Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baby smiles

Natalie is turning into a little person, making unprompted smiles and practicing her baby talk, babbling away at me during the day. It's hard to get a non-blurry photo of her smiling, but I am trying. You may notice that a lot of her smiles happen when she's waking up and/or on the changing table.

Here's a little sunshine for your Wednesday.







Sunday, March 25, 2012

A shout out to bottle feeders

As I sat in the (very nice) women's lounge inside the restroom at Nordstrom breast feeding Natalie I had a thought: breast feeding is hard work. I had the same thought many times all last week when Natalie was in the middle of a major growth spurt. As I fed her every hour or hour and a half I figured out creative ways to feed myself sandwich after sandwich as I attempted to keep my stomach from growling. Even constantly feeding myself did little to keep my belly full.

When you are pregnant one topic lots of people like to ask you about is whether you plan to breast feed or bottle feed. I guess this is because this is one of the few times you are actually given a choice in terms of newborn care. It's not like someone can ask you, "Do you plan to let your child sleep?" or "Will you change dirty diapers?" (though I guess the Elimination Communication movement does mean this could, for some people, be a legitimate question...).

And, as you're probably aware, people have some really militant feelings about how other people choose to feed their babies. Before anyone gets their nursing bras in a bunch, let me say that I am still breast feeding happily and plan to continue for some yet-to-be-determined period of time. (I am not about to declare how long I will breast feed because that just seems like a recipe for setting myself up for disappointment.) I don't need to tell you all the benefits of breast feeding because I would be beating a dead horse, but I've been thinking a lot about all the positive aspects of bottle feeding and how they are rarely discussed. So I wanted to give a shout out to all the bottle feeding mommas out there and show support for your choice because, hey, there are a lot of good reasons to choose bottle. Here's how I see it:


Reason #1
Bottle feeding gets more people involved.
This is by far the greatest benefit I see to bottle feeding. Your husband/partner/friend, whoever, can split feeding duties with you 50/50 when you're bottle feeding. Yes, when you're breast feeding you can pump and give bottles, which is something we do occasionally with Natalie, but pure bottle feeding takes the pressure off the mom and evenly distributes feeding responsibilities.

Reason #2
Bottle feeding makes babies more mobile.
Yes, it is legal to breast feed anywhere you'd like, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It's much more convenient (and socially acceptable) to whip out a bottle than whip out a boob. Plus, some outfits (see #5) and situations are just not conducive to feeding.

Reason #3
Bottle feeding is more conducive to the schedules of working moms.
This ties in with point 2 above, but I'll add that pumping at work sounds like one of the most undesirable tasks on the planet.


Reason #4
Bottle feeding makes it clear exactly how much your baby is eating.
A random mom (who also breast feeds, apparently, because she was doing it in front of me) asked me how much my daughter eats in a feeding. She was looking for ounces. The best I could say was, "20 minutes' worth?" I really couldn't tell you. I can't speak to this next one myself, so I won't make it a full-fledged reason, but I have heard that bottle fed babies tend to sleep better than breast fed babies because they stay full longer, likely because they're eating more at a time.

Reason #5
Bottle feeding does not limit the mother's wardrobe choices.
A friend who was breast feeding said to me a couple years ago how much she's seen her wardrobe choices limited by breast feeding. I didn't really understand what she meant at the time, but now I completely get it. You either wear a button-down or a nursing tank under a cardigan or you battle too much clothing in the way (or you just resign yourself to taking your shirt off 8-12 times a day). And then if you choose to wear something else -- something, dare I say, mildly sexy -- your nursing pads and/or nursing bras/tanks will show through your shirt or dress, killing whatever look you were going for.

In the end the nutritional benefits and bonding experiences of breast feeding outweigh for me all the inconvenient elements of it, but I totally get why some moms choose bottle over breast.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Disappointed

This would be where I would show you pictures of us with our daughter at the Cherry Blossoms. Going to see the Cherry Blossoms with Natalie on the Tidal Basin in D.C. is the one thing I've really wanted to do since she's been born.

But we missed our window of opportunity.

We had our last chance to go yesterday. We could have gone in the early afternoon, and even if we'd had to contend with traffic and crowds we would have at least gotten there several hours before sunset.

