My daughter was born 3 weeks early at 4 lbs. 7 oz; when we brought her home she had dropped in weight to 4 lbs. 2 oz. Recommendations from the doctor was that we feed her every 3 hours, which is what we have been doing since coming home almost 6 weeks ago (wow, time flies). Over the last 6 weeks, our lives have revolved around these feedings, which have divided up our lives into 3 hour increments.
The feeding schedule is actually much more than just for feeding. Indeed, after feeding there needs to be burping, then probably a diaper change. The diaper change can either be a quick, wet diaper, or a more complex endeavor that includes massive cleanup. The diaper change usually gets the baby nice and worked up, so the next step is swaddling and then trying to calm her down so she can be put back in her crib. This entire process usually takes between 45 and 60 minutes if things go well. If there are issues, it can easily take between 1 and 2 hours which means there is little opportunity to sleep. But I am not complaining.
To help combat sleepless nights, we work on a shift schedule during the nighttime hours. Our established feeding times are 8:00, 11:00, 2:00 and 5:00 for a 24 hour period. Usually the night-time shifts are split up like this:
Parent #1 – 8:00PM and 2:00AM
Parent #2 – 11:00PM and 5:00AM
One goal of the parent that is on-shift is to get the feeding, diaper change, soothing, etc. done in as little time as possible in order to get some extra sleep before the shift is over, however this rarely works out. In fact as I write this it is 2:48AM and I am holding the baby with one hand and typing with the other hand. I know that if I try to put her in her crib, she will wake up and I will have to start over with the “soothing” portion of this shift.
The parent that is off-shift is hopefully getting some sleep, however sometimes the off-shift parent will be woken up by crying (by either the baby or the on-shift parent) and will have to get up and lend a hand.
During the day it is pretty much all up to my wife. I work from home, however I rarely have time to venture out of my office to help with the baby; when I am done with work for the day, I try to pick up whatever slack there is to give my wife a break. As during the night hours, the daytime hours revolve around the 3 hour feeding schedule. Eventually we will be able to switch to an “on-demand” feeding schedule, however as it stands now our doctor is mostly interested in our daughter gaining weight, so we must stick to the 3 hour intervals.
At the most recent doctor visit, our daughter weighed in at 6 lbs. 3 oz, so whatever stress or fatigue we feel as a result of the feeding schedule is worth it. Our daughter is gaining weight and growing, playing catch-up from her initial small size. There are nights where shifts go well, but she just refuses to calm down and go back to sleep; most nights all 3 of us get very little sleep. The thought now is that she has colic, that vague, nebulous diagnosis that apparently has no treatment and we must deal with for at least another month.
So for now we live our lives in 3 hour increments, squeezing in sleep where we can, and looking forward to the time when baby will sleep through the night, or at least for 3 or 4 continuous hours.
I write about the rather unexpected journey of fatherhood, please join me!