I write this with a baby strapped to me, sleeping in her baby wrap. This is something I would never have done with my first baby, now aged four. In fact, it’s just one thing in a long list of “don’ts” that I think would have made life with my first born a heck of a lot easier.
I remember as a new mum first time around constantly being told that it gets easier. “When she gets to 12 weeks old you’ll have a routine,” “She’ll sleep through the night by the time she’s six months”, “The wind issues will stop once she’s a bit bigger”. Looking back, I spent a lot of those early days looking for magic answers to situations deemed as problems – by me and others.
As a second timer I have the benefit of hindsight. If my baby is struggling to nap then that’s OK – I just put her in the sling. In fact, napping hasn’t been a “problem” because I’ve not put a ban on the baby sleeping anywhere other than her moses basket. First time around I was so concerned about setting up bad habits that I agonised over letting my baby fall asleep on me, or in the pram, or anywhere else for that matter.
The truth is, this baby is very different to my first. Both girls are beautiful and look very much alike, but in temperament they couldn’t be more different. By the time my first daughter was seven weeks old she was crying on cue between 5pm and 7pm every single day. That phase lasted a good couple of months. She was never a “chilled out” baby and, now aged four, she’s not a “chilled out” child.
My eldest is brilliant fun, entertaining and clever. But she’s also intense and dramatic – she’s very much like me in that respect. As a newborn, once we’d passed the initial couple of weeks, she cried a lot. I’d have to wrap her up in her blanket and rock her endlessly until she settled. I spent a lot of time on Google or surfing various parenting forums back then. But I think I was probably looking for answers that weren’t there – much of her behaviour was down to her temperament. She continued to be quick to cry as a nine month old, eighteen month old and now four year old.
Being a mum to a newborn again has proved what I suspected four years ago: all babies are different and some just cry more than others. Back then I was often told “It’s easier with your second because you know what to do”. But I didn’t feel like I didn’t know what to do. I felt confident and happy in my role as a new mum – I just had a baby who cried.
Of course the benefit of hindsight has probably had a bit of an effect on the way things are with my new baby. I now know how fleeting each phase is and, rather than spend time worrying I want to enjoy it. I’m drinking in every sleepy cuddle and first smile because in a minute my tiny baby will be four years old and at school.
So perhaps I am more relaxed this time around. I don’t have time to fret over the effects of giving my baby a dummy (a former dummy hater I am now firmly in the pro dummy camp) or keep a note of when she had her last breastfeed and how long it lasted. But, equally, this baby hasn’t given me cause to worry (yet). Her cry is quieter than her sister’s was and, to be honest, she doesn’t cry much anyway.
I suppose it’s that whole nature vs nurture argument. Is this baby an “easier” baby because I had a more relaxed birth? Is it because I’m more experienced and recognise her cues with ease? Or is it (as I suspect) just that she is a different baby and likely to have a very different personality to her older sister? Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.
Either way, I’m not complaining. These days are so short that I’m content to just enjoy them and not over-analyse. I just wish I’d had that hindsight with my first, perhaps I’d have spent those early days catching up on more sleep rather than hitting Google as soon as my baby stopped crying.
How about you? Did you enjoy the early days as a new mum? Maybe you’ve got more than one child – did you notice they were very different as babies?