Here’s a detailed look at how, in the first two weeks of breastfeeding, I begin gently prioritizing sleep… so that our whole family (parents, older siblings, and baby included) achieves sanity, sleep, and contentment ASAP. This is the way we’ve done it with all 8 of our babies.
- 1:00- What method we follow
- 1:25- Difficulties I work to overcome
- 2:40- Important factors, & what about “crying it out?”
- 2:55- How I build & maintain milk supply while prioritizing sleep
- 3:10- Strategies for waking up a sleepy/sleeping baby
- 4:10- What does “wake time” mean? How long is it?
- 4:35- Why & how does the Eat-Wake-Sleep cycle work?
- 6:40- So, do we do “cry it out?”
- 7:00- what breastfeeding “success” while prioritizing sleep has looked like for us
APP MENTIONED: BabyNursing
BOOK MENTIONED: Babywise– click to purchase here.
Want to know more nitty-gritty details? Read the 7-part series where I chronicled Babywise with our 5th child.
So… I’m enjoying using the video format as a way of “writing” during these postpartum weeks. My hands aren’t free to type very often right now, but my mouth is free to speak…
but what do you think? Are you enjoying these stream-of-consciousness style videos, or are they too scattered (or… something else) for your taste? Let me hear from you in the comments.
In the comments, I’d also love to hear:
- How did/do your postpartum months go?
- How have you (or haven’t you?) made sleep & sanity a priority during the early months of postpartum life?
22 thoughts on “Postpartum Sanity: How I Prioritize Sleep (While Breastfeeding)”
I loved your series you did on Baby Wise and it helped me a lot as a new mom. I also followed the Eat, Wake, Sleep cycle with both my kids and it helped a lot with their sleep. My one question for you in the early months is what do you do when they are ready to be put to sleep? Since you don’t nurse or feed them to sleep, do you just lay him down and he will fall asleep? I know Baby Wise says to put them down when they are very sleepy but not asleep yet and they will fall asleep on their own, but I have not found that to be true with my babies. Right when I put them down to sleep no matter how tired they are, they usually wake up crying. I always made sure their diapers were dry and they were swaddled, etc. but they would still wake or cry when I put them down to sleep. It was a stressful part of the first few months was having to try to get them to sleep on their own when they wouldn’t do it. Just something I have thought about preparing for another baby in March.
Do you use a pacifier? When I lay them down, they’re swaddled, with pacifier, in that “sleepy” window… and it’s pretty much the same thing every time. On their side with the sleep prop, bundled up, toasty, primed for sleep. Usually with a fan/white noise going.
Another piece to consider is starting early enough. Within the first two weeks, I’m laying them down independently for at least 1-2 of the sleep times– http://makinghome.blogspot.com/2010/07/chronicling-babywise-week-2.html
In the first few weeks, the MAIN 2 things I focus on are:
1- milk supply (this is top priority!!!). Nurse a full feeding every time they’re hungry.
2- the order of the eat-wake-sleep cycle (the order= more important than the time length of the cycle)
After those are in place, then I begin gently working on the nap time. It’s a 2-steps-forward, 1-step back thing. I think this is where some people think it’s a cry-it-out system because it would be easy to give up on finding the sleepy window and just decide, eh, they need to cry.
I do (as they get more alert and aware) allow for a small amount of crying I’ve termed “grizzling” which is more like eh-ugh-ehhh-ehhhhh, etc… trying to settle down, get comfortable, etc. It’s a shallow, more random, nasal type noise/cry. But it’s not remotely the same as a mad cry, or out-of-control screaming, and it usually only lasts 3 to maybe (at most) 10 minutes. Allowing for this level of crying/annoyance is not a means to TEACH them to sleep; rather, it’s simply the outcome of them learning to give in to sleep.
If a baby is not just doing that mild grizzly noise but is actually full-on crying, I would first analyze what might be happening:
*** is baby clearly about to have a diaper? (squirming, awkward random-cries– rather than constant– usually indicate it’s a digestive issue)
*** does baby need gas drops?
*** is baby snuffly/having trouble breathing (maybe do a quick squeeze of saline drops up each nostril)?
*** are we off our routine? (at which point I might not try for an independent nap this go-round)
Then I might do one of several things (I’d try them in this order):
(1) stand in a place they can’t see me and lay my hand firmly on their back.
(2) pat their tummy firmly
(3) rock their body gently back and forth (while laying my hand on their back, I’d move my hand an inch or two in each direction at most)
(4) pick them up for a quick snuggle and comfort, just to get them back to a place of grizzling, then lay back down and try again.
(5) change positions for their nap (i.e., bring them to sleep beside me on the couch, hold them in a wrap to sleep, whatever.
