It's 4am in the morning- it's dark outside, the sun has yet to rise in the sky and the streets are deserted. Our house is still and silent. Mr E is fast asleep, and I am lying dozing in and out of a light sleep next to him. There is a little body next to me, her face so close to mine that I can smell her milky breath. She snuggles herself into me, I wrap my arms around her and hold her tight. She's so warm and I place my arm on her tummy, feeling her little chest rise and fall. We stay like that until half seven when the alarm goes off to signal the day is due to begin.
Of course I am talking about LL. We have got into a pattern ever since she was tiny that she comes into our bed in the early hours of the morning. She has always started the night off in her own bed but some how by the morning she is always next to me.
Let me start by saying, I have absolutely nothing against co-sleeping. However when Mads was born I never ever let her share our bed. I was strict on routine, and I was also worried about pulling the covers over her.
But with our second baby, it has all changed. This time around we have a toddler to think of. There's no lounging in bed till 10am or staying in our PJ's all day. I have to get up and start the day with enthusiasm as my little Mads is always happy and hyper when she wakes up at 7.30am. Therefore we have to do what is right for us- the second time around is all about survival. It sounds dramatic but it is.
And of course there is a part of me that adores the connection and feeling I get having her close to me. I lie there and watch her sometimes, watch her little eyelashes flickering as she falls into a deeper sleep, the way she looks so content lying next to her Mummy.
I think I am realising that although my babies have the same big blue eyes, the same cheerful and happy disposition and the same Mummy and Daddy, the reality is they are very different. Mads slept through from a few weeks old, but LL is just not as much of a sleeper as her sister. Mads was always quite independent, happy to go to anyone when she was sad and needed a cuddle, whereas LL seems to only want me. She is a lot more of a Mummy's girl than Mads was. As such I am having to learn to parent them in different ways.
With Mads if she ever did wake up and cry at night, she would settle herself back off to sleep. We 'sleep trained' her by letting her cry it out, something which I know not everyone agrees with, but it worked for us. However she never really cried a lot, and we got her into a good pattern quite quickly. I can honestly count on one hand the amount of times she has woken up in the night since she was six months old.
With LL, it is totally different. She goes down to sleep fine, but she struggles from about 4am onwards. A couple of nights ago we decided we would leave her to see if we could get her to settle, but after an hour of her crying and us going over to her every five minutes, I cracked and fed her and let her sleep with us. I just can't seem to remain consistent.
With LL I definitely have picked up 'bad habits'. She is still in our room at seven months, whereas Mads went into her nursery at six. We are just so worried she will wake up her sister as their rooms are next to each other.
She has her naps on the sofa, again out of fear of waking Mads who still naps for two and a half hours upstairs. LL will drop herself off to sleep after lying on the sofa for a few minutes and will sleep a good hour or two in the afternoon, and this just seems to work for us, but I dread to think what will happen when I try and move her to her cot upstairs for her sleeps.
She is a milk monster and whereas with Mads I was in a routine of feeding her every three hours, with LL she still feeds on demand. I feed her if I think she looks tired and needs a sleep, or if she is a bit grumpy.
I am exaggarating when I say bad habits, but I do feel like I am making a rod for my own back. At the moment she is a happy, cheerful, content baby, but I do worry that as she is growing more aware it is going to be harder to break the patterns that we have created. I want to try and help her sleep through as we are all getting tired with her early morning antics, and I don't sleep well when she is in our bed, but I don't know the best way to do it.
There's the confliction between thinking she won't be a baby forever and to just enjoy every moment and take each day as it comes, to thinking I don't want to create problems further down the line.
I think the next stop is her own room and then we will see what happens. Yet I know that when and if she sleeps through, I know I will miss our sleepy snuggles, and I will miss those early hours in the morning when I feel so full of love and grateful for that little body lying next to me.
Because like all 'bad habits' they are ridiculously addictive.
And there is nothing more addictive than my sweet, gorgeous little baby girl.