One of the parenting books that we have (Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach) has a chapter on “The Newborn”, followed by a chapter on “The Settled Baby.” I find this distinction really helpful. Leach explains,
“One day you will find that you have stopped regarding your baby as an unpredictable and therefore rather alarming novelty, and have begun instead to think of him as a person with tastes, preferences, and characteristics of his own. When that happens you will know that he has moved on from being a “newborn” and has got himself settled into life…A settled baby is a manageable proposition. If you feel he’s a little devil, at least he is a little devil who you know. You can tell how he likes to be handled even if it is not the way you would chose to handle him. You know what to expect from him even if it is the worst, know what frightens him even if it is almost everything. Above all, you can tell when he is happy…So once your baby is settled you know what you are up against. Instead of trying to survive from hour to hour, get through another day, avoid thinking about another week, you can begin to work and plan for reasonable compromises between his needs and those of everyone else”
I think we’re approaching having a settled baby. We know at least a few things about who this kid is, and are starting to find ways to make life with her work.
Mostly we know that she likes to eat! She goes from “hey guys, I’m feeling a little peckish” to blood-curdling screams and “OMG, I’m starving and no one ever feeds me!!!” in about 30 seconds. But not much else (wet/dirty diapers, being poked by her brother, etc.) seems to bother her. When she cries, about 85% of the time it means she’s hungry and the other 15% of the time it’s related to gas.
We’ve fallen in to at least a rough schedule. Sprout eats pretty constantly all evening long (starting anywhere between 5pm and 8pm and finishing between 10pm and 2am), but then sleeps for a few several-hour stretches after that. We had one growth spurt where she ate pretty constantly for about 24 hours, which was really tough. But other than that I’m managing to get a relatively decent amount of sleep as long as I don’t try to leave the house before noon.
We’re finding our way with feeding as well. Sprout is no longer screaming or sleeping instead of eating when she’s hungry (though I do often have to change her diaper halfway through a feeding to wake her up). I’m breastfeeding her most of the time, but we’ve started offering her bottles sometimes too. I feel much less claustrophobic knowing that other people can feed the baby. And it has been incredibly helpful to know that Roo can give Sprout a bottle when I’m worn out from nursing all evening, or when I need a break in the middle of the night. I’m pumping some, and trying to find a balance between keeping my supply up and being so worried about it that I lose the benefits of having someone else able to feed the baby. I think Roo has really enjoyed having time on her own with Sprout, and I have enjoyed being able to give more time and attention to Tad.
We’d had some anxiety about Sprout’s weight gain early on, and we went for yet another weight check at her pediatrician’s office yesterday. We’d been told that they like to see babies gaining 1/2 to 1 ounce per day. Yesterday we found out that BabyGirl had gained a pound in ten days! Our lovely pediatrician said multiple times, “I don’t want you to worry about the feeding. It’s clear that the breastfeeding is going well. I just want you to enjoy your baby.” It’s exciting to feel like the hard work and sleepless nights are paying off. It’s a huge relief to stop rigorously charting feeding times, number of wet diapers, etc. And the really fabulous outcome of this is that we no longer have to wake her up to feed her, so we might get a few longer stretches of sleep at night. I feel so lucky to have a baby who was able to figure this stuff out with relatively little drama.
Tadpole also seems to be settling into this new life. He did inform us the other day, “did you know that some kids don’t want to have a baby sister or brother?”, and we had a long conversation about how “some kids” might feel. He has occasionally been not-so-gentle with Sprout. But he also often asks to hold her and calls her lots of silly affectionate names and usually demands that she be present for his bedtimes. The other morning I had gone upstairs to get something and left Sprout in her car seat next to Tad, who was eating breakfast. Sprout started fussing and Tad came over to her and said, “it’s okay! Your big brother is here” and tried to make faces to entertain her.
Roo and I are finding our way as well. I’ve been able to help out with Tad’s bedtimes more (though often with the baby attached to me). Roo is getting up with Tad and getting him to school most days, which has let me get some more sleep. Of course the next two weeks (when Tad’s preschool is closed) will require reconfiguring everything. And I’m a little freaked out about how we’ll arrange things when Roo goes back to work the first week of January. But I feel like I know a lot more about what we’re up against and have a few strategies for managing life with this particular kiddo. It’s exhausting and overwhelming and still unpredictable. And it’s hard to get much of anything done outside of keeping the kids clothed and fed. But I think we’re all settling into life as a family of four.