Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Night wakings, bonding and being a second time mum

Being a second time mum really is a different experience.
There is a significant benefit in a) having been there before and b) having had a high need baby first. b) translates to something along the lines that nothing shocks you and you're prepared for the worst and you rejoice if it's not that.

It's partly about knowing what it means to have a baby and partly about roughly knowing yourself, your weaknesses and your parenting preferences. I'd like to stress that these are very personal preferences, it's not about thinking this is the only or better way, just it's what suits me. I'm confident explaining why I favour co-sleeping and carrying baby in a sling, while acknowledging that it may not suit other parents.

I don't really miss not going out. This time, there's no massive lifestyle change that I find difficult to accept. I enjoy being at home much more, and appreciate what I can do. There isn't a baby crying and a set of parents unable to soothe this crying baby. I know exactly what's wrong with Snowflake whenever she cries. Well, apart from car journeys when there's nothing wrong really but let's leave that aside.

When Cubling was 4 1/2 months, she woke every 30 minutes at night and I was losing the will to live. It was cruel, I was on edge, I might have shouted, cried and cursed being a mum. Oh it was ugly.

Now Snowflake is 4 1/2 months and she wakes every hour at night. I'm tired, but I'm no where near that sleep deprived state that could lead to exploding mummy any second. That doesn't mean I like being woken up every hour, or more, because Cubling is a bit poorly and wakes rather a lot too, so between the two, well, there's not much sleep to be had.

I'm not as worried about night wakings because I know that they will stop. Time passes quicker this time anyway and I don't have to go back to work as soon, all of which helps. Oh, and Cubling does occasionally sleep in giving us all a lie in. So it's manageable.

I don't obsess but I still wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I let Snowflake fall asleep on my lap in the evenings, where she will mostly settle beautifully. Whenever I try to move her to the carrycot, she wakes and cries and can't be settled. I know I could insist but it's so much easier just to feed her back to sleep, and see, I can type, knit, watch TV, surf the net and all that while she's on my lap. It's not so bad.

I know there are different reasons for such frequent night wakings. The nature of baby sleep, her sleep association (being fed to sleep), teething, developmental spurts, and some may say readiness for solids. We could consider a dummy but I simply don't feel it would improve things - after all, the dummy needs sterilised, located and plugged in. The real thing is always there and won't get lost so easily, so do I really want to introduce a dummy? I may just wait a little longer, hoping this is just a phase.

In the back of my mind I know that habits can be changed and I'm not worried about creating habits if they work. She can have better nights, and if I persisted, she would probably sleep in a bed without being right next to me, after all that's what she does during the day at least sometimes.

Truth is, I'm not too bothered by it, just a tiny bit, not enough to make a concerted effort to change anything just yet. I still feel uneasy if she sleeps in a different room from me, part of me loves having her on my lap in the evenings, knowing she's fine, and warm, and happy snuggled into me.
Before long, I'll miss those cosy evenings.

Recently, I read a blog post on bonding and it made me wonder if there is actually a difference in how I bonded with my babies,* because with Cubling, there were moments where I rejected her relentless need for touch, with Snowflake there aren't any such moments. Of course, Snowflake is not a high need baby, so I'm not comparing like with like. But maybe there is truth in my translation of this blog post that because breastfeeding went so much better this time than last, the early bond is a better one. And I worry that Cubling's continuing clinginess is a result of that slightly disturbed bond, tainted by those moments where I was at the end of my tether (and yet I know it's relative, compared to other babies she got so much more touch - I never forced the pram on her, responded to her need to be carried etc). Then again, if it's about clinginess, it's not my behaviour that caused it, it's always been there so maybe the closeness is just what Cubling needs to feel secure.

* I should stress that I did bond with Cubling and feel very close to her. The difference is just that I feel that the early bond is less complicated with Snowflake and that I'm a much happier parent than I was after Cubling was born



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