One thing I’ve observed in myself and others, is that the tendency is to go too far too fast. What I mean by that is that a lot of young parents will have a slightly-fussy baby and so they go from no-intervention, to picking them up and patting and bouncing them. Then they’ll say things like, “the only way he’ll go to sleep is by us rocking him really hard;” or “the only way she’ll go to sleep is with us bouncing her around the living room while we run the vacuum cleaner” or whatever.
Instead, we should use a principle of MINIMAL intervention. We do the LEAST possible movement/interference necessary to produce the desired result.
This, too, is a Babywise principle– he phrases it more like, “don’t start a habit you don’t want to still be doing in a year’s time.”
So don’t pick up and rock to sleep if a light pat on the back will do. Don’t do a pat on the back if a heavy hand on the back will do. Don’t do a hand on the back if a generic white noise will do. Etc. I generally try not to pat or rock, but might use one of these if it helped them get over the hump of crying without being picked up, etc.
Do what’s necessary to get them over the hump toward sleep, but do the ***least amount*** necessary.
Oh also – if you haven’t seen it, check out this post from last week:
17 WAYS TO HELP YOUR NEWBORN CALM DOWN & SLEEP LONGER — http://jessconnell.com/17-ways-help-newborn-calm-sleep-longer/
Thank you for this post! I’m having my first baby soon (really soon! Jan. 22nd) and I want to breastfeed him as longs as possible, while also trying to maintain my sanity. This is incredibly helpful. I have the Babywise book, but have not started ti read it just yet.
I like the video format, Jess. It’s nice to hear from you in this way, and I can totally understand how it would be so much easier to share. Today when I watched this one, I went back and watched some of your other videos as well. Thank you so much for all you do… I feel very “taught” by you. So, thank you!
I really love the advice you shared in the video regarding baby’s sleep schedule. We always followed the eat, play, sleep routine as well although I never read Babywise, and I honestly don’t remember where I learned that idea from. Our babies (we have three boys) all really became very good sleepers too and still are to this day.
I know you’re in baby mode right now, but I have been wondering… I read your posts about talking to your boys about their bodies and sex and I know you have a post about talking with the 2-5 year old range, but I’m not seeing that you have a post for the the next age range of boys. So that is on my wishlist for your blog for 2017. 😉 Thanks!
I know! I just remembered that again recently. The problem is that that age is more complex, and so every time I sit down to try to write it out, I’m confronted with the reality that there really is so much more nuance… and I want to give sufficient detail to really be helpful.
Thanks, too, for the input about the video format. I like it but don’t want to invest in something that people don’t find helpful.
this post: http://jessconnell.com/the-truth-about-sex-how-it-affects-our-parenting/
and the last question on this Q&A post: http://jessconnell.com/september-2015-mailbag/
will give you a little more insight & info about how we address those issues with older kids, even though it’s not a pointed, systematic, organized post exclusively about that. Hope this helps until I’m able to put together the next installment.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to do something on your blog, even with a new baby. I did watch the video and I appreciate them, but personally I would rather read something (much easier to do with 5 kids under 8 around me). When there is a video, I have to wait to get a moment on my own with no kids around, and this doesn’t happen until they are in bed, usually. Anyway I am more into reading stuff than listening, but this is me… And I second Lisa – I would really like to see something about older boys!
Thanks for the posts even in your postpartum phase! I agree I do probably prefer a written post, but I am just so happy to see you posting at this phase videos are fine! Also, you look so refreshed in the video, I’m happy for you!
We have 3 boys & tried to follow babywise principles which each one, and I pretty much agree with your tactics/view of the book. My one question would be do you feel like you are having to wake your babies up to nurse during this early period (less than 1 month old), or are they pretty much hungry and eating a lot, even during the day? My babies always seem so sleepy that I’m having to wake them up to stay on the 2.5 – 3.5 hour feeding cycle and to get them enough feedings each day. I have felt like it’s so much harder to get them to nurse good (take a full feeding) when I’m waking them up to feed, but at the same time I’m worried about milk supply if I let them sleep too long. We had weight issues with our last 2 babies, and slight tongue-ties with each one, and at this point I’m just really scared to have another baby because of the constant weight checks at the doctor and feeling like I’m not doing *something* right or they’d be gaining weight better. With the last one I was pumping loads of milk in excess of what he was taking in (after his feedings) and it evolved into basically by 6 months old he didn’t want to nurse anymore because the dr’s had me introduce bottles after each feeding at 2 months, so then I continued pumping and bottle feeding him my milk for most of the rest of his first year, and was adding formula to the bottles per doctor’s instructions to get him more calories. He’s still small, only the 3rd percentile at 18 months, so I do feel it’s partially genetic or something too, but they want to see them staying on the curve.
