Tuesday, April 26, 2011

During Jamie & Celia's maternity leave we asked a few of our favorite moms from around the internet if they would help fill the space with their wisdom. We asked for their thoughts on being a new mom, motherhood in general, or maybe something that really suprised them (no one told me that!). Please welcome Cate!

You know what sprung to mind when Jamie asked me if I would write about new motherhood? This notebook I had.

Talia spent the first couple of weeks of her life mostly asleep. Then I suppose she must have recovered from being born, realised this outside world was the new normal, and started paying attention.

She was a pretty good sleeper, in the sense that she generally slept at night. She'd wake a lot to feed sometimes, but she wouldn't be up for hours on end screaming. Hardly ever, anyway.

But at some point when she was only weeks old, I started to look for a pattern in her naps. It was a square ruled notebook; I turned it sideways and I wrote all twenty-four hours of the day all the way down the left-hand side. Then I noted when she fed and coloured the little squares to represent the times she was asleep.

And I stressed about it. Because, although she was a good sleeper, she was a little colicky and would sometimes take quite a while to settle in the evenings. Sometimes she'd keep us up, and this was in the middle of winter (and we only get eight hours daylight up here right in the depths of winter), when my husband was getting up at five am, spending three hours a day commuting, and working all day on a building site.

So, yeah, it's coming back to me now. There were nights when he would give in and go downstairs to try and get some sleep on the sofa. We'd kiss each other and say "sleep well" and "I love you" and "I hate this" and "I understand". And the next day I'd scribble in my little notebook like it might make some difference. Like by obsessively recording her every move through the day I might change what happened at night.

But I didn't believe in waking a sleeping baby, still don't. I believe as they get older it makes sense to feed them and put them to bed at times that make sense to you (while paying attention to what seems to make sense to them). But I never saw the sense in waking them, and I never had any luck keeping a tiny baby awake against its will either. So what effect I thought my stressing would have, I don't know.

So Jamie, Celia? Don't rush to scribble in notebooks. There is plenty of time for rhythm and routine. Aim for it only when doing so feels right. In the meantime... embrace the chaos. And sleep when you can.


  1. So true... It's crazy, seems like just yesterday when Talia was born.

  2. Bookmarking this along with so many other gems I have glaened from Cate.

  3. this morning i laid in bed and considered making a hyper detailed log of his *constant* feeding.... then decided it wouldn't do much good. thanks for reassuring my conclusion. couldn't have been more perfect timing. <3

  4. We did this, it helped. For the first 4 weeks we recorded *every* ounce of formula they drank, *every* minute they spent breastfeeding and *every* poop. It kept me sane. Maybe with one baby I could have embraced the chaos but with two I needed to know that it was all going ok.

    Then about 6 weeks in when I started to worry about A's sleeping I spent a day documenting when she slept and when she was awake during the day, which helped too. I'd been worried that she was asleep too much during the day and that's why she wasn't sleeping at night but it turned out she was sleeping exactly as the books said she should. So I felt better again.

    Neither of these charts were made with the notion of me then trying to change anything in their routines (or lack thereof), they were simply so that in my sleep-deprived and anxious state I could SEE that it was all going ok, because I sure as hell wasn't able to see it without having it written down in front of me. Not for the first 6 weeks.

  5. Aw, Jamie, no one tells you and nothing can prepare you for just how much time is spent feeding in the beginning, eh? Hang in there. It gets better.

    And ha, Cara has just demonstrated the number one rule: do what feels right to you. I was collecting the information then getting stressed when I couldn't *do* anything with it, while Cara felt reassured just to see everything was on track. Whatever gets you through, eh? :)

  6. i don't think anyone who has not been through it could never understand that you are not exaggerating. ;)

    and yes. when you are worried there may be a *lack* of something, then tracking totally makes sense!

  7. I really needed this today. I just read a post elsewhere about how someone got their breastfeeding *three week old* to sleep 6-8 hours at night without crying. My seven month old doesn't sleep through the night at all!! I still have nights where I'm up every 2 hours. Reading about other people's great sleepers stresses me out, making me feel like I've done something wrong. But I haven't. It's just what works for my little guy, and we'll get past this too...

  8. In this beginning time you really do just have to do whatever works for you and baby. The time for sorting it out, having some actual intention, will come.

  9. in the beginning, i was SO obsessed with her eating because we found out that we weren't feeding her enough. our lactation consultant informed us that infants should consume 2.5 x their weight in ounces per day. so for cheech, that meant 24 ounces. so for two weeks, i made sure she was eating 24 ounces, never less and never more... BUT, she was fussy most of the day. i couldn't figure it out. joe suggested that we might need to feed her more, but i was so set on the x2.5 equation, that i was hesitant to give her more food. somehow, in my silly brain, i thought i'd be promoting poor eating habits if i "over" fed her. how stupid, i know. anyway, it turns out, she did need/want more. i still feed her on demand, but i let her go for longer; i wait until she's actually DONE. she's doing much, much better now. i think we have to remind ourselves that just like every person, every baby is different and there really is no standard or "normal".