I remember laying in my hospital bed, watching my little newborn sleeping. Juliana went through periods of rapid eye movement, whimpering and smiling. Sometimes her eyes would jolt open and then close several seconds later. The worst was when her eyes opened and then rolled back into her head – I nearly had a heart attack. I quickly realized that sometimes she would wake up and then go back to sleep within seconds. I guess this is one of the benefits of being in the hospital for a week after giving birth – you have more time to lay around and get to know your baby.
The midwives had me on a strict schedule to nurse her every 2 to 4 hours. If I reached 4 hours without nursing, I had to wake her up. It was hard to wake an infant that desperately wanted to sleep. I kept hearing Phoebe from the TV show Friends in the back of my head saying, “you never wake a sleeping baby,” to Rachel when she wanted to wake her newborn. Of course, she wakes Emma and the entire show is about her trying to get the baby to stop crying.
I kept Juliana on this schedule when I brought her home from the hospital because I was afraid of what would happen if she went over 4 hours without eating. I called my mom and told about our schedule. She said, “Let that poor baby sleep! If she is hungry then she will wake up.” That was my first night I got a full sleep since the beginning of my pregnancy. I did, however, wake up one time in the night to check she was still breathing – I was terribly afraid of SIDS (suddden infant death syndrome). But she was breathing and looking content, so I fell back asleep.
From this point on, my baby slept every night for 8 to 10 hours. I was the luckiest new mom alive! Then we moved to the south of France. I am not sure what happened, but all of a sudden my daughter started waking up every 2 to 4 hours. I thought she was going through a growth spurt and needed the extra milk. We visited a pediatrician last week for her monthly appointment and were told that she is slightly underweight. I told her about the sleepless nights. She said that it is nothing to be concerned about and I should take a medicine and drink a special tea to increase my milk supply.
Of course, I got worried. At home I realized that my milk supply could not be the problem. Only a week earlier I was pumping milk because I had too much so my breasts were aching. After she was done with her next meal, I tested and there was still plenty left. Juliana also soaks her diapers normally, so I know she is ingesting a lot of milk. Breastfed babies are normally a little lean. I did not go to the pharmacy for this prescription.
Last night I was desperate for a full night of sleep. I could not find a reason why she would be waking during the night after not doing this for the first 4 months of her life. I wanted to see if she is doing it for comfort or really hungry. She fell asleep at around 10pm and woke up at 12am . She complained for a little while and reached for my shirt (she is still sleeping with us). I caved in when it sounded like she was about to cry. When I realized she switched to using me as a pacifier, I drew away.
She complained for 15 seconds and then quietly stared into my eyes. I rolled on my back, but could not resist giving her a last kiss for looking so cute. I then told her good-night and closed my eyes. Whenever I peaked open my eyes, I noticed her eyes were closing more each time and still staring directly into my mine. Eventually, she fell asleep and we had our first full night of rest in a month! She woke again at 8am.
I just started reading Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman and she discusses how babies in France are expected to sleep their nights from their first few months. A frequent question I receive is if Juliana is sleeping her nights, of which I have always been able to proudly say yes. I did not realize that it was expected here. She mentions that French mothers do “the pause,” which is waiting a few minutes to see if the baby is truly awake or making noises in her sleep. I just happened to notice this about my daughter in the hospital, but my French husband seemed to know about it as well. Sometimes we would hear her wake from a nap while eating dinner and he would tell me to wait a moment to see if she is really awake. It seemed most of the time she was just making noises in her sleep or would fall back to sleep quickly. It is important to make sure that your baby is truly awake before going to her or else she will get used to waking up in between her sleep cycles.
I think Juliana started getting used to using me as a pacifier in between sleep cycles because as soon as she would wake (or seem awake), I would feed her so she would not wake up my husband. He was busier than usual this past month so I tried to take extra care to not wake him. Turns out I ended up creating a bigger problem for me. Since last night was a Friday night, I did not care. Lets hope I have learned how to break the cycle and Juliana is back to sleeping her nights. Mamma’s tired!
Photo: Juliana’s second night at home from the hospital – she was 7 days old. I was so tired that I photographed her using my Blackberry instead of finding our camera.