We also had our almost 3 year old son fall and break his leg when the littlest was only 2.5 weeks old, and then he was put in a hip spica cast for 2 months, but really I tried not letting that stress interrupt nursing and felt like we were doing good until the baby started sleeping more during the night, and then the weight issues started up. I guess I’m just curious if any of what I described sticks out as something I should correct for any future babies in my understanding of the process, as I am so nervous for a repeat of the weight issues we’ve had with the last 2 & struggling to be positive that it will go better another time around.
I love the sleep benefits of this schedule, and do believe it works, I’m just not sure about what to do with little/not growing good babies. I’m also a stay at home mom with the last 2, whereas I was working full-time with our first, so it was a different experience altogether. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
Yes, I DEFINITELY have to wake them up to eat, especially in these early weeks. And I try to keep it to 2.5-3 hours during the day, because I want them to conglomerate their sleep times at night. 😉
Right now, for Fisher, he’ll occasionally do a 3-hour time, but yes, I mostly work to keep it to 2.5/3, which OFTEN means I need to wake him up. He’s nearly 3 weeks old (how did that happen so FAST??!), and much of the time he still is sleepy at the 2.5-3 hour mark, so I need to wake him to feed.
That’s when I use these tricks, to get (and keep!) them alert enough to take a full feeding.
The other thing I would encourage you to do is to use the app I mentioned FAITHFULLY. when you do, it can give you insights as to what’s happening with sleep issues… like:
* OOPS! We accidentally went 4 hours yesterday mid-day when I thought it was only 3 hours… THAT’s why he woke up more last night.
* Or, it can help you evaluate… OH a week ago we were doing more like 25/27 minute feedings. Now that we’ve dropped to 21, he’s probably getting less hind milk. Maybe THAT’s why he’s waking up more frequently.
* Or, he’s feeding longer… ah, maybe we’re entering a growth spurt.
I really find the app helpful for giving me enough details to do high-level evaluation of what’s actually happening with baby.
*** RE: Weight gain: We too have had some lip-tie and tongue-tie issues. For that, the key (for me) has been not watching the clock, but using the fullness of milk ducts as an indicator for how well they’re draining the breast.
In the first few weeks, I would work hard to add in at least 3-5 minutes nursing on the first breast (beyond what they might naturally take), so that you can be sure baby is getting enough hind milk. I think really letting them take their time and get out every bit on the first side is one of the ways we can ensure better weight gain.
One last thought: after the first week of my oldest child’s life (when he was in the NICU), I’ve never pumped. There’s really no need to. What this means is that I just decide to keep my baby with me 24/7 for at least the first 3-5 months of life. They come with us on date nights, with me to do shopping, with me if I need to take a trip, etc. and it works just fine.
But in almost 15 years, I’ve only pumped for a week. It’s really not necessary and (in my observations of friends & their difficulties) breastfeeding long-term seems to go better without it.
OH- about doctor’s visits… if you are an experienced mother, aside from vaccinations (if you get them), there’s no reason to go in for “check-ups” near as often as the recommendations make it seem. If I was being pressured by a doctor, I would:
(1) find a different doctor, with less anxiety over the people on each end of the bell curve (there’s a whole spread of what’s “normal” for a reason– meaning, some people naturally fall in the 5-15th percentile… and some fall in the 85-95th percentile, and neither is necessarily doing a thing wrong!!!).
(2) if I agreed that the growth rate was concerning, I would move to a strict every-2.5 hour feeding schedule, and work to get extra hind milk by adding as much as I could to the end of that first side of nursing, before moving to the opposite breast.
I would (and do) also get tongue tie & lip tie situations dealt with within the first 48 hours of life. The sooner this is taken care of, the less it affects the breastfeeding relationship. We’ve had severe tongue AND lip ties with our last two babies, and both have been snipped/dealt with within 48 hours, and neither have had long-lasting issues or struggles with nursing (although neither have been very efficient at first!)
I have to be willing to nurse LONGER for them, because it takes them longer to empty the breast. This is why, especially for them, feeling the milk ducts and softness of the breast has been the key indicator in their nursing efficiency, rather than the clock.
Yes, yes, yes! I had a two guys with weight gain issues, and both of them had slight tongue/lip ties. We got our newest baby’s clipped, and she is a little porker.
I also second the pediatrician switch. Our old one would pile on so much guilt when my babies didn’t match the growth chart. 🙁 He would try to push formula (or pumping so we could see how much he was getting), even though he was developing just fine. We finally switched and my husband commented how nice it was to see me not stressed before and after a well visit. I didn’t realize how much I had come to dread them. A ped who views each child as an individual rather than a number on a chart is so important!
Thanks for all of the great advice! Not going to the 3.5 hour mark seems to make sense. Do you also wake them up overnight on this same 2.5-3 hour schedule early on, or do you let them go as long as they want overnight from the beginning, or do you wake them up overnight until a certain age and then let them go at some point?