Instead we allowed our afternoon to be dictated by someone else's schedule. The pessimist in me knew that when I found out we'd have to leave several hours after I had hoped we would that there was no way we were going to get to do this thing, this one thing that I wanted to do. But as we piled into the car I thought maybe, maybe this will be a spring miracle.

We made it downtown just before sunset, and by the time we got there a screaming baby tired of being stuck in stop and go traffic and insane crowds kept us from being able to get out of the car and enjoy the moment. We were truly all dressed up with no place to go. And after today's torrential downpours that are being forecasted the blossoms will be gone.

Here's my parenting lesson learned: taking care of my family outweighs anything else. I need to remember this in the future and do what matters most for my family when we deal with more important issues down the road.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two weeks of cloth diapering: Common questions

I have to say that even though Matt and I decided we'd use cloth diapers long before there was a baby in the picture, when the time came to start using them I was a little apprehensive. Now with two weeks of cloth diapering under our belts I can't imagine going back to disposables. Here's what I've observed, in Q&A format.

How often do you wash cloth diapers?
Every other day.

Doesn't that mean you're spending your life doing laundry?
No more than I do by virtue of having an infant in the house.

Plus, a load of cloth diapers only contains about 11-14 diapers, so it doesn't take long to clean them in the washer or get them to dry. On our standard Kenmore washing machine (we do not have anything fancy) it takes about 10 minutes to prewash the diapers and then about 30 minutes to wash them with a second rinse. I put the inserts in the dryer for 60 minutes, which is plenty of time, and hang the diaper shells outside (thank you, nice weather!). I find it's easiest for me to stick to the washing and drying routine by running the load of diapers first thing in the morning so the diaper shells will be dry by afternoon.

Aren't cloth diapers gross to change?
No more so than a disposable diaper.

Aren't cloth diapers gross to wash?
I can see that this could be the part where parents decide not to use cloth diapers. I invested in an extra pair of rubber gloves that I keep in the laundry room. I wear them when I am separating the diaper shells from the inserts as I put the diapers in the washer for the prewash cycle. But I am not an easily grossed out person, so if you are then cloth diapering might not be for you.

Do your diapers truly come out of the wash looking clean?
The first time, yes, the second time, no, so then I learned that I needed to put a little bit of laundry detergent directly on the dirty diapers as I prepared to wash them on the hot cycle. That trick, coupled with hanging the shells inside-out to dry in the sun has resulted in perfectly white, clean diapers thanks to the sun's bleaching powers.


Aren't cloth diapers more prone to diaper blowouts?
If you're not familiar with this term, a blowout occurs when a diaper leaks....big time. Unfortunately the first day of cloth diapering we experienced the biggest blowout we've had to date, though we haven't experienced many in general. If we'd been using a disposable diaper, though, it definitely would not have contained the mess either. One thing I have noticed is that cloth diapers can get oversaturated faster than disposables, so a particularly wet diaper could leak. Cloth diapering may require being more vigilant about diaper changes, but I'm fine with that, seeing as I will be the main person doing diaper changes for the next year and a half.

What's the ideal number of cloth diapers to own?
20 diapers is our sweet spot currently.

When we started out with 17 cloth diapers I felt it was a few too many, and I was right. The first time we did the diaper laundry we were down to two spare diapers, leaving us with enough to use while the diapers dried. I found a decent deal on the Bum Genius 4.0 Artist Series diapers through Sew Crafty Baby and bought 3 of those oh-so-pretty diapers (I am not being sarcastic -- who knew diapers would be so cute? See the patterned ones below).


When is the ideal time to begin using cloth diapers?
Even though I only started using cloth diapers because we were almost out of disposables when our baby was 7 weeks old, I think this really was the perfect time for us.

Magically, we started using cloth diapers right when Natalie started producing fewer dirty diapers. (For our purposes dirty diapers = contain a #2.) It's not unheard of for newborns to have many dirty diapers a day. Newborns produce a lot of dirty diapers because their intestinal track is still adjusting to life outside the womb. As it begins to function more normally they produce fewer and fewer dirty diapers. Some parents report that as their child hits 2 months and older it's not unusual for the baby to go for days without a dirty diaper, and it sounds like from a medical perspective this doesn't concern doctors either. Although this has not been our experience, we are definitely seeing the number of dirty diapers diminish and that is OK.

