Saturday, October 16, 2010

Routine goes out the window

Some babies are just better off without a strict routine
“With your first born, you fit your life around your baby. With subsequent children, your baby fits around your life.”
This was written by a mother of five, who has no doubt “been there, done that” when it comes to parenting.
And now that I have two children, I can wholeheartedly agree.
I never realised just how much pressure I put on myself when I had my first child.
I thought I was really laid back and just went with the flow, but really I was still stressing about how many hours she slept for, how many hours between feeds, was she getting enough “tummy time”, how to deal with her cradle cap, and dealing with nappy rash (which I realised later was due to her being in disposable nappies).
The witching hour went from 6pm to 11pm so I always ate a cold dinner, and I worried endlessly about how to settle her to sleep, and if she would ever learn to “self-settle”.
The truth is that while I certainly followed my instincts, and preferred to feed her on demand, I was also trying to get her into a routine because that’s what the books tell you to do. Constantly counting hours was a nightmare.
I remember planning my days around my daughter’s nap and feed times.
I couldn’t meet a friend for coffee at 10am or 2pm because that’s when she went down for a sleep and there was no way I was going to disrupt a sleeping baby!

But ask me now for a coffee at any time of day, and I’ll happily take my baby out. 
If she needs a sleep, I have the pram with me. 
If she gets hungry, I’ll feed her anywhere.
I know this might not work for all children, especially with regards to sleep, but it’s certainly working for us, and my daughter is a very happy and placid little girl.
Parents should remember that it is important for babies to be able to communicate their needs to their parents, and have them understood and responded to appropriately.
In other words, if they are crying, then there is a need that is not being met, whether it’s hunger, soiled nappy, hot or cold, tired or tummy pain.
Strict routines encourage parents to ignore their babies’ attempts at communication, which makes babies feel that they have no connection to their parents, that there is no point in trying to communicate because it doesn’t achieve anything.
This is also why I’m against so-called controlled crying to try and get babies to sleep.
Babies are not machines you can program, so if you have a newborn, or are about to have your first baby, don’t feel pressured to get your baby into a routine.
Some babies will set their own routine, while others will need a routine when they get older.
In the case of the mum of five, she believes that children need routine after they turn one, not necessarily when they are babies.
Some babies appear to have a routine, and just when you get used to it, they change again.
The other problem is that there’s far too many other issues to deal with at the same time.
Breastfeeding is usually at the top of the list, but if you’ve got that sorted or you’re using formula, there’s a whole host of other baby iss-ewes.
Everything from poo-plosions, constipation, reflux, colic, rashes, vomiting, and don’t forget the crusty bits behind their ears and the dribble that gets in between the fat rolls in their chin.
You heart breaks every couple of months when you go to get immunisation needles, and then there’s the sleep deprivation.
New mums are forever comparing their baby with other babies of the same age to make sure they’re “normal” and I remember doing exactly that with my first born.
But every baby is different and comparing them could do more harm than good.
When you think about it, we don’t eat or sleep when we don’t feel like it, so neither should our children.
To me, not having a routine is liberating!
I don’t feel “stuck” at certain times of day, and I don’t worry about whether my baby will start screaming in Coles due to hunger.
These thing happen, it’s no big deal.
If you ask me how many times does she feed during the day, or how many sleeps does she have, or for how long, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Each day may be completely different from the one before, and because I’m too slack to write these sorts of things down, I just follow her cues.
Probably the biggest difference between my children in their first few months of life, is not whether one has a routine while the other doesn’t, but that I am far more relaxed, and therefore my kids are relaxed.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.


Ellie Tat said...

I tried a bit of routine with my first child, but I lasted less than 2 days. It was very relaxing to give it up and just go with the flow.

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