I hesitated while typing the title of this post, wondering how long I’ll keep up the “postpartum” portion, because I have no idea how long that technically lasts. Six weeks? Six months? A year? Oh well, it’s there for now, and I suppose I’ll drop it when I no longer have anything interesting to say about myself!
the new normal–for the moment
This week was my first week on my own with all four. It was surprisingly low-key.
On Sunday Elvie Kate and I went to hang out at a coffee shop where I could spend some quality time with my bullet journal; it’s just easier sometimes to look at the big picture of routines and daily life when I’m not actually in the house. I made very short list of goals: avoid TV if possible, read to boys every day, get Elvie up at 7 for first feeding (more on that later), and take care of little housework tasks the moment they need to be done, rather than putting them off, so that I would not be overwhelmed by them later.
I made an ideal routine for the boys and prayed over it–they already have a routine, but this one was just a little more “filled out” to avoid the potential pitfalls of boredom and the conflict that tends to bring. As a rule, I don’t purposefully arrange our days to steer clear of boredom, because I think it’s an important life lesson, but in the circumstances of a new baby in the house I think it prudent to keep everyone occupied.
Of course, I didn’t adhere strictly to the routine every day this week, but it was nice to have the framework there as a default. It made things run more smoothly, and gave me a structure to fall back on if things got hairy. It was a very good week, but I am aware that we’re still in a phase for Elvie that could (and probably will) change any moment. I’m not totally convinced that what I’m seeing of her is just her sleepy newborn phase and not her actual personality, but I don’t want to make assumptions.
Elvie Kate had a problem with being very restless and fussy for a few hours in the middle of the night during her first week. In the first update, I wrote that she had mostly gotten over that. This week we continued to have very little problem with middle-of-the-night-fussiness, but she did have more trouble sleeping in the day–particularly in the afternoon.
I thought this was a matter of a developing witching hour or just plain afternoon grumpiness (super common with babies) but the problem seemed to be sorted out by double-swaddling her. I had been swaddling her in just one blanket because they told me in the hospital that she was getting too hot, but she was breaking out of the swaddle too easily. Going back to two blankets (muslin, not the flannel they used in the hospital) took care of most of the sleeping problems immediately.
Another hinderance to good naps has been overstimulation. This is one of the reasons why I’m thinking she’s not really in her sleepy newborn phase anymore (Clive came out of it at week one, too.) She seems really sensitive to overstimulation. Most of the time, she goes to sleep immediately after she’s done nursing, but if she’s kept up or reawakened or the boys spend a lot of time in her face talking to her, she has a terrible time getting back to sleep. When this happens, I give her what I call “The Clive Treatment”: swaddle, pacifier, white noise and a blanket over her head (with plenty of room for air, obviously) while being bounced. She’s not quite as high maintenance as Clive was, but I do have to be careful to protect her delicate sensibilities.
She is taking all of her naps either in her bassinet in our room or the Moses basket downstairs. She generally does not really need a pacifier to sleep (unless she’s getting The Clive Treatment) so I’ve been trying not to give it to her, so to save myself the grief of having to wean her later.
She has mostly gotten over her aversion to the right breast, thank goodness. Her nursing is much better all around, and I don’t have to keep after her as much to keep her awake anymore. She’s settled herself into eating every three hours during the day and every 3.5-4 hours at night. I do wake her up in the late afternoons to space the feedings closer to 2-2.5 hrs but let her do the 3 hrs in the morning/early afternoon. I have been trying to introduce a dreamfeed around 10 p.m. without much luck, but I’ll keep trying.
the making of a routine
We do parent-directed feeding (PDF) which I think can best be described as a happy meeting between the needs of the parent and the needs of the baby. For the first week of her life, I’ve spent all of my energy making sure she was eating full feeds when she nursed, as well as paying extra attention for her own unique eating personality–how often she likes to eat and how that’s affecting her diaper output and sleep patterns. Each of my four kids have had very different eating (and sleeping) personalities, and finding and meeting that need is the priority.
Then once that’s established (with the understanding that it will change as she grows) my own needs are introduced: namely that I would really like everyone’s naps to coincide in the afternoon.
The way I do this is to set the first feeding of the day. If my older boys have their nap/rest times at 1 p.m., and I know that Elvie usually likes to eat every three hours in the mornings/early afternoon, then I know I need to get her up and feed her in the morning at a time that will make her subsequent feedings coincide with the start of their naps.
I mentioned before that one of my goals for the week was to wake her for her first feed at 7 a.m.–that is so that her feedings are likely to happen again at 10 a.m. and then 1 p.m. This is the start of her routine–not a schedule–and it makes everything from scheduling doctor visits to making grocery store trips to getting everyone to nap at the same time far, far easier–though of course sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. It’s all part of these season.
the fruit of our labors
Her first week of nursing was tough, but the hard work paid off. At her weight check this Wednesday she was up to 8 lbs 4 oz; six ounces over birth weight and a ten-ounce gain in one week. The green poop is gone and my supply has evened out. She’s napped with the boys every day this week. I am enjoying the calm while it lasts.
In addition to being more sensitive all-around than newborn Ephraim and Anselm were, Elvie Kate is also like Clive in that she is not a fan of the carseat. I was really hoping this wouldn’t be a problem, but things aren’t looking too great. So long as it’s in the car and moving, she’s mostly fine with it, but if it’s sitting still, she will not sleep. I’m wondering if part of the problem is not being swaddled in it. As it is, when we’re out but not in the car, I’ll just have to wear her if I don’t want her to make a spectacle of herself. 😉
as for me
Two successful outings this week have made me feel pretty confident. (Well, successful except for Elvie hating the carseat, but we’ll get around that next time.) We’ve had friends provide some dinners for us (THANK YOU) and the TV didn’t get turned on every day. I’m probably averaging 6-7 hours of sleep each night, broken of course into 2-3.5 hr chunks, and my mood has improved drastically with the “extra” sleep and Elvie Kate’s proper weight gain. It’s so wonderful to sleep on my stomach again!
The toughest thing at the moment is writing. I used to write in the mornings before the boys got up, but now I’m spending that time sleeping or nursing. Then I would sometimes write during their naps, but I’m usually so tired by that time of day that I’m not exactly able to put coherent sentences together. I know it’s just a season, but it’s still a little frustrating, and for the sake of honesty I am including it here. In the meantime, there may just be lots of picture posts.
I’ve been reading some during Elvie’s night feedings: Elisabeth Elliot’s The Shaping of a Christian Family, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For The Children’s Sake; when I’m finished with the latter, I plan to start George MacDonald’s Phantastes again. Somehow reading at night doesn’t keep me up afterwards like checking my phone does. Maybe it’s the light?
So that’s it for this week. We’ll see what next week has in store.