Sunday, April 15, 2012

The 3 Hour Myth

If you are a first time mommy like me, or just thinking of having a baby, or surrounded by friends having babies, you’ll hear that babies eat every three hours for the first several weeks. Depending on what baby philosophy you subscribe to most all agree that you will need to feed your child whether they are asleep or awake around the clock every three hours for at least four to six weeks. Some people say it’s a sin to wake a sleeping baby. Some say you have to wake them up to make sure they gain enough weight before you start seriously sleep training. You’ll be inundated with several different opinions but in the end just listen to your pediatrician and gut and you’ll figure out what’s best for your baby. That being said, a month on a 3 hour schedule didn’t seem so bad to me. Keep in mind that I haven’t had a good night sleep since October 2011. On top of my daily vomiting I started waking up in the middle of the night throwing up. Yep. You heard me. Again, I can’t go into more detail because I’m just not ready to open that door of misery.

I really thought that I would thrive on the 3 hour schedule. I love naps. I had no problem sleeping when the baby sleeps. I’m not against leaving a house full of people to entertain themselves and catch a catnap so I wasn’t anticipating this as being a problem. Little did I know that the majority of doctors/mommies measure the time between feedings from the START of the meal. Hmmm. Now there’s a kink in my plan. Also, I’m choosing to breastfeed my little boy which takes a significantly longer time than bottle feeding. Just how long? Somewhere between 20 – 40 minutes. Well…if my math is correct and you start the feeding at 1:00pm and it takes an average of 30 minutes to eat then that’s 1:30. In the very beginning babies are pretty sleepy but they will be awake for a little bit after they eat. Why? Because they do what all babies do. They poop. They spit up. They pee. Because you’re a terrified first time parent you don’t change their clothes or diapers super fast yet. You’re worried about how delicate they are, slipping the little onesie ever so softly over their sweet little head, taking extra care with the diaper, checking out the belly button, sucking the boogers out of their nose with the weird blue bulb thingy, the Vaseline on their little wing wang, etc. So let’s say at best this process takes 15 minutes from start to finish. Now it’s 1:45pm. Now you either put them down in the bassinet or hand them off to some sweet visitor. You have just enough time to run to the bathroom, refill your water that you absolutely can’t get enough of, and say a few words before you stumble back to the bed. If you’re lucky it’s 2:00pm. You lay your head down on the pillow and thank God for the pain pills and just as the pain from your unexpectedly harsh c-section begins to become bearable (bending over at the waist is torture) it’s 2:15 and you realize that you have 45 minutes to catch a quick nap. That’s not including the times you have to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a couple of snacks to have the caloric intake to survive breastfeeding. That’s not including the dishes, laundry, letting the dog out, emails and phone call updates with family. Are you getting the picture? This is why new parents always look so frazzled. It’s because in the best of situations (if their child is an angel and sleeps soundly and they have help around the house with family) they are only getting about 45 minutes of sleep at a time. 

Bear with me while the accountant drops some knowledge on you:
Hypothetically the baby eats at: 1a,4a,7a,10a,1p,4p,7p,10p
  • Hopefully between the hours of 1 am – 7 am you’ve gotten 1.5 hours of sleep (45 minutes between the two feedings.        
  • Between 7am – 10am your 45 minutes you’ll most likely be used to take a shower (you’ll smell like spoiled milk and old pee no matter how much you scrub), brush your teeth, grab breakfast and just relax (if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive hubby, sleepy baby, and parents helping)
  • This little bit of activity will exhaust you so for the 10am – 1pm stretch you forgo your plans to dry your hair and will try to nap. Now you are up to approximately 2.25 hours of sleep.
  • Between 1pm and 7pm you will most likely have lunch and a couple of visitors for the first couple of weeks. You’ll also take this time to straighten up the house, take care of the neglected dog, and get snuggle time with the baby in.
  • Between 7pm – 1am you’ll frantically grab dinner and try to hit the hay as soon as possible but you also have to give the baby his bath. Let’s say you get another 1.5 of sleep if you’re lucky. Let’s do the math. How much did you sleep in 24 hours. 3.75 hours. Okay fine.  You think I'm being pessimistic instead of realistic.  Let's be optimistic and think we got 4.5. 
So be very kind and loving to new parents. Talk slowly and don’t make quick hand gestures when you are speaking to them. They startle easily due to lack of sleep.  Ignore the messy house, wrinkled miss-matched husband, late thank you notes, and the dark circles under the mom's eyes.  It’s been 6 weeks and they are averaging at the best of times 4.5 hours of sleep and it’s not a deep peaceful sleep. It’s sleep that you are constantly panicked about either getting or being woken up from.
So TJ - I mean all dad's out there... it’s not nice to pose the newborn next to your sleeping wife and laugh that nothing could wake her up. She’s exhausted, hormonal, and possibly homicidal when it comes to her sleep. Sweet dreams.


  1. you and teddy look identical in this photo and i love it. tj, please continue to pose your child and your wife while they are sleeping. i give you full permission.

  2. So, I'm at the airport (a dreaded place, as was established in your previous post) waiting to be collected by and reunited with my darling boyfriend, and I just realized that I am actually willing him to get stuck in traffic so I can continue to read your blog. Ellie (and really all the wonderful moms I know - new and practiced), you're my hero.