babies, cluster feeding, colic, crying, fussing, infant sleep, sleep
So, on Wednesdays I have to strap the baby into the car and drive an hour to the Women’s hospital for a post-partum group. On the plus-side, it’s in the mornings, so he usually sleeps in the car on the way there and only fusses moderately between eating and sleeping during the actual session. On the down side, morning is when I usually get the majority of my sleep so I am running off of three hours sleep and it finishes around noon, so he screams part of the way home.
Anyway, the group focuses a lot on how to not go insane, and emphasizes self-care with chipper little acronyms like N.E.S.T.S., S.M.A.R.T.S., and so on.
So they were working on goal-setting, and they give you things to aim for, like three square meals a day or four hours of uninterrupted sleep. They asked me what I thought I needed to work on and I said I wasn’t getting three meals a day, more like 1-2 plus snacks. So the group starts problem solving for me, trying to set a Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Reachable, Time-Sensitive, Supported goal.
It went like this:
Group Leader: “So, sometimes you get lunch, and you always get dinner?”
Me: “Yes, my husband cooks dinner and feeds me when he gets home. We take turns holding the baby while the other eats.”
Group Leader: “What about breakfast?”
Me: “That’s my sleep-when-he-sleeps time. I keep napping whenever he sleeps until I feel rested and get up, and that’s often not til late morning, so lunch is also kind of breakfast.”
Group Leader: “So let’s set a goal of regular lunches! What would you say are the main obstacles to your eating lunch?”
Me: “It depends on the day. If he is still sleeping when I get up, I can sometimes grab a shower and shove some food into my mouth before he wakes up for the day. If he wakes me up, then I probably won’t have a chance to eat lunch. I’ll eat crackers or something while I breastfeed, but not a real lunch.”
Fellow Mother(s): “I know, there’s so much you want to get done when they fall asleep that it’s easy to forget to eat. I have this problem too!”
Me: “I would eat if he slept. He doesn’t sleep.”
Group Leader: “It feels that way, sometimes, I know, but you know, it’s normal for breastfeeding babies to wake and eat frequently.”
Me: “No, I mean, he’s often up for five, six, seven hours in a row. He eats, and he cries, and he eats, and he cries, but he doesn’t sleep.”
Fellow Mother(s): *sympathetic murmurings and tales about their own babies’ colic, and suggestions about gripe water etc.*
GL: “He’s up for six hours? How old is he again?”
Me: “Four weeks, and yes, regularly. On good days, he doesn’t get really cranky until late afternoon, and the day goes mostly ok: I can often get him to sleep if I put him in this Sleepy Wrap, like he is now, and he screams for a bit then sometimes falls asleep.”
GL: “Okay, so when he’s asleep in his carrier, then you can eat, right?”
Me: “Right, although stuff falls on his head. But yesterday, for example, he was up at 10:30 in the morning and crying and eating, crying and eating all day and until nearly 11 pm that night. In that time he only had half an hour of sleep at from 12:30-1 pm and two hours from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. ”
GL: “You say he fell asleep at 11 pm last night. Does he sleep overnight, then?”
Me: “Yes. I mean, he wakes to be breastfed every hour and a half to two hours, but in between feedings he sleeps. Then from late morning/early afternoon until late at night that he’s awake. So I get most of my sleep late at night and in the morning.”
GL: “I feel bad for you having to come here in the mornings, now!”
Me: “Well, in a way it sucks because I get no sleep, but on the other hand, it means he’s actually relatively quiet during these group sessions.”
*Babby has fussed and cried in a manner disruptive to the group at least three times by this point: Before being breast fed, a bit between breasts, and after breastfeeding when placed back in his Sleepy Wrap. He has been the ONLY baby to fuss and cry during this session at all. The seven week old has been sleeping peacefully, and the older babies have been babbling happily or nursing quietly*
GL: “…Is he asleep now?”
Me: *checking him in his carrier* “Ye… no, wait, nope.”
FM(s): “No, his eyes are wide open.”
GL: “…Okay, so can you eat while he is awake like this?”
Me: “If he’s quietly awake, like he is now, then I can eat while he’s awake. But in the afternoon he’s not usually quietly awake, he’s crying. I can’t just put him in his basket and let him scream. I physically can’t do it. I can put him in this wrap, and let him cry himself to sleep sometimes, because then I feel like I’m attending him if I’m carrying him. But I can’t let him cry in his basket.”
GL: “So if you had him on you in his carrier, but crying, then could you eat?”
Me: “Well, see, he claws at my face and neck while he cries, so I can’t get food past him into my mouth. It’d be like trying to get past the arms of an attacking squid.”
*A moment of stunned and sympathetic silence from the group leaders and my fellow mothers.*
GL: “…I feel like we should be feeding you RIGHT NOW!”
So, basically, the tl;dr of it all is that my baby cries so much that it astounded all of the other mothers with colicky babies, and confounded the poor Group Leader. In the end, the general consensus was that my goal for this week should be to eat lunch every day, even if the baby is screaming, and that to facilitate this I should make sure PH leaves me some dinner leftovers in the fridge every evening, so the next day I just need to pop it in the microwave and gobble it.
The thing that astounds me is that emotionally I’m actually doing okay, despite a baby that only sleeps two and a half hours in a 12 hour period some days. I feel way better than when I was pregnant – much more balanced – and I never feel angry or upset with Babby, even after hours of crying. But the crying thing is definitely exhausting on both me and PH. I went to the library and checked out more books on baby sleep. The Baby Sleep Guide says
“Some babies will stay up for hours, nursing and fussing, nursing and fussing, sometimes for hours on end…. The cluster-fuss has a way of striking just as parents are getting ready to sit down and relax together after a long day. The chaos and crying can feel like complete insanity….And it’s rough on the parent when nothing seems to help the baby.”
They’re telling us.