If you’ve come to this post hoping I have a brilliant set of tips for you on how to care for your baby with some amazing routine that’ll help them sleep, eat and play like a dream — move along immediately. I don’t. In fact, I have zero helpful answers for any of your baby related questions.
Just wanna put that out there immediately. I’m not about false hope you know?
One of the questions you’ll get asked almost immediately after you’ve wrapped your little one up and taken them home from the hospital for their first night with you is this: “How are they sleeping?” and I promise you this: you will soon want to punch people when they ask this.
I didn’t think too much of it straight away, because….well, I was filled with adrenaline and oxytocin and oh my god how dreamy is this baby and how amazing is her smell and OMG I want to go and buy clothes NOW. I took to motherhood pretty easily, not that I’m any good at it, but I’ve been very lucky indeed and landed myself a super chill baby. I also haven’t had any post-natal depression, despite being high risk for it. So there’s that.
But soon enough, I started worrying about what I should be doing. Which is NEVER a good idea. Because that leaves you vulnerable to all of the books spouting advice you absolutely must follow. And then you follow them. Which, I’m sure, isn’t the worst thing in the world for the majority of people but for this person it really is. I’m a contrarian by nature and have a tendency to rebel against the status quo for no reason, but actually, when it comes to motherhood I don’t think that’s a bad thing anyway. ‘Cos you gotta follow your own path you know?
To routine or not to routine
I read a book. Yep. You know what happens now right? I read a stupid book, took it way too literally, lost my head a bit and finally chucked it away (except not really because someone lent it to me) and decided to do what I was doing a week ago anyway.
The long and short of it is that I read a book whereby I discovered I was doing it all wrong. I should have started a routine the day after Anaïs was born. But I didn’t do that, because….well, I’m not mental. So I tried it when she was five weeks old instead. We’d actually been happily moseying along, doing our own thing and settling into a little daily mess of cuddles, feeding, cups of tea and napping. But I got it into my head I was doing it wrong. Why?
Because about five times a day* I was asked how my baby slept. Specifically, how well she slept. Meaning, did she sleep like an adult I guess. Does my baby, who can only see patterns, can’t hold her own head up and is learning millions of new things every hour sleep when I want her to sleep and wake up in time for BBC breakfast.
I might insult a lot of people now, but I think that’s an utterly ridiculous question to ask any new parent (aka please stop doing it).
There are many, many reasons why having a routine is a useful and important thing. When you need to get back to work, having a routine is the difference between sanity and opening fire in JoJo Maman Bebe.
But for me, that’s not an issue. YET. Both Oli and I are pretty aware we have a very chilled out baby, with no colic who cries rarely and sleeps often. But she’s a baby nonetheless and that means she doesn’t yet sleep through the night. She may never sleep through the night! That’s kinda hideous to think about but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get there.
I’ve always felt I wanted to avoid routine instinctively. I want Anaïs to fit into our lives, which means she goes to bed about eight when Oli tend to have dinner but occasionally that’ll be ten or later, like the other night when we wanted to go out for dinner. We didn’t stress because we were about to flout her typical bath time of seven pm – we just did it a couple of hours later. She didn’t go mental and sleep until midday or wake up every hour because of it.
Some days she naps LOADS, others she doesn’t and some days she is grizzly and I can’t leave the room without her getting cross. Those days are rare, but they happen and they’ll happen more as she grows and starts teething…..but that’s okay because gin.
Early on in pregnancy I read this brilliant post by Mamalina after my friend Nicki recommended her to me. With two kiddies she is a zero routine family. While some shit goes wrong, she points out that it works 80% of the time — and isn’t that the same for everyone?
So yes, sometimes I guess it would be handy to know that in three hours Anaïs will be due for a nap and I’ll have a solid two hours to have a bath, clean, work…..whatever. But what if that doesn’t happen? Isn’t it worse when you spend the majority of your time working to a schedule only for it to go wrong one day? I dunno, probably not. And this works for so many people I’ll almost certainly fall flat and you can all laugh at me when I do.
But for now, at least, I’m sticking to my no-routine routine. Because I love waking up at eight and snuggling for twenty minutes, having a five minute shower one day and a long bath another, and eating whenever we’re both hungry. I love enjoying her happy waking hours, and cuddling her in her grizzly ones. And when I randomly get three hours of free time because she’s extra tired during the day, I’m not stressing she won’t sleep later, I just make a brew and watch Netflix.
Am I nuts? Are you a routine kind of person or totally against it?
*this is an exaggeration 😉
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Also published on Medium.