Not easy, easier.
By category, here we go.
I'd never heard of Dunstan Baby Language until my doula gave me the videos and I finally watched them when my new baby was about a week and a half old. I was amazed. Then I made my husband watch them as soon as he got home from work. And our eight year old watched with us. That day we all learned our baby's language, and we can now almost always tell what he needs by the sounds he makes when he cries.
The creator of this system is literally a genius. She was born with a gift, a "photographic" memory, but for sound. So when she had her first baby, she got to know his sounds, figured out how to make them herself, heard them in other baby's cries, and came up with 5 baby words. There is now an app for this. Here is a link to the website: Baby Language
Because I love you, I will summarize it all for you here. All babies, no matter what languages they hear around them, speak these 5 words as newborns because the words are based on what their bodies naturally do when they feel these needs.
Hungry babies touch the tip of there tongues to the top of their mouths as they thrust their tongues in the motion they use when nursing. This makes an "n" sound in their cries. It might sound like nah or neh or nuh, or an extended "nnnn" when my son does it.
My son also makes this sound when he wants to comfort suck sometimes.
Gassy babies make an "eh" sound for needing to burp and an "eigh-r" sound for needing to fart. The burp sound can be repeated by baby calmly and rhythmically, like they're clenching their chest muscles repeatedly to work the burp out, as they do. It can also be an extended loud cry when it hurts, or when you keep offering food and they get mad at you for trying to feed them instead of helping them get the air bubble out.
The farting-need sound "eigh-r," can be accompanied by grunting, and can be louder, shriller if it hurts, and be accompanied by frantic body movements because big farts in little babies are scary to the babies (they can startle adults too! Baby butts can be as loud as baby mouths!)
Uncomfortable babies pant, making a "huh" or "heh;" basically, an "h" sound that indicates needing a fresh diaper, or that they are too hot, too cold, in an uncomfortable position, or feel a need to be held.
Tired babies make an "ow" or "wah" sound, making an O with their mouths like a yawn while crying. Of course, they also yawn. They also kind of cough-cry when tired, before the O sound. When they cry like this instead of just going to sleep, it means they need help calming down so they can sleep.
My own additions: pain cries are higher pitched, shrill, and sometimes loud. Scared cries are usually loud. And all these cries have body language to go with them. Hunger cues include a furrowed brow (he looks concerned,) rooting (opens his mouth wide and turns to suck.) Tired babies yawn and stretch. Gassy babies arch their backs and sometimes flail their arms and kick. Uncomfortable babies arch their backs, flail their arms, kick, and squirm their whole bodies.
And that brings me to the next new parent lifesaver...
The 5 S's (from The Happiest Baby On the Block)
The premise of this book is that newborns need a fourth trimester: another three months or so of the conditions of the womb recreated for them to activate their calming reflex. The 5 S's recreate those conditions. I'm going to do them in the order they come to my mind. And here is his website: Using the 5 S's
Swaddle: Newborn baby arms jerk and startle them. In the womb they didn't have room to flail, and flailing overstimulates babies when they are trying to calm down or sleep. I personally swaddle only my baby's arms, leaving his legs free to move because I need to buckle him in his swing sometimes to get him to sleep off of me, and also because kicking has never kept him up as far as I can tell. There are ways to swaddle so the legs are secured too. The velcro swaddlers trap baby legs, and I use those occassionally, but I prefer to swaddle with a large square baby blanket.
I lay it on the bed in a diamond shape, fold the top corner down so it's a big triangle. I lay my baby on the triangle so the blanket is just above his shoulders and their is enough blanket to the left to wrap over his tummy and tuck under his butt. I put his left arm by his side and pull that piece of blanket over his shoulder and torso, tucking it snugly under his butt, tight enough that he can't bend his arm. I put his other arm by his side, pull the rest of the fabric over his shoulder and across his body, tuck it under his butt and around his body, and pull it snug. The weight of his butt lying on it keeps it closed. If his elbows can bend, it doesn't last long. It takes practice. I'll make a video to insert here when my husband gets home.
Shush: The shh sound right in baby's ear at about the volume the baby is fussing or crying usually has an immediate effect. I've seen a video on Facebook a few times of a father making the OM sound to calm his crying baby, and I have done that and it's worked for my baby too. The shh sound sounds like blood rushing through our veins, like he heard in the womb. I got a device called a shusher that repeats the shh sound over and over for 15 or 30 minutes, and have found in more effective than the white noise machine we also got. This is what I'm talking about: The shusher
Side: My babies sleep and calm best lying on their sides. My baby now lies on his side to nurse, and when my husband is calming him, he holds him, swaddled, on his side on Daddy's arm, facing away from his chest (so he doesn't try to nurse.)
Swing: Babies in the womb are in constant motion, rocking, swinging, and bouncing. We automatically sway and bounce when we hold babies because we instinctively know this. Babies prefer strong movements over gentle ones. I have never bothered to put my swing on a setting lower than the highest, and I feel the highest isn't fast enough to calm him, but it is fast enough to lull him to sleep if he's already calm. Another way I soothe my baby with this S is patting or rubbing his back or butt, or jiggling him by his butt, while nursing or burping him.
