I was late to my own birth by 2 weeks. I have rarely been late to anything since that
fateful day in 1982! Those who know me in the real world will tell you that I am often not only early to events and gatherings, but am also usually the first to arrive. I panic about being late. I do not like plans changing. I like a plan. I like to know what’s going on when and so you’d be forgiven for thinking that when it came to BG, I would have a military-style schedule of what will happen when… except, you’d be wrong.
When she arrived 4 weeks early, she already set the precedent for “changing the plan” and all bets were off. I can’t put into words the surge of love I had when I held her in my arms for the first time, though she was small, she was perfectly healthy and in my eyes, perfect in every way. I’d already made the decision I wanted to breastfeed (and you can read about this in another one of my blog posts https://thefishfingermum.com/2017/12/04/breastfeeding/) and I made a further decision to use the “demand method” of feeding. This is also a recommended way of feeding preemies in those first few weeks whilst they’re creeping up to their “due date”.
A few people looked at me like I was a complete hippy. Some made oh-so-helpful and supportive comments such as “Oh you don’t want to do that, you’ll have her on you all the time” – thank you for your advice, I shall store it in the box marked “#’!£$!” – but I was adamant that this was the way I was going to go about things. And it worked. For me.
I can’t sit here and say it was all sunshine, rainbows, unicorns and lollipops – sometimes it was bloody hard work. Especially when BG was up every 2 hours through the night wanting a feed. There’s one night burned into my memory where I was up for the 65 millionth time with BG, husband on nights and in my 4th pair of pyjamas covered in sick with a very small BG screaming her head off – that was a hard night… but for the most part, demand feeding worked for us.
BG soon began to form her own little routine… she would want to feed at more regular intervals, she would nap around those – in fact I think for the first 2 months of her life she was on an eat, sleep, poo, repeat infinite loop – but I didn’t have any kind of “formal” routine. I used an app called “Baby Time” to track the timings of feeds and the duration (as well as which side she’d fed from!) which was a great way for me to be able to see the pattern forming. As she got older, a more definitive routine began to emerge – all of her own doing, not mine and once I went back to work when she was 7 months old, there was a distinctive pattern to her day. Still, it was just a ‘pattern’ though – my instructions to the nanny in terms of a schedule were written on a chalk board in the kitchen as follows:
6:30 am – milk
8:00 am (ish) – breakfast
10:30 am (ish) – snack
12:30 pm (ish) – lunch
3:00 pm (ish)- snack
5:00 pm (ish) – tea
6:00 pm (ish) – bath
6:30 pm (ish) – bottle
At the side I had written – “2x naps: 1 morning and 1 afternoon, when they happen, totaling 3 hours. Do not wake her up to eat – wait until she wakes up herself”. All of the times had “ish” written next to them – they were a rough guide, not a strict adherence to them was not necessary. As long as they happened, I didn’t mind when. I have since discovered that this is in fact a ‘formal method’ of setting a routine, it’s just called “Baby-led Scheduling” – who knew? For more information on types of schedules/routines, see the Baby Centre article “The basics of baby schedules: Why, when, and how to start a routine” – https://www.babycenter.com/0_the-basics-of-baby-schedules-why-when-and-how-to-start-a-rou_3658352.bc
Again, I had received some comments that suggested I was “pandering” to my child, that she would grow up wanting everything on demand and wouldn’t be able to accept “No”. The polite part of me simply says “Do you think so? Thank you for your advice, but she is my baby so it is my choice. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try your way, but for now it’s working”. The less polite part of me offers a mere two words back to these “advisers” and one of them is ‘off’ – the other is at readers discretion, but I am sure you can find a suitable one.
BG is now 16 months old. Her routine, such that it is, is fairly formal but not rigid. It generally follows the following pattern:
6:30 am – wake up, sit in cot talking to soft toys planning what to do with the day
7:00 am – get up & have a drink (this used to be milk in a bottle, but over the last fortnight she’s decided she doesn’t want that anymore)
7:00 am – 8:00 am – cBeebies whilst Mummy and/or Daddy wake up with a coffee!
