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Observation at nineteen days (2)

Dad answered the flat intercom. He led me into the living room where Mary had Daniel on her lap sitting up whilst she held his chin. His eyes were open and he was slightly hunched over but I could immediately see that he was uncurling from my first visit. His mother immediately told me how well he was feeding and that she had had the health visitor check, and Daniel weighed more than his birth weight at ten lbs ten and a half ounces. Dad sat next to them facing the baby and asked for him. The baby who had been grunting a bit immediately settled his face into his daddy's neck with his right arm curled onto his shoulder like a hug. Daniel moved his head back and turned it away from his dad's neck to peer around.

Dad was talking to his baby and lying him along his arm looking down at him. Daniel was staring at his father's face but beginning to be a bit restless. His mother asked Dad to give her the baby but Dad did not want to part with him saying, "Please can I keep him as you have him all day." His mother said that he was feeding all the time and that she had tried to keep a routine but she was occasionally letting him into their bed with them. She took a plastic blown up semi-circular ring from alongside the sofa and wrapped it around her front and Dad handed her Daniel. She carefully unhitched her bra and held Daniel's head with her spare hand to help him latch on whilst encircling his body with the other arm. After a few moments his mother said, "You are playing with me, little man." She stopped trying to feed, picked him up and held him against her, and then decided it was bath time.

After the bath (which Dad gave as his mother cannot lift easily yet) Daniel started to mouth and root and his mother wondered whether she should try and feed him now before bedtime.

She set up her ring as before and this time when Daniel was handed to her by Dad, he immediately latched on and started to suck.

In this observation, the first when I witnessed a whole feed, I saw a more wide awake baby, one who was able to communicate with his mother around his feeding needs (Ainsworth, 1969). He could show her that he did not want food and then later that he was ready. His mother was able to tune into different possibilities even though this might mean breaking her own rules about bad habits and not sticking to the feeding routine she had previously outlined for herself.

I wondered whether the parents were also negotiating new ways of being with each other. I was aware of his mother's need to protect her wound by using the plastic ring and although it rather dwarfed Daniel as he lay on it, his mother was holding him as closely as she could and they were peaceful with each other.

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