Archive | robyn barker RSS feed for this section

Parenting the second time round – is it any easier?

22 Mar

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t have the fondest memories of the first six months of my first baby’s life. I remember there being frequent tears – mainly from me. The problem was, I treated parenting a bit like an exam, figuring that if I studied hard enough, then surely I would pass the ‘parenthood’ test. So, I swotted and swotted – reading and re-reading three different books about caring for newborn babies. I was quite obsessed with establishing a routine, and getting her to sleep through the night, believing this to be the holy grail of parenthood, like getting an ‘A’ on an exam.
I had the script memorised by heart – and the times that everything was supposed to happen – the time she was supposed to wake, supposed to feed, supposed to sleep. Note the use of the word ‘supposed’. The fact was, I knew the script off by heart – but my baby didn’t. She did not sleep in the way ‘the book’ said she was supposed to. At 9am, she was meant to sleep for 2 – 3 hours. She’d sleep for 45 minutes, wake, and then I would spend the remaining hour patting, rocking and shushing her to try and get her back to sleep. And this would happen 2 – 3 times a day. It was back-breaking, mind numbing, isolating and totally demoralising. Night times weren’t much better. I introduced a ‘dream feed’ – the idea being the baby would get her last feed of the night just as I was going to bed, thereby giving me at last 4 – 5 hours of solid sleep before the next feed. It never worked – and at six months she was still waking every 2-3 hours – and the real heart breaker was that she was a serious little baby who rarely smiled at my husband and I. The only thing that made her grin was a damn picture in our bedroom. She found it hilarious – much more funny than either her Daddy or Mummy. Fortunately, I had an extremely supportive husband, and I wasn’t working, so the lack of sleep was survivable. By 7 months, we’d taken some action (a whole other post) and she was sleeping through the night and having two long’ish sleeps every day – and she started smiling at us a bit more. But, do I remember spending much time just enjoying my baby in that first 6 months  – just cuddling, just chatting, just hanging out? No, I don’t. And that’s what has changed this time round – with baby number 2. I’m just trying to enjoy her. And, so far it’s working. I’ve given up on endless hours of trying to settle her in her cot. If she wakes after 45 minutes, and she seems wide awake, I get her up. If she cries and seems hungry, I feed her – even if it’s less than 3 hours from the last feed. I use a dummy a lot more. And – I even cuddle her to sleep if I feel like it – something I never did with baby number 1 for fear of establishing ‘bad’ sleep habits. I’m looking less at the clock, and more at my baby to really try and establish what she needs, not what I think she should need, or what some book says she should need. I don’t mean to rubbish all the books on managing newborns and establishing routines. Some of the advice is very useful – and many babies respond really well to it. The book that has really helped me is Robyn Barker’s Baby Love. In it, she advises that routines are difficult to establish in the early days – and that trying to re-settle a baby during the day is rarely successful – advice that has given me the freedom to walk away from all that rocking, patting and shushing. Who knows? Maybe I’m establishing some ‘bad’ sleep habits. But – you know what – we can deal with that later. One thing I’ve learned is that babies are pretty flexible, and they can ‘unlearn’ a bad habit, just as quickly as they learn it. Interestingly, now that I’m no longer following ‘the rules’, I’m finding that baby 2 is naturally finding her own routine, and she’s a much better night time sleeper than her older sister was at the same age. Go figure. Sure, she doesn’t sleep through. But I don’t expect her to. Not yet. For now, all I want from her are the cuddles, the goos and the gaas, the raspberries and the smiles – which she is giving in abundance. So, I guess the difference between baby number 1 and baby 2 is me – and my expectations. First time round, all I wanted was a baby that stuck to a routine. This time round, I just want a baby to enjoy. And that’s what I’ve got.