It is a truth universally acknowledged that newborn babies don’t sleep through the night. Indeed, their schedules bear only the remotest resemblance to the way most of us live. It’s all dictated by stomach size and blood sugar levels. A newborn’s stomach is about the size of a walnut, and it can’t maintain its own blood sugar for more than a few hours at a stretch.
So it needs feeding. Over and over again. Most newborns run to a 3 or 4 hour cycle of eating and sleeping, punctuated by bouts of crying. Fiona is no different – she’s slept for as long as 5 hours in a stretch, but most of the time she needs a good feed every three or four hours, day and night.
Naturally, this schedule is totally incompatible with adult life, and indeed drives some people into a state of mild psychosis. With Alex, I tried to live normal hours, and really suffered for it. But with Fi, at least for the first week and a half, I’ve given that up. Every night, at about 10 or 11, I leave Grenwich Mean Time and move into her world: Baby Time (there is no “standard” or “mean” to it).
We’ve been sleeping in the master bedroom, while Martin has been crashing in the guest room (he runs on Martin Standard Time, which seems to involve staying up really late at night, getting up with Alex at 7 or 8, and miraculously being OK). I turn my dimmable bedside lamp down low and lie Fi down on the bed beside me. Then, when she wakes, I turn the light up and feed her, usually while reading a book. She falls asleep at the breast, but wakes up when laid down on the bed. So I turn her on her side, lie on mine, and give her another drink, which sends her off again. I’ve turned the light down when laying her down, so when she goes to sleep so do I (usually – this instantaneous dropping off was easier before my blood transfusion reduced my anaemia and upped my energy levels).
Three or four hours later, we do it all again.
It takes 10 or 12 hours’ sack time to get a liveable night’s sleep in Baby Time, leading to something like jet lag when I try to mesh with GMT again. And Martin wants to move back into his own room before he starts his new job. So this pattern is going to have to be modified, starting tonight (when she goes into the Moses basket and falls asleep on her own rather than being nursed down – expect crying baby and tired parents). In the end, she is going to have to move out of her own time zone and into ours.
But I’ve lived ten nights in Baby Time, watching her sleep, lying on her side facing me, with me on my side curled around her, in the dim light of my nightlight. That time will be with me always.