It’s 3:12 p.m., EST, and my baby has been sleeping for almost three hours. How this amazing nap came to be, for a child who mostly only takes a morning nap and then remains awake, despite her own best interests, until bedtime, was a complete accident. Dinner time is a difficult time for E. – close to bedtime but not quite there – and we’ve found she won’t cry if she sits on one of our laps while we eat. She quite enjoys this, and will laugh and talk during the meal, but the second we put her down – well, she WAILS. Like we are murdering her. And so, we hold her on our lap and one of us cuts the other’s food up and so it goes or, so it went, until a couple of days ago when S. decided to experiment and placed E in her car seat and sat her around the table with us. It worked, beautifully. E could still remain part of our conversation but we could use both hands to eat. She chattered, we chattered – everyone was happy. Today, in between a marathon of feeding her thanks to a growth spurt, light-headed and desperate, I tried this technique so I could eat some lunch. As I desperately shoveled tuna salad on crackers and peeled an orange, she fell asleep and has remained so now for nearly three hours.
At first, I didn’t trust the nap. I read a couple blogs, searched the Anne Taylor website for new work clothes, read a couple parenting websites. Then, deciding to risk moving her, I took the car seat from the kitchen to the living room and laid down on the couch. I napped for an hour and woke up to find E still decidedly asleep, which brings me here, to my blog. E is still asleep and now more than ever I appreciate the advice I read somewhere ( I can’t remember where I read it but if it was your blog, don’t hesitate to say so!) – as a new mom, the best thing you can do, and I have (mostly) done, is put yourself on baby time. Baby time means accepting that, while you can give your child the loose idea of a schedule, essentially he or she isn’t going to be ready to have a schedule for several months. For instance, conventional wisdom says that babies should eat every three hours around two/three months of age. E, though, from the beginning, has been a cluster eater and a cluster sleeper, so this morning I fed her every hour for four hours straight (here I should note that E is breast fed – I don ‘t think this would be doable with a formula fed baby?) but, in return, she has always slept in relatively decent stretches at night, first in sets of 3 hours, then 2 more, having since worked herself for now into sleeping a solid seven hours, waking and eating, and sleeping two more. In exchange for night after night of this kind of amazing sleep I get, I feed her at least every two hours but sometimes more often. Our pediatrician is happy with this arrangement and proclaims us very, very lucky. We agree.
Conventional wisdom also seems to state that babies should eat right after waking, but upon waking is when E most wants to play, and is most agreeable to spending time on her tummy. It is after a nap that she first rolled over, and it is after nap when she first giggled. So she gets a little bit of play time before eating, every day.
In my head, I liken living on baby time to the idea of island time, first introduced to me while on vacation in Jamaica, except living on baby time means being prepared at any time, really to feed, to change a diaper, to play – what I have tried to do, and what I hope to be able to continue to do even when I return to work – is allow E the opportunity for whatever she might need – sleep, food, play – without worrying about exactly when we do these things. So far it has worked pretty well for us, although I will admit to some inherent laziness on my part. I know new moms who are taking their babies to the zoo, to the museum, to the local parks – moms who shop and go to starbucks and run errands with their babies. I, for the most part, make sure she and I get out once a day, and other than that we hang around the house, nursing, reading, watching tv, playing, cleaning, cooking – some of the above or none of the above, depending on what kind of day we are having. In other words, I haven’t pushed either of us too hard during my maternity leave. I keep thinking I should make more of an effort – challenge the two of us with trips to the mall or Costco – but instead I just put her on a blanket on the floor with her favorite talking elephant doll, lay down beside her, and give myself over, once again, to living on baby time.