I can't begin to claim that night feedings were ever easy for me. Still, there's definitely something to be said about the challenges of the very first one. Everything's new, scary, and overwhelming. While I'd wager I had a few extra things working against me during those late-night struggles (I'm a heavy sleeper and I have anxiety) I would still bet there are some key struggles every mom has during her first night feeding.
Of course, no mom is the same as another, every baby is different, and we've all opted for various strategies to help us manage this whole parenting thing given our unique circumstances. Still, there's something universal about picking up a crying baby in the middle of the night and knowing, for the very first time, that I'm the one who's supposed to help. I'm sweating just thinking about it.
It's been almost three years since I was in this position, and my partner and I are gearing up to do it all over again with the arrival of our second child in a couple of months. I'm hoping that perhaps, and against all odds, night feedings will be a little bit smoother this time since we've been through it all before. Then again, it's really up to our baby, isn't it? So, since it's pretty much out of my control, here's what I'm expecting some of the challenges to be:
You know how all the warnings about parenthood are fraught with intense messages about sleep deprivation and exhaustion? Suddenly, they all come flooding back to you at 2 a.m. when your baby is anything but happy. It's like standing at the edge of the cliff with a parachute strapped to your back, thinking, “OMG, this is it,” before you take that necessary jump. In other words, it can feel a little overwhelming.
Thankfully, your baby is probably not aware of your inner monologue, so you can proceed like you totally have everything under control (because, really, you do).
Not sure about everyone else, but 2 a.m., while once a totally pleasant hour that usually involved kicking my shoes off and changing into my pajamas after a wonderful evening of fun, is more about remaining as unconscious as possible now. Waking up (if you weren’t already awake and staring at your tiny baby) at that hour is not easy, and can require extra effort. A lot of extra effort.
Figuring Out The Order Of Operations...
Change the diaper first, or feed first? That is the question to end all questions, my friends. Then again, should you change a diaper before and after breastfeeding, since feeding will surely, um, encourage another need for a change anyway? OK, that is the question to end all questions. (Until you have another question, of course.)
Ultimately, I started changing the diaper first since, in my opinion, the less time the baby spent in a full diaper, the better.
...Then Executing Said Order Of Operations
Since we’re talking about that first 2 a.m. feeding, let’s be clear that there's often more to it than just breastfeeding and diapering. I mean, swaddles and sleep sacks add an extra layer. Soothing a fussy baby can be hard. Remembering where the burp cloths are can be even harder. Everything is much, much easier said than done.
Figuring Out A Routine
In the early days of newborn life, nothing is routine yet. Even the basics, like how to comfortably feed your baby or change a diaper in less than 12 minutes, are not as simple as they seem.
Figuring Out What To Wear
Perhaps night owls already have this one under control, but my days of going out at night are long gone (and trust me, I’m not crying because they’re over, I’m smiling because they happened). So, I'm a bit out of practice with being out of bed at night, and with keeping myself warm without the luxury of sheets and a comforter. What was I to do, pull sweats over my pajamas? Steal my spouse’s robe? Grab a blanket for my legs and call it good? Try to glean body heat from my newborn?
Spoiler alert: pretty much anything but the last one can work.
Going Back To Sleep
The baby’s fed and changed, but awake in their bed. Do I still try to sleep, or do I wait until baby falls asleep? Or, since the clock is already ticking and his next feeding is only 90 minutes away, do I just try to stay awake? Or maybe I should Google about that breathing noise he’s making. Oh, and while I’m on Google, I need to check on that issue I’m having with my own recovery, some breast milk supply tips, and ideas for saving for college.
Getting The Baby In And Out Of The Swaddle
Eventually, we converted from swaddles to various sleepsacks with velcro on them (which makes me wish that silent velcro was actually a thing), but even still, maneuvering the baby in and out of them was rarely as simple as it seemed. Couple that with the fact that I’m in a dimly lit room and so groggy that my eyes are burning? I’d rather change another diaper, thanks.
Figuring Out What To Do With The Lights
Whoever said women can’t have it all never considered a dim lamp that gives off just enough light to safely lift a child in and out of the bassinet. Although, if you go this route, consider a regular lamp and not a weird fancy one with a super-specific bulb that takes you three months to replace. Just trust me.
Not Staring Hopelessly At The Clock
I’m sorry to say that I repeatedly failed miserably with this particular struggle. Do not hang a wall clock with an audible second hand in your baby’s room, unless you want to find yourself hating life at least twice as much as other moms do. You've got enough things to worry about, and the slow passing of time before the sun comes up is not one of them.