Mothering is filled with drudgery and I feel guilty

Firstly, it is great to hear that you and your baby boy have enjoyable times with the Bond With Baby songs and rhymes. This is fantastic. And next, being honest about how you feel is also a great thing.

This early stage of being a new mother is extremely difficult – I don’t think there would be too many mothers who would disagree with this. Not only are you getting over giving birth and trying to adapt to your ‘new’ life as a mother, which is exhausting, but it can be very isolating.

Importantly for you both, ensure you put some relaxation into each day (discussed in Bond with Baby’s written section of Shaping the Day), and taking time to get out from the home environment will also help. This can be as simple as you and Baby going for a daily walk. Socialising with other mums and bubs can also help as it is not only great for mums to share common parenting experiences but is very important for babies’ all-round development (Bond with Baby’s written section of Parenting: From the Beginning discusses the need for social support and types of support that are beneficial).

As far as feeling guilty, this goes hand-in-hand with parenting. Yet, because of social pressures about what is ‘expected’ of ‘good’ mothers (discussed in Bond with Baby’s written sections of Parenting: From the Beginning → Becoming a Mother) not many are willing to admit such feelings. So as Baby develops and as a mother, there will times when you feel some guilt – be it simply because on a particular day you didn’t have time to prepare Baby’s food ‘just right’ so you opened a jar of bought baby food! Such episodes go with doing the best you possibly can to raise a happy child.

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Rocking Baby to Sleep

It is great to hear that both you and Baby have found enjoyment from sleeptime settling. As emphasised throughout the Bond With Baby program, parents’ warmth of interactions with their baby is the essence of developing a loving parent-baby relationship – beginning with forming the bond – and continues to be essential to every child’s over-all wellbeing throughout life (discussed in the Bond With Baby’s section Bonding and Beyond). And one such interaction is parents rocking their baby, discussed in the written section Communicating with Baby → Rhythmical Movement: From Soothe to Groove)

So, if rocking your baby to sleep is what you both enjoy, and, if Baby continues to have a restful sleep after being put into bed don’t deny yourselves of such pleasure. Being concerned about what may happen as Baby develops is likely to cause some stress. Continue to enjoy this time together … and deal with the next phase (if it arises) with the same amount of love and comfort you are showing to guide your baby’s happiness.

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Time-out Needed

Being a loving, nurturing mother is about giving of yourself. And … this maternal giving is a baby’s greatest need: it provides a child with the comfort and guidance required for growth and emotional well-being right through the developing years into adulthood.

So your baby began benefitting from your ‘giving’ the moment she was born and, no doubt, is now expressing her love and enjoyment for you with the smiles and coos of contentment. HOWEVER, with this ‘giving’ comes a mother’s need to find some balance within her role (as discussed in Bond With Baby’s written sections Challenges of Becoming a Mother and Shaping the Day).

Being a baby’s best source of comfort, fun and learning along with the day-to-day tasks all require emotional and physical energy SO a mother NEEDS some form of time-out. Yet this term ‘time-out’ can mean different things to each one of us. For some it simply means being able to take a shower in peace and quiet or make a coffee and do nothing when Baby is asleep. For others it may mean going out away from the home environment for an hour or so some days.

You say your partner is very supportive so importantly you need to work out together what is suitable for you. And, this is also an opportunity for your husband to continue to build confidence as a parent as sometimes when mothers do the majority of the care-giving, fathers tend to feel ‘left out’. This way your baby gets the best of family life … contentment all round.

