young james why you trappin' so hard?
baby boy endured his slightly belated 4 month checkup today, an ordeal that involved yet another round of vaccinations. after the first of three consecutive shots, james locked eyes with his beleaguered nurse and growled at her like a very small bear.
he has been rife with cute antics these days now that he is a real human guy. on monday morning, i finished my nine millionth pumping session and walked into the nursery to see baby james propped up on elbows, sprawled across his activity mat. the arch of his back and the steady strength of his neck were astonishing to me in that moment. hi mr. james! i said. he turned his head towards me, peered at my face, and smiled. a real boy.
his pediatrician seems as impressed by him as i am. you're the best-looking baby i've seen all day, he tells james amiably. my dude weighs in at 16 lbs, 9 ounces. he is 26 inches long. a big, tall boy, dr. macdonald says approvingly as he jots down "97th%" next to both measurements. i realize fleetingly that one day this little loaf will loom above me. my pointless brain sings IT'S THE CIRCLE OF LIFE AND IT MOVES US ALLLLLLLL but now dr. macdonald is asking about james' average length of sleep and i am bursting with excitement to tell him that all three of us are blessed with 11-12 hours straight for the past two months.
i read this sleep training book while i was pregnant, i gush. at this point i feel like i have promoted myself to suzy giordano's hypeman. she is my new george r.r. martin, though i have only read her book once. once was all i needed. though i have muddled through the rest of new parenthood with graceless, frantic googling through a wormhole of chrome windows, james' eating and sleeping are the two things that i feel like we've managed to approach with some level of confidence.
the first 3 weeks of his life were a tearful, exhausted blur of leaking breasts and misplaced glasses and praying fervently for continued sleep. we feed on demand and wake on demand and james sleeps in a bassinet beside our bed, jolting me out of halfhearted dozing every couple of hours with his confused little sobs. after 3 weeks, my mother encourages us to start stretching out the time between his meals (calculated from the start of one feed to the start of the next)- little by little. so slowly, 15 minutes at a time, day after day, we increase the wait from 2 hours, to 3, then finally 4. james quickly becomes less demanding and fussy as his mealtimes settle into predictability. 7 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm. pretty much ian's mealtimes as well. and like his father, james begins to eat significantly more during each feed.
by 5 weeks, just the regularity and quality of meals drops his nighttime wakings to a manageable 2, and we move him into his nursery. i begin to use the bassinet as just another hamper for clean laundry i can't be bothered to fold. i stub my toe against it many, many times. step 2 of suzy's plan is to drop the night feeds by slowly reducing the nursing time of each feed in turn. it takes several weeks because i am unwilling to preemptively pry my sleepy little newborn away from my body and second guess my approach every single day- but it finally works. i go slowly, shaving off one minute every couple of days. surprisingly enough, james neither protests nor clings, and falls back asleep whenever. by 10 weeks, he decides that 3 minutes of nursing is not worth waking up for and sleeps straight through the night. ian and i track and tally his 4 daily meals with obsessive detail, counting every half ounce to ensure that he's receiving all his calories during the daytime.
the third step is about nap schedules but james is not here for that. for all of his perfect angelic nighttime sleep, he fights naps like a insomniac demon who needs to be held at exactly the right angle and bopped with exactly the right tempo and velocity to even consider closing his eyes. the lord giveth and the lord taketh away.
and finally, the fourth step is keeping him in his crib for roughly 12 hours straight, from after his 7 pm feed to the start of his 7 am feed. there is something here about encouraging babies to quietly entertain themselves and self-soothe, but mostly it falls into place like a natural byproduct of the previous efforts. james drifts off to sleep on his own while chewing on his fingers and wakes up with the biggest, goofiest grin plastered across his little face. we greet each other with these big smiles in the morning; he shouts and kicks and giggles with a level of excitement unbeknownst to me at any hour prior to lunchtime. he looks so ridiculous, a big pink meatball head poking out of a puffy yellow spacesuit, flailing tiny, icy fists and crowing in triumph- but man, it is a beautiful sight.