During the first six months of a baby’s life there are numerous factors that influence the development of sleep. These factors highlight the way in which normal infant development and sleep interrelate. By having some of this knowledge, parents can have a better idea when to be more present with their little one at night, and when they can use gentle sleep methods to help encourage sleep.
When I see a brand new newborn, fresh from the womb, the first thing I think of is 'look at that perfectly lovely baby!'.
Now, the average American would respond with 'What??! Clean that baby up, ick!'. Not me, though, no ma'am!
Vernix Caseosa is a marvelous mixture of skin oil and dead cells that baby shed while in the womb. Yes, even oil and dead cells are beautiful... when you consider that this helped to protect him from dehydration and now, while outside the womb, acts as an antioxidant, temperature-regulator, antibacterial (working against E. Coli, GBS, and other bacteria), wound super-healing, cleansing, and moisturizing cold cream....
In all of our planning for the perfect, peaceful, natural birth, often we forget that sometimes, even with the best of births, things can go wrong.
I was a lucky mom. I had four very uncomplicated natural births. Then, I became pregnant with twins at age 37. I feared for the worst, and then let down my guard when I carried to term. The girls were born vaginally and with relatively few complications. (Our twin B had a prolapsed cord, and was posterior with a hand on her cheek, but she was also small and our doctor was calm and cool under pressure.) Once the babies were born, I assumed we were out of the woods.
But, I was wrong. Our little miracle, Emily, was born with a congenital defect. She had a web of tissue covering her trachea, and her first few hours of life were spent struggling to breathe. Thankfully she was born in a hospital with a well staffed NICU ( my two older sons were born in a small, wonderful, community hospital 90 miles from a NICU). She was whisked away from me and I was left with her healthy twin, blissfully unaware of the struggle going on down the hall.
An hour or so after the girls were born I was visited by the neonatologist who explained to me the problem Emily had, the procedure done to correct it (she was very briefly intubated to break through the web), her treatment plan, and prognosis. The doctor was very optimistic that Emily would actually be out of the NICU within the next day and by my side.
Then, I learned a reality of the NICU. You cannot make plans in the NICU. Babies are tricky. While my Emily was now breathing well, she was not feeding as well as a 38 week baby should. And, since she had a twin, who was not allowed in the NICU and still needed care from me, I was not available to hold and cuddle Emily 24/7 in order to stimulate a healthy nursing rhythm. So, her 24 hour observation period extended into a five day feed and grow period....
I was always bothered by the well meaning question, "Is he a good baby?"
I always wanted to shout "Of course, he is a good baby! He is my baby!". Then I remembered the the asker was meaning well, and making small talk.
The truth is, my babies were far from what society would call "good".
My babies cried a lot, especially if they were not being held or worn by me (spoiled, my mother called it).
My babies nursed around the clock. They never fell into anything that even resembled an easting or sleeping schedule. My babies rarely slept more than a three hour stretch at night until at least 12 months.
My babies were not even good co-sleepers. We spent most of the night moving them from the crib to our bed and then back to the crib again.
My babies refused bottles.
My babies were mean to babysitters, grandparents, siblings and often their own father.
If my babies were to have a blow out diaper, it would be on the grandmother's lap who thought I was crazy for using cloth diapers when I did not "have" to.
Well meaning family members and friends offered me all kinds of advice on how to cure my babies' problems. Surely I could not be happy, or properly care for my family on broken sleep with an infant constantly attached to me.
The thing is, I was not at all unhappy.
I saw nothing at all wrong with my babies.
While nursing them around the clock did take a lot of time, it allowed me time to rest, renew and recover from pregnancy and childbirth.
Those middle of the night feedings? A perfect time to read, or catch up on recorded television shows, or nap in my recliner with a warm, sweet baby....