I would also say that when we started using cloth diapers Natalie weighed at least 10 pounds. The Bum Genius 4.0 one-size diapers claim to work on babies from 8-35 lbs., and because Natalie was born weighing more than 8 lbs. we technically could have used these from the start, but I am glad we waited for her to get a little more meat on her bones and for us to adjust to parenthood using disposable diapers before making the cloth diaper transition.

These Bum Genius diapers are expensive at $18 a pop. Do cloth diapers really save you money?
For us the answer would be yes. We've only purchased 8 of the 20 diapers we own, and because I purchased all our diapers on sale we've only spent $120 of our own money on diapering for Natalie. Even if you bought all the diapers yourself, though, you would definitely save diaper money in the long run once you make the initial investment. The Real Diaper Association (yes, this exists) estimates that the average family would spend $1,600 to diaper a child in disposables for two years. The Young House Lovers used Seventh Generation disposables for their daughter's first 9 weeks and spent $180, meaning they believe they'd spend $3,000 for two years (though my math would indicate the number would be closer to $2,000, but maybe I'm doing it wrong). The point is, though the numbers vary greatly, everyone will spend more on disposables than on cloth.

Because you're running your washing machine and dryer every other day aren't you negating any positive impact you'll have on the environment and your wallet?
Based on everything I've read it appears that from an environmental perspective disposables will never be able to win out over cloth. We all know plenty about the number of disposable diapers in landfills so I won't bore you with those dirty (Ha!) details. In terms of energy: Yes, it takes energy to clean cloth diapers, but it takes lots of energy to produce the thousands of diapers we'd go through if we used disposables exclusively (we will use disposables when we travel out of town).

The jury is still out on how much our energy and water bills will increase as a result of washing diapers, so I plan to keep track of all our bills from this coming year and compare them to what we paid a year ago to see the difference. (This will be similar to my year-long Costco experiment.)

.....
I'm finding that my initial plan to store the diapers in the top drawer of the dresser in the nursery is working out just fine. I've been making an effort to arrange the diaper shells and inserts in the drawer in a way that will encourage us to use all items equally. I'm placing the newly laundered inserts at the bottom of the pile and the newly laundered diaper shells at the back of the drawer, therefore prompting us to rotate through our entire stash without wearing any item out too quickly.


An unexpected benefit of using cloth diapers is that our garage no longer smells. That's where we store our outdoor trashcan, and a particularly smelly round of disposable diapers sitting out there for days can get a little funky.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leave of absence

No, I'm not leaving this blog, but yesterday I did make an official decision: I won't be teaching next year.


Long before becoming pregnant (really, really long before, like when we were getting married in August 2006) Matt and I discussed how awesome it would be to save money so I could take a full year off work when we had a baby.

Then, instead of having a baby in April like I would have "planned," I had a January baby, bringing up the question of whether or not I should simply take off January to August and then return for the following school year, putting Natalie in full-time daycare.

Right now the thought of daycare freaks me out.

And on a teacher's salary a lot of my income would go toward paying for daycare.

And we have the money saved for me to take the year off.

And Natalie will only be a baby once.

It's the last point that I kept coming back to. Friends would ask, rightly so, "What will you do for baby #2? Do you want to take a year off now?" But chalk this up my "enjoy it while I can" philosophy. I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I'll be able to have another baby. All I know is that I have a baby now and I need to embrace this time in our lives.

So now, this weight lifted off our collective shoulders, we're all smiles.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Natalie's photo shoot: Months 1 & 2

Today Natalie is two months old, which is of course crazy to imagine. One month ago I was likely too busy to think of the fact that I needed to start documenting Natalie's growth in a monthly photo. So, when she was five weeks old I cheated and took her first monthly photo, not quite on her one-month birthday, but for posterity's sake we'll pretend like it was.

I've decided that each month I'll photograph Natalie in a favorite outfit she was wearing that month. She has tons of clothes, but already there are some oldies but goodies that are rising to the top of the most-worn list because they happen to fit her well (and are easy for frequent diaper changes).

