This is my third baby. Third babies are supposed to be easy, right? I’m supposed to be a pro at all things baby by now, right? That’s what I thought, too.
When our sweet baby girl was born, about five months ago, we were excited, and a little nervous, to be doing the ‘baby stage’ again. Our older children, ages seven and five, are now blissfully sleeping through the night in their own beds. They are totally potty trained. They can get dressed, tie their own shoes, and put on their coats. They buckle themselves into their booster seats. Sometimes they even make their own breakfast and snacks. We knew having a newborn would be a culture shock, but I was ready! I was going to do everything right this time around. I wasn’t going to make the same ‘mistakes’ I’d made with my first two. And I certainly didn’t need any help or advice from anyone else. Or so I thought.
Baby girl came home from the hospital and things were going well. My two boys were away at school most of the day, so I got to focus on the fundamentals of having a newborn: getting her to eat and sleep. Now that I have older children, with their plethora of issues and challenges, making sure my baby ate and slept seemed like a walk in the park. Or so I thought.
As it turned out, we had a few challenges with nursing. I had similar nursing issues with my other two children, so I was ready to tackle whatever came our way. This was my third baby after all, I knew what I was doing! I changed up my diet, nursed her in all the right positions, and made sure I had all the tools and resources needed to successfully feed this baby girl. Week after week went by and baby girl was still struggling with nursing. I was confused. Here I was, doing all the right things. It was late one evening, when a friend texted me asking how things were going. I was honest and shared that I was worried baby girl wasn’t nursing properly. She sent me a link for a free breastfeeding support group that meets at the Anne Arundel Medical Center twice a month. A Lactation Consultant who I had gone to with my oldest son leads the group. So, I brushed aside my pride and went to the support group a few days later. I felt a little silly being there with all these new moms and their little babies, most of who were less than a month old. But I listened as everyone went around the room discussing how breastfeeding was going and asking questions. By the time it got around to me I already had a ton of great advice and ideas on how to make nursing my daughter a better experience for both of us. I left the meeting feeling so encouraged! If only I hadn’t been so stubborn and just reached out for help earlier.
So now we had baby girl nursing better! Eating? Check. Sleeping? Not so much. She had been a great sleeper the first two months, but then at three months old she abruptly stopped sleeping well. Our nights became very long with her waking sometimes every hour (or less). She had been sleeping in her crib great by two months old, but now she was back in our bed with me nursing her all night long. My husband had taken to sleeping in the guest room so that at least one of us was rested and could get our older children off to school in the morning. Some days I wouldn’t get any sleep until he came and got the baby from me around six in the morning. But this was my third child, after all, so I had lots of theories as to why she wasn’t sleeping well; growth spurt or “leap,” teething, too much stimulation, not enough stimulation, cluster feeding, separation anxiety, and lots of other excuses. Surely though I knew what I was doing and did NOT need help getting my baby to sleep.
When she turned four months old, we tried some sleep training methods from The Sleep Lady book that had been successful for our second son. The primary goal from that book is to help your baby learn to fall asleep on her own without a ‘sleep crutch.’ For us this meant helping her learn to fall asleep without having to nurse. I pulled out all the parenting tricks I knew of; eight different pacifiers (she hated them all), different types of swaddle blankets, various white noise machines, soft lullaby music, keeping the room dark, keeping the room dimly lit, keeping the room cold, keeping the room warm, rocking, walking, bouncing, swinging…you name it, we tried it. After a few weeks, she did start falling asleep without having to nurse, but it was now this long, drawn-out process of getting her calm, then carefully, like she was a ticking time bomb, placing her sleeping little body in the crib. Then we’d start the whole process over again an hour or two later when she’d wake up. We had pretty much moved from one sleep crutch to another.
When baby girl turned five months old, we decided it might be time to get some help…again. I started researching local Sleep Consultants. The cost seemed high, but since everyone charged about the same amount, I figured that was just the cost of a good night’s sleep. We ended up contacting a local consultant that some friends had recommended. We setup a phone consultation with her and spent about thirty minutes discussing everything about our baby. She asked about her birth, how she was eating, what a typical day and night routine looked like, and lots of other things. Like the day I walked into the breastfeeding support group, I again felt a little silly asking for help. But that feeling quickly dissipated as the sleep consultant shared about how every baby is different and some of her philosophies on infant sleep. We hung up and I felt very encouraged and determined on helping our baby get better at sleeping. The following day the consultant emailed us a very customized, personal ‘sleep plan’ that we were to follow strictly for the next two weeks. The consultant would be available as much as we needed her during those two weeks. Amazingly, baby girl was sleeping through the night (twelve blissful, straight hours) by the second day. She was also taking three great naps a day. And just like that, our ‘not so easy’ third child was now eating and sleeping like a champ!
I’m all about getting help now. I had some trouble trying to wear baby girl in a ring sling, so I went to the free local Patuxent Babywearing group meeting at the library. I had some trouble deciding how we were going to start baby girl on solids, so I joined some Facebook mom groups to get advice. I wanted to make cute outfits for her, so I asked my mother-in-law to start giving me sewing lessons. There are just a lot of things that I really don’t know, even after having three children, and I am totally okay with that now. Maybe people say that third babies are so easy not because the baby themselves are easy, but because the parents are finally wise enough to realize they need to get help sooner.