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No Motivation for Play

By 4 months, babies are usually enjoying parents’ playfulness, as shown by their smiles that develop into giggles/laughs. Not only does playfulness mean that parents and babies are enjoying time together but laughter is important for everyone’s wellbeing – among many things it lowers stress, adds joy to life and strengthens bonding. For various reasons, some adults were raised in families where laughter was not shared, which can affect how they go about raising their own children (to read more on child rearing practices and how they affect children’s development go to the section Parenting Styles). The fact that you recognise your lack of motivation to have fun with Baby could be caused by anxiety and/or depression associated with early parenting or other circumstances causing stress in your life. As discussed in the program’s section on Postnatal Depression (PND), anxiety and depression not only affect how parents feel but also how they interact with their baby. Importantly, let others know how you feel and most important seek advice from a medical practitioner for correct diagnosis. Social support (discussed in the section Parenting: From the Beginning → Social Support and Parenting) from trusted family and friends can be helpful in sharing the parenting ‘load’ during this time. Below are websites with information and guidance.

The international non-profit organisation Postpartum Support International provides support contacts for parents in most countries around the world http://www.postpartum.net

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Mothers’ Group

This is a very familiar concern and such competition’ can dominate parenting groups (discussed in Parenting Styles → Conflicting Ideas about raising Baby).

And the unfortunate part is that this behaviour can ruin good social support that so many mothers’ groups provide as an important ‘ingredient’ to parenting (discussed in Parenting: From the beginning).

So how do you deal with this type of parenting pressure? Firstly, there may be a couple of mothers who are dominating the group … and the rest just go along with it. So there may be others who are also feeling as you do … and may appreciate your truthfulness put subtly to the group. Out of all this you may find others gelling with you – even one other mum can be enough to begin sharing parenting experiences with, which can develop into a close friendship. If you are truly not enjoying this group there really is nothing to lose. Ultimately, parents need others to socialise with, who too enjoy watching their babies grow with happiness as they delight in exploring the curiosities of their surroundings. There will always be parents who feel they need to gloat about themselves and their so-called parenting achievements and their children. Your parenting success comes with the commitment of doing the best job you can … driven by the love you have for your baby.

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Losing Touch

For what it’s worth, yes … this sense of losing touch with friends is normal. And, this ‘sense of loss’ has been happening to new parents for many years … as this also happened to me with my first born who is now 24! While I did lose contact with some friends, the closeness of other friendships remained. Although there was a shift in what we called ‘fantastic times’, it just took a while for some re-adjustment!

I will never forget trying to ‘keep up appearances’ by having childless friends come for dinner. Of course, time was theirs … to sit and have another glass of wine … to linger on with the conversations … none of which I cared about. All I wanted was to go to bed and sleep … ready for the next ‘wake-up’ call. So these dinner gatherings dwindled … especially as they began having children realising that their priorities too had changed! So, life was no longer as it used to be. I was completely consumed by motherhood … talking about the number of nappies/diapers I changed in a day and how my baby could ‘sick up’ down me, feeling guilty and selfish for wanting more sleep … the list goes on.

Yet out of this came new acquaintances that grew into friendships as we bonded through the sharing of common ‘mothering’ experiences … the challenges and the joys. I felt enriched, having ‘old’ and ‘new’ friends, and for our children to have grown up (which often included squabbling) with memories of these friendships.

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Daytime Sleep

By the sound of it you and Baby have done a great job in getting a routine together that has brought about good sleeping habits…but now some adjustments might be needed. Up to 6 months babies have had rapid growth and achieved many developmental milestones in such a short period of time. While their growth will slow down in the next 6 months their developmental milestones continue, which can call for ‘re-adjustment’ to what goes on with the daily routine.

Introducing solids is one of these milestones but around 6 months babies are really starting to show signs of some ‘independence’: they are learning about their ‘likes and dislikes’ as well as becoming more physically developed and mobile. Another developmental change at around 6 months (and depending on babies’ individual needs) is the transitioning from 3 to 2 sleeps during the day  – sleeping mid morning and afternoon for up to 2 hours each nap. Considering these developmental changes, a routine needs to be a balance of time for milk and solid food (milk is still the main source of nourishment and needs to be offered to Baby before solid food), play/activity and wind-down/relaxation as preparation for sleep (discussed in Shaping the Day).