For continuity I'll photograph Natalie in the chair in our living room. She'll wear her bow -- one I purchased from the Etsy seller BebeBands. Draped behind her is her baby blanket, one that my mom's good friend Beverly handmade. Beverly made baby blankets for each of my siblings and me, and when my little sister was born Beverly even knitted me a blanket for my baby dolls, no doubt so I would not get jealous. Natalie's baby blanket is extra special because Beverly has lost nearly all her vision, yet after many hours she still managed to painstakingly create this perfect blanket.

I'm trying to get a vertical full body shot of Natalie as well as a close-up on her face. This is, of course, tricky with a baby, but here goes!

Natalie, one month

Natalie, two months

Seeing as I did not get a good photo of Natalie from month one I've learned to upload the monthly photo the day I take it so I can retake if none of the photos are particularly stellar. (Today's two-month photos are the best two out of approximately 30 I took.)

One noteworthy difference between the one-month and two-month photos -- besides the fact that Natalie looks better rested now -- is the virtual absence of baby acne in today's photo. Natalie had some serious baby acne between weeks four and eight, and it peaked around week five, right when I was taking her one-month photos. In case you've never heard of it, baby acne is a normal phenomenon that happens to peak somewhere between months one and two.It results from the mom's hormones from pregnancy finally exiting the infant's body. Today Natalie still has some baby acne under her neck, but I'm the main person who gets to see it because it's most visible while nursing.

In celebration of Natalie having mostly overcome her baby acne, here are two bonus pics from today when she was looking quite alert in her swing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

'Enjoy it while you can...'

Lately I've been thinking a lot about parenting styles, and I've been reflecting on a phrase I'm hearing often: "Enjoy [it] while you can..." "It" refers to whatever positive experience I'm having with Natalie. This phrase is then almost always followed by "because..." and some statement. Usually what this implies is, "Things are about to get crappy."

Call me ridiculous, but part of me also can't help but think that there is also a hidden "misery loves company" element to this all in which these advice-givers, consciously or not, are waiting for that crappy period to commence so they can have something to commiserate about.

Part of me also can't help but think that people are so used to being told that parenting a newborn is so difficult that they have to make their experience sound difficult so it will seem like they're doing everything right. Who is ever willing to admit that their experience parenting a newborn was easy? (Thankfully, two of my girlfriends with slightly older babies did admit that to me, and those were a couple refreshing moments of honesty.)

But I digress.

How does "Enjoy it while you can" typically come up in conversation?

For example, with Natalie sleeping through the night -- nine hours in a row for the past two nights, specifically -- I'm told, "Enjoy her sleeping through the night while you can because soon that's going to stop."

This is ultimately a rhetorical statement (and rather annoying to boot) that doesn't warrant a response, but if I were to respond, it would sound something like this: "Thank you, I will enjoy it!"

I feel like too many parents -- new and old -- spend their lives worrying. I recognize that worrying is part of parenting, but this more consuming philosophy seems to be to always be preparing for the future rather than enjoying the present. I suppose this is part of the definition of helicopter parenting -- hovering over the child being ready to anticipate disaster and scoop up the child before it strikes.

This blog clearly chronicles the fact that I like to be prepared, I like to be organized, but I also feel like I've lived this lifestyle to build up to what matters, to get ready for something important. And you know what, that important thing has happened. It's here. I'm living it.

So, despite my genetic predisposition toward worrying and my inclination toward pessimism, I am shocking myself by being (by my assessment) a rather calm parent. In addition to keeping my ongoing resolution to accept the things I cannot control firmly in mind, I am also living a life where I realize I do not know what the future holds, nor do I care to, and I'd like to take parenting one day at a time. As a teacher (in an affluent suburban area) I've encountered many a helicopter parent and I want to avoid that parenting style as much as I can.

Most March 8ths in the D.C. area do not produce temperatures in the low 70s. Most March 8ths the majority of flowers are not in bloom.

Most March 8ths I am not home with an eight-week-old baby girl. And maybe if most eight-week-old babies don't sleep for nine hours straight then I'm just lucky.

Rather than looking at the blooming flowers and thinking that one day they'll die, or looking at Natalie and thinking one day maybe she won't sleep through the night, I'm enjoying it while I can, and I'm totally happy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cloth diapers: Getting started

It's been a big week over here in baby world.

