Diary of a Night Nanny (Part 3)

The story so far…
I have been working for James and Lucy as a Night Nanny, looking after Isabelle from birth, instilling a consistent routine and developing it as she gets bigger.  At nearly 8 weeks old breastfeeding has been well-established and Lucy is feeding her at more or less four hourly intervals.  Having started working 5 nights a week I am now only doing three as Lucy feels able to cope, with some help from James at the weekends. When I arrive on Sunday evening, James appears and asks if I have heard the latest development – Isabelle has found her fingers!  He tells me animatedly how she suddenly started to focus on them, as if realising that her arms actually had things at the end of them which might be quite entertaining, and how she touches one index finger against the other hand, finally discovering that she can put them in her mouth and suck them.  She sucks the two middle fingers of her left hand, and James’s mother says he did exactly the same as a baby.  At least she might stop inadvertently scratching her face, now.  I pop upstairs to check on Isabelle before preparing for the night ahead, and I see her hand beside her face, as if it has just fallen from her mouth, exactly as James described.
Lucy is back in time to feed Isabelle at 10pm, during which both of them seem more asleep than awake.  This is fine and proves that breastfeeding really is instinctive once you’ve got it well-established.  My role in the early weeks is to make sure that all the foundations are in place for successful breastfeeding, and to make sure that Isabelle doesn’t fall asleep before she’s completed her feed.  Neither of us minds much if Lucy falls asleep!  My other job is to make sure Lucy gets back to bed as soon as possible and, on the nights I’m not there and she feeds Isabelle in her bed, doesn’t fall asleep so deeply that she forgets to put Isabelle back into her own cot.  This is one of the FSIDs main concerns regarding infant death.

Week 12
The last few weeks have passed in a very settled way, each week bringing small but significant developments for Isabelle.  Lots of “firsts” to go in the baby book, each one carefully recorded and photographed.  Isabelle will delight in this book in the years to come.
But then, we have an advance in the routine – at 2am on Tuesday night I look into Isabelle’s cot and she seems deeply asleep, no desire for her expressed bottle, so I sit and read for a while by the dim light of the bedside table.  At 2.30am she moves a little and her eyelids flicker, so I nip downstairs to heat the bottle.  When I get back, she seems to be asleep again, which sets me wondering.  However, I pick her gently out of her cot and put the bottle to her lips.  Instinct takes over and she guzzles the bottle greedily for about ten minutes before turning her face away and letting it trickle down the side of her cheek.  It’s unusual for Isabelle not to finish her bottle, so I take a cold, damp cloth to wipe the milk from her face – this wakes her up, as I hoped it would, and I encourage her to take a little more milk.  However, she is deeply asleep by the time the bottle is finished and even winding her fairly thoroughly doesn’t really disturb her.
The following morning I take Isabelle into Lucy for her 6am feed but Lucy is still half asleep so I tell her I’ll call her later to chat about this, and when we speak I explain my thoughts. In my experience, babies who settle into a good feeding and sleeping routine will often drop the 2am feed by themselves, if you pick up on the clues.  Not waking for the feed when they have previously done so, and not wanting to finish it are two strong indicators that the baby is ready for the next step.  So I warn Lucy to be ready for this and to let Isabelle set the pace. 
On Thursday night, Lucy tells me that the previous night Isabelle only wanted half her bottle before falling asleep, so I am prepared for what happens next.  We do the 10pm feed together as normal and I make sure I am timing it – the only way to measure a breastfeed.  It’s a good long feed and Isabelle goes down as well as she normally does in her Moses basket beside my bed.  At 2am I wake, as normal – something my body clock is used to.  There is nothing but the sound of rhythmic breathing beside me.  I sit quietly, watching her sleep.  She is completely motionless, her breathing is slow and deep, her eyelids are at rest: all the signs of a baby in deep, non-REM sleep.  She won’t be waking up anytime soon.  I watch her for the next hour, waiting for her to move into REM sleep, when she might be expected to wake up completely.  Eventually her eyelids flicker, her breathing becomes shallower and slightly more erratic, and she twitches intermittently.  I am poised to fly downstairs and heat the bottle but Isabelle gradually calms down again, her body becoming still and her sleep tranquil.  I am fairly certain that she won’t wake up properly, but I watch for another half an hour just to be sure, before lying down again myself.  I never sleep properly when I am working, always an eye on the time and an ear on the baby, but tonight I am conscious of every passing minute.  However, the night passes as I hoped it would, serenely, and Isabelle doesn’t wake again. At 5.30am I am completely alert, because Isabelle will be really hungry for her breakfast feed.  Sure enough, on the dot of 6am she wakes and I take her to Lucy.  She reaches urgently for the breast and feeds like one starved.  Once they are settled, I explain to Lucy what has happened. It may be that Isabelle needs longer feeding or more feeding during the day in order to compensate for dropping her 2am feed, but she almost certainly won’t wake for it again.  In terms of Isabelle’s overall progress it is as important for her now to be getting a long period of uninterrupted sleep and she has just taken a big step forward in her development.

Information on infant death is available from the FSID, 020 7222 8001 or www.fsid.org.uk. 
Night Nannies Hampshire
Georgie Bateman 01794 301762 georgie@nightnannies.com.  Night Nannies Surrey Louise Young 07800 843618
✿ www.nightnannies.com. 

“The last few weeks have passed in a
very settled way, each week bringing small but significant developments
for Isabelle”.