My first installment of the Baby Timeline was newborns. Today, I will cover 2- to 8-week-olds. All the pronouns are for a girl and the nickname is Peanut because that what my girlfriend had all those years ago.
If she met her birth weight at her two week appointment then you’re off and running. Peanut still runs the show, mostly.
Around this time you may notice the semblance of a feeding pattern. Perhaps she feeds every 2-3 hours with two distinct clusters of about three hours each with her longest sleeps coming after the cluster. (Bottle-fed infants might have a little more of a pattern than breastfed ones.)
This good marker sets up a nursing confidence pitfall. You will think you’re getting into the groove and then at three weeks Peanut will hit a growth spurt and her first milk demand. She’ll want to eat all the time. Just go with it, and it will last about a day. Fight it and she’ll get cranky and demand more feedings. You’ll worry that you aren’t making enough milk. Both of you will cry. Look up “milk demand” if you are curious, but your boobies just take a few feeds to respond by making more milk in the first instance rather than having her feed longer.
Do not worry about nipple confusion. I know of no baby that had nipple confusion. To the contrary, the babies knew exactly what nipple was what. If she takes an occasional bottle or sucks a pacifier, whoop-de-do. In fact, if you don’t introduce a bottle a few times early on, like three weeks, then she’ll refuse a bottle later. Many friends fought bottle refusal, confused because they introduced a bottle “early” around six weeks.
Actually, I don’t have to tell you about my friends. The Times of London had a story about bottle refusal a few years ago. You don’t have to do the bottle regularly, just a few times to let Peanut know that food comes in other packages—and at room temperature. Seriously, don’t train Peanut to be picky.
Next Page: Sleep
Once you get through the three-week demand mentioned above then the pattern you noticed will return. Keep going with it, with one exception. Often one of the cluster feeds happens around 2 a.m. Peanut might be very alert at this time. Ditto for bottle-fed babies only without a cluster feed. This is called Day/Night reversal. It will make you cry. (Yes, there is a lot of crying at this stage.)
The fix: if she seems remotely hungry during the day, feed her. Whenever she is awake (babies still sleep most of the time until around six weeks) during the day, coo at her, play with her toes. Read books. (It’s never too early to start.) Take her for walks in the sunshine. Open your curtains. Keep the house noise level normal. Think getting over jet lag.
Do the opposite at night. When she calls, don’t run to her immediately. Go to the bathroom, or just count to 60 and see if she falls back to sleep. Sometimes she will. When you do feed her, keep the lights low. Feed her, change her nappy, and put her back to bed. If she needs you to rock her a bit, or if she wants to sleep in the swing or car seat, fine.
Do whatever she wants to get her to sleep, just do not play. Follow this baby jet lag plan and the reversal will go away in a few weeks. She’ll still eat in the wee small hours of the morning, but she’ll go right back to sleep.
This jet lag plan also helps her learn to comfort herself a little. That skill will grow, but not if you don’t give it a chance. In fact, this is a parent’s first lesson in children learning most things in a process. One of the problems of modern theory-based parenting based is forgetting the process. A book tells us the milestone, but children don’t hit milestone markers, and *snap*, have the skill. They need time to develop the skill, to master the components of the skill.
But back to sleep: if you’re lucky you should get your first six-hour stretch around seven weeks. That day will feel like you’ve won the energy lottery. You’ll think you can paint the house and run a marathon before breakfast. FYI, you can’t. It’s a relative energy boost. You’ve just forgotten what marathon energy feels like. Plus, night sleep progresses in a two steps forward, one back rhythm. You’ll get a six-hour night and then go back to 4-5 hours for a few days. It might be about two weeks before she’ll sleep for six hours consistently.
Next Page: Dads
Bottle introduction is a perfect job for Daddy after the first milk demand. Peanut will likely protest if you try it, and Daddy needs to get some baby time. Have him watch the baby while you take a walk. Leave the house. Get out of his way. Only go for 20 minutes or so (you won’t be loaded with energy, but you will be loaded with milk—you ain’t goin’ very far for a while). Soon call up a friend for a quick lunch and leave him for an hour. Later, go for a girls’ night out.
One of my Top Ten bits of baby advice: hold your tongue about tarnished gold. If, for example, your husband gives the baby a bath, do not offer comment or instruction unless he is in danger of flooding the house or drowning the baby. He will put the diaper on wrong, and it will leak. Say nothing. You learned that lesson only 10 days earlier. He will likely be rougher and louder with her. This will annoy you. Shush. It is important work.
Do this, and the payoff will be HUGE. Be aware, though, of the difference between ‘Let him get a taste of how hard this is!’ and letting him get his own rhythms with Peanut. You are facilitating his bonding with his child, not launching a score-keeping war. It is a little bit of mental pruning that you must do for the health of your marriage, which incidentally is the biggest influencer of your child’s future risk profile. Resentment grows quickly, so stop it before it can sprout.
A final thought for this stage
Sometime around 3-4 weeks on top of — or perhaps because of — your hormonal cocktail and sleep deprivation limits, many women start to despair that they’ll go nuts being at the mercy of a baby. You’re going to be very tired and strung out, and you’ll smell like cheese. Hang tough. Peanut will start to even out. You will sleep again.
If you start to fight and try to control her too much, then you’ll either set yourself up for an epic battle of wills or you’ll burn out from frustration and throw in the towel on discipline within a few months when it starts to count. This is how early the indulgence of modern motherhood can start. Put your feet up and hang with the baby. Once this period is over you’ll actually miss it.