Parenting

How to Care for your Baby, Yourself, and Your Marriage at 2 to 4 Months

If you’ve followed my previous recommendations for newborns and tinies, things start to ease up at two to four months. Your outlook starts to stretch to long term goals, as parents take charge of the schedule.

Sometimes the actions I suggest here will seem premature and certainly not the popular route these days.  For instance, why fret over sleep times at three months when you can still cart Peanut out to dinner in her car seat?

While a three-month-old is easy to distract or entertain in public (when she isn’t sleeping, that is) a nine-month-old is not, and an 18-month-old—wow. The bedtime routine that I suggest at three months has little to do with getting Peanut to sleep then, but rather, training her sleep pattern so you can get her to bed at a year. She’s just easier to train at three months.

Next page: Feeding

Feeding

A pattern of eating and sleeping should start to show. There may be another milk demand or two, but otherwise you’ll be able to say when eating happens.

The main nursing clusters should have collapsed into one large feeding each. Peanut will likely sleep for one 6+ (and growing) hour stretch at night, take three naps, and eat about 8 times a day. Bottle fed infants hit this pattern more quickly.

If she is not generally following this pattern, then start to push. If you don’t start enforcing meal times, then you’ll be nursing all the time, including the middle of the night, and will be at the mercy of her lack of sleep in a few months.

To collapse the feeds, target the clusters. If she eats multiple times after waking in the morning and before her nap, then just declare that nap time is 8:30 and feed her at wakeup and 8.  Then put her down.  If you’re calm and firm and give her plenty of time to eat at wakeup and 8, then setting this should only take a few days.

A similar strategy will work at night. Fill Peanut with plenty of milk for dinner and before your chosen bedtime. If she doesn’t start sleeping for long stretches, then wake her again at 10:30ish for more milk. That should start to push the 2 a.m. feeding later in the morning, and eventually the 10:30 feed will disappear, usually after solids are introduced.

You have to feel your way through this stage. There is no rule. Too much depends on the baby’s personality and growth. The whole thing will move in a two steps forward, one step back pattern.

Next: How to settle into a sleep routine everyone can live with.

Sleeping

Now is the time to start putting Peanut in bed for sleeping. Start trying for consistent nap times. Don’t run errands or use the car or walks to put her to sleep. Rock her as part of a settling routine, perhaps, but don’t rock her to sleep.

If you follow nothing else that I recommend, follow this: pick a bedtime and bedtime routine and do it every night.  A decent bedtime is essential for everyone’s happiness.  If you want bedtime at 7:30, do it at 7:30. Do not fret if Peanut wakes again at 9. Keep with the bedtime routine. Once bedtime sets, then the other sleeps and eats fall into place.

Next: Sex? Does he know I just had a baby? 

Marital Relations

At the 6 to 8 week post-delivery check-up, doctors clear women for resuming sexual activity. Most of the women I know are not interested in sex at this time. Most of the men I know are.

This period is fraught with marital peril. I note it in a baby care post because research and the voices of experience attest, the single best thing you can do for your children is to remain married. I’ve done a full “Happy Couple’s Guide to Marriage and Sex After a Baby” elsewhere, but will hit the highlights here.

Modern women are trained to shun the wifely duty. If they are in the mood for sex, no problem. Maintenance sex, however, is akin to selling out. It shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with sex just for the sake of pleasing your husband, just as there is nothing wrong with romantic gestures just for the sake of husbands pleasing their wives. Marriage is a partnership. Sometimes we do something for our partner just because they are our partner and that would make them happy. Sex is only one of those things….

If you are willing to engage in a little maintenance sex, then when your drive kicks back into gear a few months later (all women are different, of course, but around six months is pretty common), you might find that you are driving a turbo-charged sports car. If, however, you spend those months complaining about your demanding husband and letting resentment fester, then you might find that you have a rusty El Camino with water in the gas tank. Husbands should take note, too, that the early stages are likely to be maintenance sex. He shouldn’t worry, shouldn’t read anything into, if you just aren’t that into it at first. Just do it.

Complicating matters, sex is often shockingly uncomfortable at first. I am thankful for my wonderful doctor, who told me the following: if you are nursing, then you are likely to be very dry. I forget which hormone he said is responsible. You don’t need a little bit of KY, you need a lot.

This is the wife and mother advice that new moms have asked me about the most. It is so easy for husbands and wives to get their wires crossed at this stage and mistake physical weariness or discomfort for rejection or resentment. For the mythical perfectly matched couples, this might be the first time when spousal interests didn’t align—and how the myth shatters. It is easy to wonder if this means something foreboding.  It does not. It means that you have a three-month-old infant and you are on the tail end of transforming to the family normal.

Next time, 4 to 6 months, and the start of the family normal.