28 February 2011

The dreaded question - do you have a routine?

I am a routined person. I love order and predictability. I like to get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat the same breakfast and know what is certain in each day. As a Libran, I love balance and am always happier when things are in balance. For all of these reasons, I decided (like I was the one making the decisions) that when my baby arrived, I would have a routine for her. I read Gina Ford and Tizzy Hall on routines, I spoke with like minded mums and began memorising a daily routine for a newborn baby. The problem was that no one told Layla before she was born that we would be operating on this new routine and that she was to follow the plan I had established. She seemed to have plans of her own. For the first few weeks and early months, the routine became a burden and a desire that rarely worked. I read and re-read all the books. I talked to Layla about her behaviour but nothing seemed to work. One day I decided to sit back and watch to see what routine Layla wanted to follow. As it turned out, Layla had her own routine that I had failed to notice. From that day on, for the most part, I followed her routine. Today, Layla turns 10 months and we are definitely in a routine. Here are a few tips, mistakes, ideas and thoughts on getting your baby into a routine:
  • It is never to early to establish some sort of routine. While the exact times will change, having a bedtime routine is a good way to start;
  • No matter what the days brings, I found it helpful for my sanity and to teach Layla that every day has an end. For this reason, we have had a bedtime routine from day 1;
  • A bedtime routine for a newborn could look something like this:
    • 5/5.30pm - breastfeed or bottle (half feed);
    • 6pm - bath;
    • 6.20pm - baby massage and pyjamas on;
    • 6.30pm - breastfeed or bottle (half feed);
    • 7pm - bed.
  • As a successful long term breastfeeder, I am all for demand feeding. Layla only went to 4 hour breastfeeds once we introduced solids. I never withheld food. If she was hungry and wanted to feed, I fed her. I have always demand fed during the day. When Layla was 5 months old I started to drop night feeds and would not feed her when she cried but rather comforted her with my voice and touch. I don't believe in a routine that restricts breastfeeds for newborns;
  • Follow the guidelines for awake times provided by Karitane and Tressilian. Wake times range from 1 hour to 4 hours depending on the age of the baby. When the recommended wake times were coming to an end and Layla showed tired signs, I would put her down to sleep rather than waiting for her to fall asleep with over exhaustion. This gave me approximate times so I could organise things around sleeping;
  • As a drawback, I've taught Layla how to sleep well in her bed but she is not great at sleeping in the car or pram (unless she is exhausted). As a result, we spend a lot of time at home. On the plus side, when it's bedtime and we follow our sleep routine, Layla goes straight to sleep with no fuss or tears(most of the time!);
  • No matter what the day would bring in terms of sleeping (or not sleeping), bedtime routine always starts at the same time and the day comes to an end at the same time. As a newborn, I would never wake Layla to feed after bedtime routine. This was always her longest sleep stretch and allowed me to either go to bed early, spend time with Daniel or have some me time;
  • I used to wake Layla as was recommended by a number of the baby whisperer routines. After a while, I stopped doing this. I came to the realisation that if she needed to sleep then she should sleep. The only time I felt justified to wake her was when she was really small and needed to be fed;
  • I've followed various routines and find it near impossible to make Layla sleep for the recommended times. Her daytime sleeping periods vary from 40minutes to almost 3hours with no underlying reason. The sleeping times have also changed as she has gotten older. There does tend to be a pattern that forms (Layla tends to sleep longer in the morning than the afternoon) but this often changes just when I realise there is a pattern;
  • My Itzbeen Baby Timer - timing how long Layla has slept for
  • Some days things won't work. No matter what you do, there will be days when your baby will not want to sleep. I have wasted too much energy and too many tears trying to get Layla to sleep when she won't. You need to know when to stop and go out for a walk to clear your head. Sometimes, baby will fall asleep in the pram. A frustrated Mummy is no help to anyone;
  • Know that any phase is just a phase. Developmental leaps, hot weather, change and unexplained things can send your routine off the rails. Just remember that tomorrow is another day and you can start again.
Despite all our ups and downs, having some sort of routine has helped me deal with the uncertainty of becoming a parent. I hope my insights have been of some help.

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