Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sleeping through the night

For the first 6 weeks of Fig’s life, I dutifully fed him every 2 hours during the day and at least every 3-4 hours during the night. At first, he often woke up and wanted to be fed (i.e., cried) more frequently than 3-4 hours at night, but after a couple of weeks I actually had to wake him up most of the time. His nurse practitioner had told me to wake him up to feed him—partially because his weight gain was marginal, and partially because of my ailing milk supply. As I’ve mentioned before, milk production is (theoretically at least) a supply and demand issue. Feeding him frequently would signal to my body that it needed to produce a lot of milk (though my body ended up doing nothing of the sort), whereas going too long between feedings would signal my body to shut down production.

When Fig was 6 weeks old, I was talking to another grad student and his wife, who had a baby just 2 days older than Fig. They were telling me how their baby slept through the night—8 hours at a time. I thought, that’s all well and good, but there’s no way she’s nursing the baby. Going 8 hours between feedings would lead to uncomfortable engorgement and a reduction in milk supply. As our conversation continued, however, she said how she was breastfeeding, and I was astounded. I had no doubt that Fig could sleep 8 hours or even more. Most of the time I had to wake him up in the night to feed him. But what would happen if I didn’t continue to do this? Would he waste away? Would my milk supply completely dry up? I thought that this couples’ daughter must be some kind of super-baby, and I wrote it off as a fluke.

But lo and behold, I talked to a few more friends and neighbors—revealing how I still woke up Fig to feed him in the night. They all confirmed that I was crazy to do that. “Let a sleeping baby lie!” seemed to be the refrain. So one night I let him go 5 hours instead of the prescribed 4. I was terrified of what would happen. To my surprise, nobody died.

At our next doctor appointment, I asked about whether or not I still needed to wake up Fig in the night to feed him. The nurse practitioner told me I could go ahead and let him sleep, as long as I still fed him about every 2 hours during the daytime. So I tried it. On October 1st to be exact. I fed him and put him to bed at 10pm. I woke up at 2, instinctively getting out of bed to wake him. But I made myself stay put. I woke up again at 4, feeling like my boobs were full of cement. I thought, I need to wake him, don’t I? What should I do? Will he sleep forever if I don’t wake him? My milk will surely dry up if I don’t wake him. I lay there in a panic until 6am, when he finally began stirring and I jumped up to feed him. It had been 8 hours. He had slept through the night.

Since then, I have not been waking him to feed him anymore. I was so terrified of what would happen to my milk supply, but as long as I keep taking 90mg of Domperidone every day, it remains okay (knock on wood). Typically what happens is that I feed him and put him down sometime between 9 and 10 pm, and he wakes up at 3am to eat, then goes back to sleep until 7am sharp when he wakes up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to eat and get started on his day. It’s really not that bad. Even though he has spent the majority of his life crying non-stop during the day, ever since about 2 weeks of age, he’s been very good at night. Usually he goes right back to sleep without a fuss after his nighttime meal. This has been the one thing (well, aside from all the times my mom has driven down from Peoria just to scrub my floors and do my laundry) that has saved my sanity.

Sometimes he doesn’t even wake up for his 3am feeding. Take last night for instance. We had been to D-ville to visit Rob’s extended family (Fig’s first trip out of town, if only 30 miles). I fed him around 9pm before we left Rob’s grandparents’ house, and he fell asleep on the way home. He didn’t really wake up and we put him right to bed when we got home. He didn’t wake up until 6:30am this morning. And that was only because Rob’s alarm was going off. He looked like he would have been perfectly content to keep sleeping, but my boobs were horrifically uncomfortable, so I hauled him out of his bed and made him drink about a quart of breastmilk. He was pretty happy about that, actually.

I still get a little paranoid about his possibly excessive nighttime sleeping. Mainly I am paranoid about my milk drying up (given that my supply is still somewhat marginal). Everybody always asks me how the baby is sleeping at night, and if the asker is a parent themselves, I always ask them, “Should I be worried about this?!” So far everyone has told me, “Thank your lucky stars.”

Sometimes I think this sleeping through the night is a double-edged sword. When he wakes up, he is generally ravenous and he wants to eat at least every hour for most of the morning and even into the afternoon. One of the nights that he slept for an 8 hour stretch, he woke up with a bit of a diaper rash because I didn’t change him during that time. And since he’s slept so well at night, he generally has no intention of taking any kind of nap during the day. This all makes it quite difficult for Melissa to finish her dissertation.

At any rate. He had a pretty good day yesterday and for most of the day today. But long about 5pm this evening, he decided to cry for several hours, and then begin screaming hysterically (as in, Oh my god, should I take him to the emergency room?!) about 8pm. The only way to get him to quiet down was to nurse him continually. Whenever I tried to take him off (like if I had to pee or needed a drink of water), the screaming began anew. Then abruptly about 9:30, he fell asleep.

Well, I need to fold 3 loads of laundry, clean up the kitchen, put away random piles of crap that have accumulated throughout the house, and floss my teeth.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

just try to enjoy the times he sleeps, and don't beat yourself up worrying!!!! ( let me do that for you, since I have my "PhD" in "WORRYING") and must say, I"m pretty good at it!!! there is NO manual of instructions with a baby so, whatever you do is OK.. as you are finding out, just when you THINK you have it figured out, it changes, and that will be the pattern for a long time to come! so, my suggestion, is to try to take a few deep breaths,,,,, don't worry about the CLEANING, etc, it will ALWAYS be there, and FIG will never be this SIZE and AGE again, SOOOO enjoy, every day, EVEN the CRYING ones..... ( and I'm always just a SCRUB bucket away)!!!! Luv you all, mama

Anonymous said...

After spending a good part of today with approximately 75 kindergartners at Apple Blossom Farm, i encourage you to enjoy the sleepy nights and the awake days that Fig is giving you ... it's gonna get worse!!!!!! ha
hugs, auntie

amypfan said...

Way to go, Will!!
And you're right, sleeping through the night while nursing is wayyyyy worse on the mommy than the baby. Oh, the things I have to look forward to.... :)

Unknown said...

Enjoy it when he sleeps! I nursed Michael every hour during the day for the longest time and every 2-3 hours at night. He finally started sleeping 3-4 hours at a time at night before he finally was able to SSTN in the spring. The nights he slept longer he did cluster feeding (nursing almost non-stop) in the evening from 6pm until I put him to bed at 10pm. At 13 months old he sleeps from 9:30pm until 7am. He still isn't much of a napper.