During play and activity time, babies of this age are enjoying variation in toys/play items that stimulate their motor and cognitive development (discussed in Let’s Play), parents’ singing games, dancing with Baby and tickly rhymes  (from the Bond With Baby Songs, Rhymes and Music). However, with such activity tiredness can suddenly ‘hit’ and when babies are over-tired it is difficult to settle them for bed (discussed in the Bond With Baby information Baby’s not Sleeping → Difficulties in Settling baby). It is important that with Baby’s first ‘tired sign’ (discussed in Caregiving Routines → Sleep-time) comes wind-down and preparation for bed. The more tired they are the more difficult it is for settling. And, because they are now much more aware of what is going on around them at this age, it may be helpful to slightly darken the room for daytime sleep if it is ‘light and bright’ suggesting playtime fun!

Babies are also developing some anxiety when separated from parents at this age (Separation Anxiety is discussed in the Bond With Baby information Development and Learning → Social/Emotional Development), which can cause them to begin an unhappy pattern when it comes to bedtime settling and parents saying ‘sleep tight’. This developmental stage requires parents to be reassuring in the settling routine for sleep by spending time with Baby that may now include a bedtime story as well as the settling song used from birth (discussed in Caregiving Routines → Sleep-time).

Getting Baby into a new routine for sleep that suits her developmental needs takes time for adjustment…and perseverance from parents! As difficult as it is when ‘battling’ with this, parents need to be calm and create a relaxed approach to settling. I know that this is easier said than done BUT parents’ stress exacerbates babies’ stress (discussed in Baby’s Not Sleeping). Of course some days are ‘smoother’ than others but the important part in getting Baby into a new routine is being consistent and with this comes predictability (which provides babies with a sense of security). Below is an example of a predictable daily routine for 6 to 8 month olds. However, a routine needs to be tailored to Baby’s needs, so make adjustments to allow for this.

  • Early Morning: Wake, have a milk feed and back to bed for a couple of hours – this will depend on how long Baby has slept during night OR Wake approx. 6.30 – have a milk feed followed by solids and then play/activities. Anticipating Baby’s tiredness, have some calm wind-down time e.g. reading a story before nap (awake for up to 3 hours)
  • Sleep for approximately 2 hours
  • Late morning: Wake – have milk feed, solids, play/activities, wind-down (awake for 2 to 3 hours)
  • Sleep for approximately 2 hours
  • Mid afternoon: Wake – milk feed (or drink of water and snack for older babies) activity e.g. go out walking
  • Early evening: Milk feed (older babies may also be having solids) – bath –  bedtime wind down/snuggle/story, song and into bed. The feed and bath-time are interchangeable. Some parents prefer to give Baby a milk feed closer to bedtime and use bath-time as part of activity time (discussed in Caregiving routines → Bath-time). It really depends on you and Baby.

The Bond With Baby written information has more about developing sleep routines, settling techniques and putting babies into bed awake to allow for them to ‘self-soothe’.

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Fear of Motherhood

Yes, absolutely. You need to be open about how you are feeling with each other…he too may be fearful. It is very normal for expectant parents to be anxious but by supporting each other such fear can be alleviated. In my experience, it seems that every mother I know has had different birthing experiences … no matter how much planning and anticipation has gone into it! And we all agree that once giving birth, you enter into something that is very personal, as your relationship with Baby develops and the bond is formed.  As discussed in the section Bonding and Beyond the intensity of love that some parents feel for their baby happens as ‘love at first sight’. For others the bond forms and strengthens during the early weeks through every moment-by-moment interaction that they share with Baby.

 

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Baby’s Sight

While the Bond With Baby developmental charts (section Development and Learning) are provided as a general guide to babies’ development any concerns parents have should not be ignored. It is most important that you have Baby checked out by a paediatric nurse or doctor. If they seem to not be concerned but you are, go and get another opinion. Early detection can help to save delays in babies’ development.

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