Of all the unexpected things that motherhood is teaching me one thing that I was really surprised to learn about myself is that I’m a control freak and I love a routine!
I thought I’d be a laid back mum and remember saying to jack ‘the baby can just fit in around what we want to do’. Well, that totally isn’t the case and my whole day revolves around Bodhi’s routine!
As much as I feel that both Bodhi and I benefit from a routine I feel like now is the right time to stop being so militant with it and stop acting like we might all turn into pumpkins if we’re out when the clock strikes 7pm! The reason I’m strict and unwilling to defer from the routine is out of fear that it will affect Bodhi’s sleep that night (it took us so long to get him to sleep through) or that not sticking to his usual routine could result in a public meltdown. Planning things for times when I know Bodhi will be at his most content and not when he’s desperate for a nap or wanting his food just makes me feel more confident that we’ll all have a much easier and enjoyable time. It’s limiting and frustrating at times for both me and I suspect others that probably don’t understand why i’m reluctant to go somewhere until after Bodhi’s napped or why we turn down invites after 6pm but having a routine has also created peace and predictably in the chaos of parenting!
There is no chance of implementing any kind of routine in the first few weeks and I think if you’re breastfeeding it’s even harder. When I started bottle feeding at 6 weeks it felt like I’d gained a little bit more control of the day. It was also at this time that Bodhi started to settle for longer stretches of sleep after his usual 5pm feed which suggested he was ready to be put to bed rather than us treating every bit of sleep as a nap. You may be aware from reading any of my previous posts we tried everything to get Bodhi to sleep through the night and there was one piece of advice that cropped up wherever I looked; having a consistent bedtime routine.
So we started a bedtime routine at 8 weeks old and it took Bodhi a further 6 months until he started consistently sleeping through the night but I was persistent and held on the so called importance of a bedtime routine and now Bodhi sleeps for 11 continuous hours from 7pm-6am. Our bedtime routine is pretty simple and can be recreated which is why Bodhi has always gone down to sleep without a fuss regardless of being in a different cot or in a new place. He also seems to know when it’s bedtime even if we’re somewhere different or he’s had a good long nap in the day he starts to get grizzly at 7pm. After months of praying and pleading that he would sleep through the night I’m not really interested in stopping Bodhi get his head down for the night when he wants to!
As well as a bedtime routine I did a lot of reading and spoke with other mums about how babies love a routine to their day. It helps them feel secure and settled having some predictability to their day; they know their needs will be met. So Bodhi and I have always followed a routine to our day; it has changed slightly as he’s got older and new things need to be factored in such as less milk, longer naps, less naps, more meals etc. but it generally stays similar for a few weeks until he shakes things up again! Before you think I’m a total boring hermit and not doing anything fun with my life I should say that I have taken Bodhi to classes, I have kept him up if it’s an important occasion and we have taken him abroad three times. I can loosen up about not following the routine to the wire but I’ll just be honest and say that I’m a planner, I like structure to my day and i feel less anxious knowing what’s coming next.
I know that the idea of a routine could sound really dull and restrictive to other mums and I’ll be honest some days it does feel like Groundhog Day. A routine probably isn’t for everyone. If you’re laid back and don’t mind the unpredictability and don’t have or can cope with sleep issues then it’s probably of no interest to you. Also your lifestyle has to allow for it. I naively expected Bodhi to slot into our lives and thought we’d still be able to achieve everything we used to in a day. Sure that could be done but personally I think you have to accept that your lifestyle will change when you introduce a little one into your life and some days you don’t get much done other than lots of playtime and cuddles with your baby. Luckily I haven’t really had other people or other tasks to take up my time or attention so I have been able to fully plan my days around myself, Bodhi and Jack. Also, if you’re thinking of running a routine your partner has to be on board and help so that it’s consistent. Jack has been great, he was craving some order and predictability to his day too after the weeks of chaos with a newborn. He was fully bought into the idea of a routine and although at times he’s criticised for me being too strict he has also experienced how much more stressful an outing can be if we have a tired/unsettled baby on our hands.
Bodhi is now at nursery three days a week and that’s been a big change for him, I was worried about how he’d cope but he’s been amazing! It’s such a relief and has reassured me that he is fine with change; whether tending to his needs and maintaining a calm and predictable environment thus far has set him up well for this i don’t know. A go to routine acted as a bit of a life raft for me in my first year of motherhood and I’ve felt it was the right thing for us. I’m happy to acknowledge that continuing to run my day around Bodhi’s need and preference could mean I’m setting myself up for a fussy and spoilt child which is why I’m hoping to start being more flexible and spontaneous!