The thing that surprised me most about myself through pregnancy and this whole experience was how much reading I did. I fell pregnant during the last week of my exams to pass an NVQ Level 2 in Beauty Therapy - this was what sparked my love for reading. For a change, I was interested in what I was reading. I couldn't get enough, until I found baby books! I have never read so much in my life! I am obsessed with finding out as much information as possible in order to make the best decision possible with Oscar's best interest at heart.
Difference between day and night
I read this tip in a book and I feel like it has really helped us. In the daytime I would make sure Oscar was asleep in the daylight, even if he slept better in the dark, I would refrain from closing the blinds or curtains to help him drop off. This meant that he learnt to fall asleep no matter how light or dark it was. It was also important to teach him the difference between day and night, in the newborn days this isn't crucial as they pretty much just feed and sleep, but by making the daytimes light and the evenings/night times dark it means you can start to teach the baby that light is daytime, time to play, time to talk, time to be awake. When it is dark, it is time to be quiet, to sleep, be calm and settle down. This helps (sometimes) if the baby wakes early once they're a few months old and want to play, you can remain quiet, keep the room dark and reinforce that it is still night time, time to be quiet, sleep, be calm and settle down and they should (lol) go back to sleep.
In the newborn days we kept the changing table in our bedroom. I did this out of pure laziness but also meant that Oscar would stay in the same lit and temperature room when he would wake to be fed and changed. He was born in the winter so can imagine that if I had got him out of bed, in our dark, cosy warm room, taken him out into a bright, cold hallway and then into another room to change his nappy, you can bet he would've woken up. He slept in a GroBag which meant that again, when I picked him up, I wasn't removing any heat from him by removing blankets, as the blanket effectively came with him when I picked him up to feed him as he was wearing the GroBag. I also used minimal lighting, mostly just the light from the TV in the corner of the room, as I knew that if I switched on a lamp or even a ceiling light, that the baby would fully wake-up and be stimulated by the light and struggle to go back down.
This is personal preference, however I read enough articles on the effects of sleep training under 6 months so was strongly against it. For the first 6 months I would feed Oscar on demand and tend to him within seconds of him stirring. A baby's only way of communicating is vocally and I really believe that a baby cries because they need something/someone. A baby that is ignored will eventually stop crying because no one is coming. This increases the risk of SIDS as a baby will stop communicating if there is a problem.
Once he reached 6 months I began trying to settle him without the use of a dummy/being picked up and would start to just soothe him by placing a hand on his stomach and/or letting him fuss and send himself to sleep. Oscar started teething at 6 and a half months and the dummy was the only thing that soothed him, so the dummy stays however, I will feed him before his bath, then just cuddle him to sleep, so that atlas, he's not being fed to sleep which will help when I plan to night wean him.
Anyway, I'm rambling, as a newborn if Oscar seemed unsettled I would feed him straight away. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, sometimes it may seem like they are 'eating' loads, but it could just be suckling to increase your supply if they're going through a growth spurt. Once you are a few weeks in, it's a good idea to work out how often your baby is feeding - we were put on a 3 hour schedule by NICU so this is what I stuck to. If I left the house, I made sure I was either back, or somewhere I could feed him well in advance of him getting hungry. I would look out for feeding queues (see below)
and anticipate his hunger and feed him before he got fussy. This is easier said than done but before you know it you will know your baby. 9 times out of 10 Oscar would get fussy and could be soothed by feeding. I love breastfeeding so much for this reason as I had, in a matter of seconds, food. I know really little about bottle feeding but I would presume you would make up a bottle just before you anticipate the baby getting hungry rather than waiting for them to get fussy and then trying to calm them while you make the bottle. I think the green label at the bottom is really important, to soothe a baby first. If a baby has been in tears and is really worked up, they won't want something shoved in their mouth, they are only tiny and can only concentrate on one thing at a time, being upset, or feeding. It breaks my heart to see babies crying their eyes out and just have a bottle shoved in their mouth. Sometimes they just need a little reassuring with a cuddle and calming down before they feed.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps"
While I was pregnant I remember women reading about how ridiculous this was and how they didn't have the time to sleep when the baby slept - O.K. I can understand this if you have more than one child but if I were to of slept when Oscar slept, ALL I would've done was sleep. It took until he was 3 weeks old to interact at all. His routine was to sleep, wake up, nappy change, feed and would then fall asleep again. He was always sleeping. I loved him sleeping on me, as long as I was wide awake. Lucky, he slept like a dream in his Sleepyhead. This was a life saver for me as I was able to put it anywhere! The dining table, the breakfast bar, in his bedroom, in my bedroom, round other peoples houses. It was a bed, anywhere you wanted! I can't recommend it enough.
The understanding of over stimulation I have found crucial to having a placid baby. There was a big poster up on one of the walls in NICU saying "The best stimulation your baby has is you". As a tiny baby, just trying to grasp the features of your face is a lot for them. Sticking them under a play mat with multicoloured toys, singing, flashing and moving will easily over stimulate a baby and cause them to get fussy/tired. Over stimulation can come from all of their sights being interacted with and for too long. We would always joke when Oscar would fuss and say "Ahh! It's too colourful!" and take away the toy and he would calm down. I can imagine the worst thing to do would say, "it's okay! It's Mr Bunny!" and try to change his mind about the toy by making it wave or using a soft voice. If they're getting fussy it's too much. Take it away! Limit stimulating your baby to a small amount and gradually build up the older they get. Even now, at 7 months, Oscar can get over stimulated if he's been playing with toys for too long.
Tummy time can be as simple as lying them on your chest and encouraging them to lift their head up. When Oscar was a newborn he was far too busy sleeping and feeding and I only managed to squeeze in maybe one 'tummy time' a day if I remembered. When he started to get a bit more alert I would interact with him while he was on his back, roll him over for a few minutes and then roll him back. At the start they just face plant the ground and don't like it but over time you can see them get better and better. Using a breastfeeding pillow for him to rest on helped a lot with his neck strength as he didn't have his face in the carpet which would distress him.
Bedtime routine in winter
I would say a bedtime routine is definitely easier in the summer, or at least in a warm house! Our house was warm enough for us but definitely too cold for a baby without blankets. I used to heat up his bedroom using a heater while I did his bath, then put the heater off and in the corridor, then do a bit of baby massage, put him in his pyjamas, milk and bed. It would definitely have been easier in summer! Using cellular blankets really put my mind at ease that he was warm but the blankets were still breathable. I began a nighttime routine when he was 3 months old.