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Establishing a Routine Saved My Sanity

by Ashleigh Wood

I consider myself to be a Queen of organisation in most aspects of my life, plans, lists, structure and order are all familiar and very vital parts of my every day and I take a little pride in that.

Okay, you got me.. that was the way of things and then I had a baby.

There’s only so much effort and energy you can sacrifice on trying to keep everything organised after becoming a Mam before you have to simply throw caution to the wind and let go and that’s exactly what I did (much to the dislike of the inner control freak). This tiny little human had now entered the picture and, albeit he could not speak, he began running the show nonetheless. He was in charge without a doubt. We don’t eat without his say so, we don’t sleep without his approval, we don’t poop without his consent and if he says “milk” we ask “shaken or stirred?”.

And so that’s the way things were to be for the foreseeable future.. for almost nine months to be precise.

As much as I look back rather fondly on those months, the first few in particular and miss them dearly, I still think of them as absolutely crazy. A wonderful, exciting, exhausting, whirlwind type of crazy that I wouldn’t of changed for a second. It was a time for bonding, building and learning. For soaking up cuddles, breathing in that new baby scent and fighting through piles and piles of unwashed dishes and poop stained onesies.

Those first few weeks are amazing even despite the lack of structure.

But sooner or later, reminders of the outside world that has been spinning on without your presence, business as usual, begins to creep slowly back into your small and cosy existence of nappies, bottles and bedtime talc. As much as we would love to continue this chaotic but also seemingly blissful way of life, we can’t stop the inevitable push of reality. Be it through the letterbox, via the phone, on the television or into an open window, it finds you, it shakes you and it let’s you know that it is your unasked for but necessary adult responsibility to answer to more than just your baby’s cry.

It is time.

What I still hadn’t quite grasped at this point was that reintegrating into society once again following the birth of my first child would also require a few little tweaks to the way things ran within our home also. So, if you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m referring to the wonder that is routine or, more aptly described as the dreadful by myself before we began to attempt to establish such a mythical thing.

I put this off for what felt like the longest time because, in short, the whole concept bloody terrified me. It fell into a pattern of many firsts in which I was worried to try as a first time Mam for reasons that I can only put down to the fear of failure. I hadn’t attempted any sleep training, I breastfed on demand and as for bedtime? Well, that was something that we liked to call absolutely intended improvisation (no sarcasm, honest).

With no idea where to start, all I knew was that I had to start somewhere because once Kaiber began creeping, crawling, shouting and eating food, the crazy that felt so beautiful only months prior was beginning to feel stressful and introduced a whole new depth to the exhaustion I already felt. I won’t pretend that we ever had structured nap times from day one but I can say that he used to at least nap until all of a sudden he suddenly just didn’t.

Keeping up with the pace of a baby’s development, particularly as a first-timer is like trying to chase down a cheetah. They literally change and grow at the speed of light and that time when they close their eyes during the day, despite the length of time, is, as I very quickly realised, absolutely paramount. Whatever we need the breather for: housework, washing, self care, checking emails or just sitting and doing sweet FA, we need it and I wasn’t getting it so I figured that was a good place to start. Maybe the rest would just follow naturally.

It’s non stop now Kaiber is on his feet.

With a lot of patience and strong will I was managing to get Kaiber down for anywhere from ten minutes to an hour each day at no particular time and that was progress enough for me at first, a small but humble victory I thought. It was actually when we began having more in the way of set meal plans that I really conquered the napping for the first time.

Of all the wive tales and tit-bits of advice that people give you during pregnancy or once baby arrives, the one I can vouch for is that food really does help.. or, at least it did for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way saying that babies begin to sleep through the night once they’re weaned but it makes for a more visual plan of your day when you have to work around meal times.

I’m lucky enough to have a Partner who gets up when baby does for the day depending on how the night before went for myself and in those few hours Kaiber will break his fast on a lovely hearty bowl of fruity porridge of some description. Usually a second breakfast or brunch more like will follow when I make my own of poached eggs and avocado on toast which we eat together and requires little man to be bathed immediately after. A baby bath for me now that we have some tootsie pegs that have popped through means I get to brush my teeth because Kaiber likes to do it together (something I didn’t always get the opportunity to do every morning until recently).


Kaiber likes to make sure I get those back teeth real good too!

This new habit of a morning bath opened up a window of opportunity for us and so, although I’m unsure of when exactly it happened, sometime over the last three months or there about, the 11 o’clock nap was born. Okay, so yes it can sometimes be called the 12 o’clock nap and every now and then it has also been known to take on the form of a 1 o’clock nap but it’s a nap all the same and it happens a good eight days out of ten circumstances depending.

For some this may sound absurd, not routinely at all even but for me it’s structure. It’s something to work towards after a long or difficult morning, it’s a check point if you will and it gives me a little hope and concept of time during the day. I am admittedly some what of a pushover but this is something I stick to whether he seems sleepy or not. I will boob him to sleep or lie still in the bed whilst he wriggles around until he comes of his own accord even if this sees to it that we’re there forty minutes before sleep comes.

The average nap time is an hour but can be less if we’re teething or leaping and every so often it is more- three hours even! Okay, that has only ever happened once but we live in hope to see such a miracle occur again.

If I have plans that involve leaving the house earlier on I will try my best to get us out just before eleven which usually results in Kaiber sleeping on route to wherever we’re going. If we’re staying in I will try to have a shower, a cuppa and a little bit of me time instead of wasting those precious minutes cleaning like I used to.

Once he wakes we have some cuddles and playtime, I give him a spot of picky lunch and then wack him in the baby carrier whereby I will then get stuck into my housework. It works so well now that he is curious and takes interest in everything around him. He loves to be nosy and watch what Mammy is doing plus he is obsessed with the hoover so it’s the best and only way I can get anything done. I will also prepare and cook his tea in between tackling my list of jobs so that it is ready when we’re done, usually bringing us to around 4.30 pm.

Keen to help cook dinner.

It’s then tea, another bath, massage, play then bed by 6 pm for us as we don’t do a second nap which we’ve found works a lot nicer when it comes to keeping night wake ups to the bare minimum. The wake ups depend on what could be hundreds of different factors but he can usually be boobed back to sleep and will wake for the day at roughly 6 am meaning, if and when he does sleep through, we will hopefully have good foundations for a solid nights sleep set in place.

For us, establishing this bit of routine has made life easier, less stressful and more enjoyable. I worry less about how I’m going to get everything done and I actually get a second to breathe and take a shower every now and then not to mention that now Kaiber is enjoying food I am more inclined to eat with him. Because I am better looked after and a little more rested, I feel like our quality of time has excelled and we have so much more fun with a slight bit of the load taken from my busy mind.

It’s in no way perfect never mind military precise but it’s good enough for us right now and I am so proud of how far we’ve came in terms of following some sort of a daily routine persistently. Of course there are days when unexpected things come into play or plans change and it knocks the whole thing off balance and there are also times when, as a Mother, you just have to decide when it’s right to let go of structure in the interest of your baby.

But hey, when I look back at those early days I realise that where we’re at right now is just fine and we’re doing what works for us.


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