Lake has recently been fondly called “barracuda” by my brother and by my friend Kelly “barnacle” el percebe, the Spanish endearment for a baby that eats all the time. I’ve been operating off the notion that Lake may have to grow to 6’6″ by the time he is fifteen years old or so. To that end he’s going to need a lot of milk early on to fuel his growth, so I offer him the breast every time he makes rooting gestures.
I’m reminded at PEPS earlier last week that the sleep education begins at just a few weeks old and that he would be typically doing his nights by a few months old. I’m wondering about nudging the mealtime structure, too. Lake is nearly two months old now and time is passing quickly. My windows are rapidly closing, so while on holiday at the lake I cracked back open the book that so inspired me while pregnant Bringing up Bébé to check in with the basic principles and timelines of typical French baby rhythms.
I’m reminded it all comes down to the importance of the Pause. The reason for the pause is the teaching of alert awareness and patience so that our children may enjoy the world and their experiences in it. And their parents too! When the children can entertain themselves and happily become accustomed to delayed gratification, they are more relaxed and confident. Certainly traits I wish to empower Lake with by patiently teaching patience.
Doing his Nights
I’ve been pretty pleased with his rhythm since a few weeks old of typically sleeping from approximately 11pm to 5am. Then often he’ll eat for an hour and have another sleep segment. But it’s not bomb-proof. It could be better. Especially since we are moving him out of our bedroom and working to reclaim our parental privacy and relationship intimacy.
Upon revisiting the phenomenon of French babies doing their nights from just a few months, it’s supported by intriguing research*. The experimental group was given a few basic rules to follow from birth or just a few weeks old compared to the control group who were given none.
- Not to nurse, rock or hold baby in the evening before sleep.
- Starting at weeks old, between midnight and 5am, do not attempt to nurse unless other means have been tried and failed: reswaddle, pat, re-diaper, walk around.
- Distinguishing between whimpering in their sleep versus awake crying. Ensuring that your baby is awake before picking up!
The findings are compelling. For the first three weeks there was no distinguishable pattern or difference among all the babies. However, by four weeks 38% versus 7% were sleeping through the night. Then the experimental group was all sleeping through the night by 8 weeks, versus less than a quarter of the controls. What?! That’s a very strong endorsement. Lake is officially 8 weeks old now. He is a trooper for doing his nights pretty well, but honestly it’s not 100% and it’s always the breast. Before, during and after sleep. Is it me, not being creative enough or does he really need the breastfeeding for energy to grow? I do try to use the Pause, but perhaps not rigorously enough. Well, there’s always extinction which works in just a few days, but the main drawback again is parental consistency. Dang! You gotta want it!
Eating meals (Wait!)
By age four months, the rhythms of the French babies’ appetites have all coincidentally coalesced to coincide with the 8am, noon, 4pm and 8pm mealtimes of their French parents. The are also referred to elegantly as “meals” not “feeds.”
Okay, so I still have a few months to get with the program. I begin referring to his eating as a meal, mealtime, first course, second course, etc. but what else should I be entertaining over the next few months?
It looks like I should begin now at approximately two-three months to stop treating him like an addict, and begin to follow three basic principles:
- Lake should eat at roughy the same times each day.
- Lake will enjoy a few larger meals rather than multiple snacks.
- Lake should fit into the family schedule.
Hmmm, well, we do the larger meals rather than snacking for the most part. I think this has enforced his general pattern of daytime eating and nighttime sleeping. Schedule and timing, though… Mummy’s going to have to work on putting that concept into practice for her own self first. Being on maternity leave with a newborn (who admitted is quickly changing) is the antithesis of having a schedule. Okay, the challenge is on to begin adding a bit more rigorous discipline to our days… Regular mealtimes and sleeping our nights.