roo has done some important late-night soothing of Sprout when the baby was upset but not hungry. And I have been conscious of fitting in cozy times with Tad, either short out-of-the-house adventures, or reading books together or doing bedtime with him at home. As I’m settling into more of a routine with feeding and am more physically recovered from birth, I am able to help Roo out more around the house. And one good thing about this being our second baby is that we have a little perspective. When Tadpole was a newborn, all that we knew about ourselves as parents was those first few hectic and exhausting weeks. But now we’ve been parents for almost five years, and those first few weeks are just a very small piece of the relationships that we have with Tadpole. So I have faith that my relationship with Tad will weather this crazy time, and that Roo’s relationship with Sprout will have plenty of time to develop. And, most importantly, I know that the sleep deprivation and claustrophobia and lopsided roles are all temporary.