First off all, a follow-up on my last post about Natalie's sleeping schedule:

Turns out that by writing about her sleep habits I did not, in fact, jinx the pattern. Instead, Friday night she slept soundly for 7 continuous hours, prompting us to go ahead and move her to her crib in the nursery for the first time ever Saturday night. We figured it was better to give it a trial run on a weekend night rather than on a week night in case incessant crying became the order of business and kept Matt up before going to work. Somewhat miraculously, after rocking Natalie to sleep for the first time ever in the glider in the nursery, I carefully laid her to bed, turned on her Sleep Sheep sound machine, hit the switch on the baby monitor, and quietly left the room. Saturday night she stayed asleep for 7 hours before waking up!

Sunday night she did wake up in the middle of the night, but it was only once at 3:30 a.m., and after a quick feeding she was back to sleep for another 4 hours. I had the confidence on Monday during the day to put away her Pack N Play.

Then last night she fought sleep for a while after having a big bottle at 9:30 p.m., so by 10:45 p.m. I fed her again, she fell asleep by 11 p.m. and stayed that way until 7 a.m. today. Thank you, Natalie, for a solid 8 hours of sleep.

It's worth noting that each night I have done something different -- one night she had a bottle, one night she had a bath, one night she stayed out late socializing, one night she took a late evening nap and stayed home. In all cases, though, she still slept through the night (or in the case of Sunday night virtually made it through the night uninterrupted). So, I have no secrets to share about what was gotten Natalie to sleep through the night, other than perhaps her increased age. Right now we don't have much of a bedtime routine, besides making sure she has had a diaper change, a Sleep Sack around her, and she's been fed.

Now that we've successfully transitioned Natalie from the Pack N Play bassinet in our bedroom to the crib in her nursery, I'm feeling bold and ready to take on a new experiment: cloth diapering. It also doesn't hurt that we only have about five disposable diapers left.

So yesterday one of my few agenda items included washing all 17 of Natalie's Bum Genius 4.0 cloth diapers. We have the one-size-fits-all pocket style diapers with snap closures. These are intended to fit babies from 8-35 pounds. We opted for the snap closures instead of the hook-and-loop Velcro closures because the snaps seem more durable. The rather cute and colorful polyester diaper shells each come with two inserts: a newborn insert and a one-size-fits-all insert. According to the Bum Genius people, once the baby outgrows the newborn inserts they can be used along with the one-size-fits-all inserts for added protection at night.

To prepare a diaper, simply stuff the insert inside the diaper shell's pocket, snap it on your baby (adjust snaps according to the baby's size) and you're set. As I've said before, these are not your mom's cloth diapers.

Confused yet? Here's a visual to help. Notice the pocket on the inner diaper shell.
  
Insert the smaller newborn insert and/or the one-size-fits-all insert that comes with a couple built-in snaps that allow for three different sizes: small, medium and large. The one-size-fits-all inserts are thicker than the newborn inserts, but note that when adjusted to the smallest size they are as long as the newborn inserts.

Select the snap settings best suited for your baby. There are three different length options and five different width options. I know, lots of snaps, but you only use a couple snaps at a time.

Before Natalie's arrival one of the items on my long to-do list involved washing all her clothes and linens. I did not, however, wash her cloth diapers because I knew it would involve more than standard laundering practice, so I decided to wait until we actually needed to use the cloth diapers. I'm also, frankly, afraid of screwing them up. But, I went ahead and followed the instructions on the Bum Genius website, and I have to say it wasn't that complex.

First I prewashed both the diaper shells and inserts on a cold cycle. Then I washed them with detergent on a hot cycle with a second rinse. I'm using Tide Free and Gentle to clean Natalie's diapers. It's the same detergent I'm using on her clothes and linens, and it's free of dyes and perfumes but not free of enzymes. On this detergent link on the Bum Genius website it says that "at best" the detergent used on these diapers would be free of dyes, perfumes, enzymes, optical brighteners and anything else designed to stay on the diapers after washing. Given that this says "at best," though, I'm taking that to mean that my Tide Free and Gentle is fine -- at least for the time being.

To dry the diapers I line-dried the shells and put the inserts in the dryer. The inserts themselves take up a decent amount of space. Aren't all the colors so pretty?