8:00 am – breakfast
9:30 am – nap (sometimes this lasts for 2 hours and we forego snack and have a larger lunch!)
11:00 am – snack
12:30 pm – lunch
2:00 pm – nap (sometimes this hour doesn’t occur until 3pm, sometimes even 4pm and sometimes it happens straight after lunch)
3:00 pm – snack
5:00 pm – tea
6:15 pm – bath
6:30 pm – bottle + In The Night Garden
7:00 pm – bed
Sometimes, she’s asleep and in bed by 6:30 pm. Rarely, but on occasion, she doesn’t go to bed until 7:30 – especially if she’s had a late tea or late nap (or both!) and this will usually involve finding a back episode of ITNG to watch on iPlayer. It works for us. She generally follows these timings. Timings SHE has made… I didn’t set out to formalise a routine. They are fluid, they change about, sometimes we swap the order of the day. Of course between eating and sleeping, there is lots of play and activity going on too.
I viewed ‘training’ my child with a simple mentality – if she’s hungry, feed her; if she’s tired, let her sleep and if she’s got a dirty nappy, change it. It didn’t matter to me in those 7 months of maternity leave what time all of these things happened – just that she did. Removing the ‘pressure’ to stick to a routine meant that I felt more relaxed. It gave me the freedom to go out as and when I wanted. It enabled me to make plans and not have to worry about whether or not it fitted in with a nap time or meal time. I personally feel that this was incredibly vital for my post natal mental health. Now that she is 16 months, there is an element of additional planning around a schedule sometimes. For example, long journeys to see my mother in law (a 4 hour drive to North Devon) usually means we set off an hour after breakfast, drive for 2 hours while she sleeps, have a 30 minute stop off at a service station on the M5 – feed her, change her, let her run riot in Starbucks or other caffeine provider and then get back on our way (we are blessed with a VERY good traveler!). Or if I am taking her to see my parents (a 2 hour drive to the Midlands) – the journey time will usually be the rough time of her morning nap, she will sleep all the way here and then arrive at Grandma and Grandad’s refreshed and ready to play – bliss.
I am fully aware that my hippy-like approach to a routine will bring some Mums out in a cold sweat. There are some that love the Gina Ford method – but this was not something I could work with. I didn’t want the inflexibility that I personally felt this method provided. If it works for you then great – your baby, your choice. My “when it happens” mentality worked for us, it’s still working for us and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – my baby, MY choice.
Baby Centre have a helpful article called “Seven steps to creating a successful baby routine” available on their site which gives great starting points on how to go about setting up a routine: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1051918/seven-steps-to-creating-a-successful-baby-routine.
Having done further research on routines, the NHS only really talks about sleep routines and how to get them up and running, their advice can be found via NHS Choices here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/getting-baby-to-sleep/
Emma’s Diary also offers some great guidance on http://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/baby/new-born-care/getting-into-a-routine and in particular “It’s really important to listen to your own instincts and to follow the routine that seems to best fit with you and your baby.” – AMEN SISTER!
At the end of the day, all babies are individuals and so will need their own unique and slightly different way of doing things. In the same way, all mums are individuals and what has worked for me (and more importantly BG) might not work for everyone else and I get that… if you’re the type of mum who says no to meeting for coffee at 10:30 because that’s smack in the middle of nap time and if your little one doesn’t nap then, then you can’t get your own sh*t in order (like laundry, cleaning, tidying, having a shower) then that’s ok! If you want to only wee at certain times of the day because that’s what Gina Ford says – that’s your choice. It’s ok to have a rigid routine if that works for you. Like I said before, your baby, YOUR choice – don’t let anyone tell you any different!
Struggling with getting into routine? Want to have a little celebratory brag about getting a routine element sorted, like bedtime for instance? Leave a comment, share your story and maybe you’ll help another mum out in the process.