As far as never pumping, how do you manage the first few days of engorgement? I am usually just in so much pain I can’t even nurse comfortably, so try to just relieve a little by pumping. Maybe sticking to the shorter windows helps with that?
If my milk has come in and baby is growing normally, I don’t wake them up until they wake up on their own. So, between 6am-say, 11pm, they eat every 2.5-3 hours. (3.5 at most, per Babywise “rules”). But at night, they sleep however long they naturally do. At night, when they wake up/stir/start to cry, they get fed immediately.
RE: pumping/not pumping, the thing about pumping in that instance is that you’re actually prolonging your body’s time of engorgement. It seems to me that pumping triggers your body to keep making more breastmilk than your baby actually needs so then you’re actually going to be more engorged, longer, because of the pumping. By *not* pumping, your body is receiving the honest signals your baby is giving, so that your body makes the exact right amount (after–at most– a 2-3 day adjustment, when there is a growth spurt) that your baby actually needs.
Whenever I have painful size/engorgement issues, I just nurse the baby on the worst/most “hard” side first. Typically, though, I trade off which side I start on, but when there is pain, engorgement, or what might be the start of mastitis because of clogged milk ducts, painful/red patches, etc., I nurse on that pained side first.
I do also think that by (for the most part in the early weeks) sticking pretty close to the 2.5 hour mark, it does empty the breast more frequently and lead to less pain/engorgement in general.
Because I want to group baby’s calories during daylight hours, I work to get as many full feedings into those hours as possible, which is typically 8 feedings a day (every 2.5-3 all day, plus 1 at night when they are still waking up at night), which drops to 7 full feedings by the time they go 6-8 hours at night.
That’s 7 feedings… plus (if they’re still waking up) something like a 3/4am feeding.
In the earliest weeks, it usually works out to 9 feedings, then quickly moves to 8… then whenever they drop that one night feeding, it goes to 7 full feeds a day, roughly along a routine like those times above.
For weight gain:I second everything that Jess said. We had the doctor try to scare use about the slow weight gain with our first. I still remember her saying: he seems to be nursing long and not taking enough, do you want to come back tomorrow to weight him again? I looked at my husband, he looked at me and we said “No thank! “. We were followed by a midwife who was much more relaxed, and I felt confident that nursing was going fine, even if I had to take time and work extra hard to keep him awake during feedings. He was sleeping very well and waking on his own past the first three weeks or so. With the next babies, I postponed the pediatrician visit until they were two months old…
Regarding the charts, 4 out of 5 of my children are below the “normal” curve, but so was I for much if not all of my childhood, so it is probably genetic. I was joking with my husband the other day that I have a “normal” weight only when I am pregnant!
Love your blog! Remember you from early Sonlight days (I wasn’t a big poster but was Sadiegirl on there). I have 8 children, ages 17- almost 1 so I can relate so well to most of your posts! Nice to read about someone else who looks “different” in this culture.
Lately I’ve been freshly aware that I learned sooooo much during those years on the SL Forums. I’m so thankful to have started our time homeschooling with so much richness of THINKING about the process and tools we used. When I recently started listening to a podcast about Charlotte Mason’s approach, I realized how much of her thinking I’d unknowingly adopted through those influences on the SL forums.
Anyway, really really thankful for those years, even though that’s not a place I’ve visited in years…
And I know what you mean about the comfort of finding someone else who’s different. It can get lonely sometimes, living out the oddities of personal conviction from the Lord.
I really like the videos! I love listening while I’m doing other things. I am pregnant with our seventh and with a few have done the same cylce and it has been good. We have had several babies with really bad acid reflux and so that has required more feedins and more nighttime wakings, because they hurt but it still helps to have the good routine. When mine have gotten older I will do a top off feeding before their longer nap of the day and it helps them sleep longer for that nap. Also on the previous weigh gain question, finding a doctor that trusts momma is so important. With my first the doctor had me on a crazy feeding routine because the baby wasn’t gaining enough weight. But now we have a wonderful doctor and when our new baby didn’t get back to birth weight by two weeks was fine and didn’t pressure me at all.
“finding a doctor that trusts momma is so important.”
YES!! In all our various “homes” around the world, the times that I’ve found a doctor who really listens to me and includes me in the process of evaluating what’s happening with our child, and who weighs my analysis heavily in their own approach to the situation, have been such a blessing to our family. It’s so worth it to find a doctor (even if you have to drive farther, etc) who really listens to and trusts mom.
I love the videos and have watched them when I have a quiet moment so I am able to focus and enjoy the format with all the tidbits that writing doesn’t give. Kind of a nugget of refreshment for me without reading. Thanks for all your doing on here, I’m always so encouraged!