Suck: Babies suck to feed and also suck for comfort. If you are bottle feeding, a pacifier will probably work well for your baby when they need to suck for comfort. My baby comfort nurses at the breast, which helps me maintain my supply and also calms me - it stimulates the release of hormones that relax us both. He sucks his hands and fingers sometimes, and I could let him suck my fingers if I trusted they were clean. I am sure I will be offering him my clean fingers when he starts teething.
Those are the five S's. They usually work best in combination of four or five. For my baby, sometimes just three is enough: swaddled in the swing with the shusher. Or side-lying and sucking on a boob while I pat, rub, or jiggle him.
My Own Observations
My son did not lose too much weight, but he did not gain anything after the initial loss, and a lactation consultant referred me to an oral motor specialist. Turned out my son had weak suck (not a tongue tie as I originally feared) and was inefficiently moving milk such that he would fall asleep from hunger and fatigue from sucking forever for drops of milk. So we supplemented him with donated breast milk and formula. I used a tube so he could stimulate my breasts while drinking his supplements, and I pumped and did the recommended mouth exercises for him when I could, but I was exhausted and with all that barely had a chance to eat or refill my water. Turns out, not eating enough protein and calories and even being 1% dehydrated can inhibit our supply. I was taking supplements out the wazoo but stopped taking my placenta pills when I started supplementing because the lactation consultant said some of her moms found they inhibited their supply.
I tried to get a prescription for domperidone to increase my supply around 4 weeks, since Big Pharma made it illegal for overseas pharmacies to accept American money (argh,) and the birth center I went to tested my prolactin levels, told me to eat and drink more and to take two placenta pills every 8 hours to increase my supply. When I saw them the next week, they told me my prolactin levels were as high as they need to be for successful nursing, so I didn't need domperidone. That lifted a huge weight off of me, and made me believe my breasts work and I can exclusively breastfeed. After just a week of eating and drinking like I was supposed to, plus taking the placenta pills, my son was only having one 2 ounce supplement a day instead of 3-4. A week later, he didn't need any supplements. In fact, I suspect the 2 ounces I was giving him out of desperation when he was fussing were actually hurting his tummy. I think he needed to burp or pass gas, and in my exhaustion I misinterpreted him popping off the boob as meaning I was out of milk and he was still hungry.
Now that he's 2 months, he's bigger, his mouth is stronger, and I'm making plenty of milk. The first sign he gives me that he needs to burp is popping off my boob and fussing. When I pick him up to burp him, he will fuss more or even start crying sometimes, and I now realize it's not because I'm not making enough milk. There are other reasons for a baby to cry! Sometimes it's because he's still hungry but the gas in his tummy hurts and he's frustrated. He'll either burp, or if he doesn't burp after a moment and cries harder, I'll put him back to breast and he'll calm down and drink more. Now that I know my breasts work, it's so much easier to be calm when that happens and trust myself to know what he needs.
Also, baby-wearing is a life and sanity saver. I prefer wraps that I tie myself because they are more adjustable and comfortable for me. Plus I can wear them all day and pop my baby in and out as needed, freeing both arms for getting food, cleaning, hugging my olders son, and just giving my poor arms a break.
Sleeping as much as possible is vital to maternal sanity and well-being. I learned to nurse in bed safely with my baby so we can both doze, and while I'm still not getting 8 hours, I'm no longer a zombie.
We need help. We're not made to be mothering babies on our own. We're supposed to have family and friends helping us - making sure we get food, water, rest, a break from the baby, and our older kids' needs are met. It's biology, mamas. I know it's hard to ask for help when we need it most, I mean literally harder then because we're exhausted and we don't even know what we need. This is what we need:
- more sleep, for the love of all that is holy, more sleep. Someone else to care for the baby between nursing sessions so we can safely nap is a godsend (thank you, my mother in law, Peggy, for that!!)
- good food with protein, six small meals a day, preferably prepared and served by someone else in the first four to six weeks. (Thank you the couple friends who came over with food!)
- Way more water than we think. We should be sipping all day, especially while breastfeeding, and if we're thirsty, that means we went without water too long. Pee should be clear, mamas. (Thank you, my husband, for keeping my cup full!)
- showers or baths at least every couple of days. (This one I have to grab when I have a chance.)
- A break from our babies, someone else holding them and for at least an hour a day someone else being responsible for them so we can avoid feeling touched out or burnt out. (Yay hubby!)
- A chance to leave the house sans baby for a bit once a week at least does this mama a ton of good.
- snuggles, hugs, kisses, other forms of affection, words of affirmation, and other things that show us we're loved
- to be told we're doing a great job, we're great moms, our babies and kids are so lucky to have us.
- someone else to clean enough so we aren't living in filth.
- anything else we are longing for and not getting.
Hope all this helps someone! I'm happy to answer questions, either here in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. oxox