In the future as Natalie starts using these diapers I'll be washing a load of them every other day, seeing as it's recommended because it's not a good idea to let dirty diapers sit around. Because newborn waste is water soluble these diapers can be thrown straight into the washing machine. Later on down the road we'll be installing and using our Bum Genius diaper sprayer to spray down the diapers before throwing them in the diaper pail and then in the washing machine.

I'm still working on the best way to organize these diapers in the nursery, but for now I'm thinking it makes the most sense to keep the shells and inserts separate, seeing as we'll probably double-stuff her nighttime diapers (especially if she keeps sleeping through the night!). It also seems like there's no use in snapping the shells or folding them much. Although they'd be prettier all neatly folded, the reality of changing and diapering a baby needs to take priority here.

I can't comment on the effectiveness of these diapers yet on a newborn as we're just getting started with this experiment, but I'll be back with more extensive reviews as we gain experience. And, assuming this experiment goes well, I'm planning to still pick up a few more cloth diapers to at least make an even 20 diapers.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Newborn sleep: Predictably unpredictable

Here's a prediction: This is the first of many times I will write about sleep.

In my experience as a mom of seven weeks, get two or more new moms together and a significant portion of the conversation will come back to newborn sleep habits. How much does your baby sleep during the day? At night? What's the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep you've gotten at night? How do you soothe your baby during the day? At night?

We do this, I think, not to compare our babies in the "my baby is better than your baby sense" but rather to see if we are at all within the range of normal and if other women have any wisdom to pass on to us.

My baby is not better than your baby, but she is awesome!

The unfortunate answer to these questions is that there is no such thing as normal and what works one day may not work the next.

The other unfortunate answer is that the absolute earliest "sleep training" can occur is at three months, and true sleep training likely won't occur until four months. At three months parents can, according to the experts, set up routines that encourage better sleep habits, but because the majority of babies can't self-soothe until they hit the four-month range there is not much parents can do but grin and bear their babe's sleep cycles.

I've acquired quite a few books about baby sleep (including Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child; On Becoming Baby Wise; Secrets of the Baby Whisperer) that I'll discuss more in coming months (once they actually apply to us) but for newborn sleep there is really only one book everyone will tell you about: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. My friend loaned me her copy along with the accompanying DVD.

There are a few ideas that emerge from this book that are worth noting:

1) A lot of babies confuse night and day thanks to their time in the womb.

2) Babies are born three months too early, so newborns enter the world during something Dr. Karp calls the "fourth trimester." His whole theory is that human babies must be born when they are born because of their enormous brain size (and subsequently enormous head size). They wouldn't be able to make it out of the birth canal if they waited any longer. This also helps explain why, compared to other mammal babies, human babies are especially helpless during their first few months of life. It's interesting to note, also, that a lot of babies begin to roll over during their fourth or fifth month of life.

3) Because babies are born too early parents can best get their babies to sleep by recreating the environment inside the womb. This does not seem like a particularly revolutionary idea, as much of what he suggests parents do is no doubt what our great grandparents did for our grandparents, but he does package his suggestions neatly into an easy-to-remember mnemonic device: The 5 S's. These stand for: swaddling, side/stomach cradling (on the parents' bodies, essentially), shhhhhhh, swinging, and sucking. Parents are encouraged to follow these steps in this order to get their babies to sleep.

After reading/skimming this book, though, I soon discovered: this book doesn't really apply to us. Dr. Karp's suggestions, while they work for all babies, are really targeted towards "colicky" babies. He takes issue with the word "colicky," believing it's more of a Western concept, but regardless in my opinion you can simply replace the word "colicky" with "fussy" and you wind up in the same place with his suggestions.

With the exception of a few nights and one memorable day last week calming Natalie has never really been the issue. She cries when she needs something -- to be fed, changed, or held -- and once her need is met she usually finds her happy place and gets to sleep relatively quickly. I like to thank her regimented schedule in the NICU -- where she was fed and changed every three hours on the dot -- for encouraging her to expect this as normal. Again, with the exception of a few nights, she has never anticipated getting fed every hour. And once she surpassed her birth weight when she hit three weeks of age we no longer felt the pressure to make certain she was waking up at least every three hours for nighttime feedings.

So we've been fortunate to get at least three-hour chunks of uninterrupted sleep at night with Natalie between the hours of about 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. This means I have not felt particularly sleep deprived since we've been home from the hospital.

