At first I felt like the list I'm about to talk about was top 10 topics of advice. However, I have learned over the past 8 weeks that there is no such thing as advice when you are a first time mom. Sure, people will suggest things and you will try them. And sure, they are wonderful! The thing I have learned is that everyone is different and every baby will respond differently. I think the best advice was actually given my by sister who is a mother of 3. Every time I would call her concerned or questioning something, she would always respond with, "Don't worry about what you read or what you were told. You know what feels right for you and Dexter. As long as he is eating, sleeping, and having dirty diapers you are doing great! Don't worry about trying to feed him every X hours bc that is what "they say". If he is hungry 8mins later, feed him. Do what is right for YOU." It took me about 3 weeks of her saying that concept over and over before I finally understood and followed the advice. Once I did my own thing, my stress and worry melted away. In a way it's ironic to say the best advice is no advice because I am then giving advice. But.....it is the best advice.
With that being said, here are my top 10 things I have learned that works for me during my night feedings. These work for me and I would be thrilled if they ended up helping out another new mom, but I know that everyone is going to have a different story.
Top Ten Must Haves of Late Night Feedings
10. Don't feed in bed: I found that getting myself up and out of the bedroom to another room to feed not only awakens me, it also allows Preston to continue to sleep. This is 2 fold as I am not fighting sleep all cozy in my bed with a sweet warm baby cuddled up to me. Try keeping your eyes open, that's hard. Making sure Preston gets a good nights rest has helped me during the day and weekends as he is well rested and able to help out in other ways around the house as well as allow me to have my little cat naps. Plus it makes me personally feel better as he is working 5 days a week while I'm not and I feel guilty waking him knowing he has to be up at 6am.
9. Headphones: I started off with the TV volume really low. This was working, but when the AC came on it made it difficult to hear. It's not that the AC is loud, but when you have the TV on level 5 in the middle of the night, you really can't hear a thing. It was about week 2 that I started streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime from my iPhone with headphones. Made it waaaay easier to hear AND I was able to put my phone on my lap, arm rest, etc so my line of sight was better to view. Which brings me to my next item.
8. Apps: I already had Netflix and Amazon Prime, but never used them on my phone. Once it clicked in my head I could use the services on my phone it was amazing! I could watch TV shows or movies. If you have a tablet, same concept. It was so much easier than flipping channels with a remote trying to find something to watch. My apps allowed me to watch things on demand.
7. Set up station: Breastfeeding makes you very very thirsty. Once you are sitting down and feeding your child, you can't just hop up and go get a drink of water. At least I haven't mastered that task yet. So before I begin feeding, I would always make sure my water cup is full, my headphones are within reach and anything else that I may need. I also would take this time to use the restroom and such. Basically anything that I could think of I would need in the next hour.
6. Watch only at night: If you have found a TV series that you like, only watch it at night. This allows you mentally to have something to look forward to at night. It also prolongs how long you have the show. This was something else I learned after plowing through a 2 season show in 2 days because I watched it all day and at night. I now am watching a 4 season show and am only in the middle of season 2 and it's 2 weeks into me watching it. It makes me feel excited to wake up sometimes because I want to know how the episode ends!
5. Time trick: This little gem was something that I learned from Preston. After telling him how hard it was so look at the clock and see it was 2:20 or 3:17am, he said that he looks it as the afternoon to help trick himself. GENIUS! So now, when I'm having a sleepy night or feeling drained, I look at it like it's only 3:17pm. Mentally it helps.
(side note - I'm realizing that a lot of these top ten items are all mental comforts. hmmmmm)
4. Bottle option: Because I'm nursing, it isn't possible for Preston to do any of the late night feedings. "But you mentioned Preston and late night feedings in #5" you say. Yes...that is because I started pumping a full bottle during the day. This allows me to have at least one feeding during the night that I skip and he feeds. This creates a nice solid block of rest for me.
3. No scary movies: I love a good scary movie! Watching one late at night alone though has come to an end. I do not recommend doing this. It took one movie with my headphones in to get royally freaked out.
2. No forcing: Sometimes I found myself trying to force Dexter to go to sleep. Some nights he will fall asleep eating and will be out. A good deep sleep out! Then other times he will eat for over 20mins with no end in sight. I was forcing him to stop and would try to rock him to sleep. This only created him to be fussy and then sleep wasn't coming any time soon. So, now I don't force anything. I just let him do his 'thang.
1. Acceptance: I finally have accepted that he WILL wake up in the middle of the night and he WILL stay awake for at least an hour. Once I accepted this as a way of life, it made it less dreadful. I felt less exhausted the next day and less fearful of the night time hours. I no longer tried to get him on a timed schedule or tried to make rhyme/reason of his actions. There is no pattern to a baby. You just let them be a baby and follow their lead at night. Once I accepted this game, life was better.
It's getting better and I know it will continue to get even more better! I love our little guy and when he looks up and smiles at me at 2:15am....I can't help but enjoy our time alone together.