Their little lives too have been turned upside down as they now need to signal hunger and any other discomfort they may be feeling. Up to the time of birth they have lived in the dark and have no idea that day and night are even different. Their bodies have been rocked to sleep all day when you have been up and about and the melatonin levels that regulate mum’s day/night pattern have been keeping things on an even keel. Suddenly all this is gone and there are noises and other sensations that they have not previously been exposed to. Their little tummies are small and need frequent filling, day and night, and their brains are not sufficiently developed to be able to sleep for long stretches.
In this blog I am not going to share any a sure fire “3 step program” that will get your baby into the lovely routine that you had hoped was possible. But I am rather going to share some insights that you can use to slowly begin to make a difference to the way your days flow. Let me first clarify what I am referring to when I use the word “routine” for babies. In my mind a routine should not be a strict schedule that has to be adhered to, but it is rather a pattern of the day that repeats itself most days and comprises recognizable times of the day that certain things might happen, such as feeding and sleeping. This is a very important point as there are many books and “experts” who suggest creating routines that are focused on things being done at the exact same time each day. I have seen the fallout from parents trying to follow these very strict time sensitive schedules. It causes a lot of stress and often a sense of failure because, most babies seem to want to do their own thing and don’t sticking to the prescribed times!
Let’s look at 5 more principles that will help you understand how a “routine” will develop over time and how you can support your baby as the daily pattern of your lives slowly falls into place.
One of the traps that many parents fall into is spending a long time trying to get the baby to sleep in order to then have the time to run around and quickly get some housework done. This usually puts a lot of pressure on trying to “make the baby sleep” and gives no opportunity for down time during the day.
Finding ways of keeping your baby with you while you go about your daily activities means that you get the chores done and your baby is being “entertained” by watching what you are doing. Make the chores as fun as you can by chatting away and even singing and dancing! I know this sounds a bit odd, but your baby doesn’t know that this is a chore rather than a fun activity that he/she gets to do with you, so if you make it look like fun then they will love being part of it!
If you are very routine oriented, then you could start establishing a pattern for when each chore is done. Unpacking the dishwasher can be done after the first morning feed for example or a load of washing can be put in the machine before the lunchtime feed and hung out when the feed is done. The most important thing though is to find ways that your baby can be with you while you go about these daily tasks.
Experiment with baby carriers, a pram, a baby bouncer, move the basinet around or just a mat on the floor close to where you are busy.
Even though you will have your baby with you there will be times when you will need to stop what you are doing to feed your baby or change a nappy. Babies have this very sneaky habit of hijacking our agenda as their need for a drink always supersedes our desire to get a chore finished. You may find it useful to break tasks up into smaller “tasklets” so you still get the sense of accomplishment that you have been used to. Cooking the evening meal for example may need to commence in the morning with meal prep rather than having the luxury of being able to finish the process uninterrupted as may have been previously possible.
Babies love to be outdoors and being out in the fresh air and sunshine is very good for us too! Everything seems much less stressful when we are outdoors where the birds are singing, and we can connect with nature. Timing of this walk will soon become a regular occurrence that can be easily slotted in at a certain time each day. Remember the aim is not to stick to a set time each day but to rather allow a pattern to develop that repeats itself on most days. Of course, on weekends or Dad’s day off, you may choose to send him out on the walk while you have a rest or just spend some time alone to recharge your batteries. On rainy days you may need to go to a shopping center and wonder around there in place of this daily walk.
Find a way to connect with other mums so you can start to organize outings together. Contact your local cinema to find out if they do mum and baby sessions or reading sessions at the local library. Having these activities to look forward to will allow you to slot them in on certain days so that becomes an extra part of your weekly pattern. Swimming lessons for little babies are always a very popular activity.
Just when you become comfortable that your days are falling into a lovely rhythm, your baby will suddenly knock 30 min off the morning nap or decide that an extra feed will do quite nicely thank you! Thinking of your days as a pattern rather than being fixated on set times of the day will allow you to more easily adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur as your baby grows.
Learning to go with the flow and trusting that things will slowly fall into place is far less stressful than trying to force an unnatural strict timetable that babies are not able to adhere to. If you are finding things challenging, then please reach out for help.
If you didn’t see part 1 of this series, CLICK HERE
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