So, I started to get greedy and wondered what I could do to get her to sleep even longer at night and move her to her crib in the nursery. The answer, of course, is that there's probably nothing I can do, seeing as she's only seven weeks old, but here's what we've been experiencing this week.

Saturday night
On Saturday night, at the recommendation of my friend Kate, I took Natalie's Pack N Play with the bassinet insert (where she's been sleeping at night) and moved it away from my side of the bed. It had been so close to the bed that I could just reach over and grab her at night. Kate suggested that before we move Natalie to her nursery we try moving the Pack N Play to the other side of our bedroom, as far from our bed as possible. When we did this last Saturday I told Matt this was the first step of sending Natalie away to college, and that first night her bassinet felt so far away she might as well have been off at college.

I also thought that if we fed her a lot at night right before bed that might help her sleep for a longer time, so we gave her a 5-ounce bottle. She typically gets about 3 ounces in a feeding, so 5 ounces seemed like it would surely hold her over.
 
At the recommendation of my friend Mimi we also gave her a bath right before bed. Before we were giving her a bath whenever she seemed like she would best tolerate it, seeing as bath time has not been her favorite time thus far.


Miraculously, that night she slept for 6.5 hours uninterrupted from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.! Sleeping through the night for babies is defined as sleeping for 6 hours uninterrupted, so here we officially hit a milestone!

I thought I was on to something by combining the wisdom of Kate, Mimi and my own intuition. Of course, Saturday was a really busy day for Natalie as we had relatives visiting from both California and Richmond and Natalie got held for hours by 13 different people.

Sunday night
With the bassinet now in its semi-permanent location as far away from our bed as possible, Natalie had another 5-ounce bottle and a bath right before bed. This time she slept for 7 hours uninterrupted from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.!

Monday night
We repeated the pattern above and Natalie slept for 6 hours uninterrupted from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Sleeping through the night puts us in our happy place! (Blurry newborn iPhone pictures = par for the course)


Tuesday night
Well, that all went out the window. I secretly hoped that after three nights in a row of sleeping through the night we had a new "normal." But then, after going to sleep at 9 p.m. she was making noise at 11 p.m. I thought to myself, "Baby, there is no way you could be hungry." So, I went over to her bassinet and looked at her for a while. She stopped whining. I went back to bed. She started whining at 11:15. Then at 11:30. Then at 11:45. These were not her all-out "I'm hungry" cries. Instead, these were true whimpers, her little fake-me-out noises that indicate she's basically not tired but doesn't really need anything either, which is the worst. Then she woke up at 12:30 a.m. for real needing to be changed and fed. Then she was up at 2 a.m. with the same needs. Then 4 a.m. Then I got her back to sleep until 8 a.m.

Wednesday night
This night was better than Tuesday night. She woke up twice at night to be fed, this time giving us 4 hours of sleep better feedings. This is basically "normal" for her, and it's really not bad at all. So I figured the sleeping through the night thing that we were blessed with for three nights in a row was just a random fluke and we'll stay in this 4-hours-of-sleep-at-a-time holding pattern until we can do real sleep training.

Thursday night
But then a funny thing happened last night. She slept for 8 hours uninterrupted! From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. little girl slept so soundly I did, of course, have to go check on her a couple times to make sure she was exhibiting signs of life. There is a certain irony to the fact that even when she gets uninterrupted sleep I do not because I feel more of an urge to check on her.

This morning I came to a realization: Tuesday night and Wednesday night are the nights we skipped out on her bath. Coincide? Perhaps. Will she be getting a bath tonight? Absolutely!

Another thing I've noticed is that if Natalie sleeps a lot during the day she will wake up more at night. Yesterday I took her to the mall, we hung out with our friends Gretchen and Luke, and then we went to a party to watch our friend Susannah on Jeopardy. When Natalie gets good stimulation during the day, gets held by different people and doesn't sleep too long she seems to sleep better. Fortunately tonight she'll be going out on the town again to get some loving from a bunch of lady friends, and hopefully that can help encourage her to have another marathon sleep session. If good sleep habits continue I'd like to move Natalie to her crib in her nursery by next week.

Or not. Newborns are predictably unpredictable. And, by writing all this down and sharing it on this blog I have no doubt doomed us to a sleepless night.