By popular request (because it seems at least six of you are about to become new Mommies and are begging for advice) I hereby present the "
Truth is I only know what worked for me and unfortunately with babies, there isn’t a "tried and tested, works for everyone" method of ensuring a peaceful calm baby: however I do think that consistency and above all else, routine (I love a good routine me!) are the key to raising confident, content babba’s and in my
Child rearing inevitably divides even the closest of women. I expect this post to be controversial, mostly because I have frequently taken flak from other Mummies over the way I handled the first few months of Finleys life. I have been told that the way I looked after Finn in the first year was cruel. That I am selfish and that Finley would suffer in the long term because I was extremely strict about certain things and thus, apparently, stifled his developing personality.
But all that I know is this: Until recent events took over us, from the time that Finley was six weeks old we had never, ever had a sleepless night, and yes, as I say in my 101 things, Finley has never, ever, cryed for more than five minutes. He is a bright, alert, curious little boy and in part I put that down to the fact that routine and consistent parenting mean that he feels utterly secure and free to be whoever he is becoming. (Read cheeky little monster.)
Central to my way of thinking about children is that they do not belong to us. We have no right to expect anything of them: not a night without sleep. Not an empty bottle. Or a career in medicine. They are little people. Individuals who rely on us to satisy their every need, from hunger to curiosity, thirst to entertainment. But at the same time , we have to remember that we do not belong to them either. We were here before them, and our need for sleep, a tidy house and five minutes without the bloody Wiggles matter just as much as they did before they arrived and turned our worlds upside down…
This is not a lecture. Most of you already have children and have experienced all the highs and lows of parenting babba’s. But for those of you that haven’t and for those of you that have asked me to tell you how we did it without pulling out our hair or getting a divorce before we’ve got around to getting married (Still might happen!!), here it is...
1. The first thing that you should know is that even before the baby was born I knew exactly how our days would pan out. I was excessively organised and I had read everything I could get my hands on about bringing up children in my pregnancy, before making the decision that my own loose version of Gina Fords Contented Baby Routines would work best for us as a family (and yes I do know that the nation is divided on gina Ford’s methods, but trust me they work). To me having a baby was like starting a whole new and really rather fabulous creative endeavour and I applied all the same principles in terms of preparing, reading and understanding all that I could before Finley was born, so I made educated choices on every aspect of his care from the bottles we chose (Dr Browns because they reduced the likelihood of colic.) to the way we changed his bum (plastering him in Sudocrem everytime and never having the ordeal of nappy rash.)
2. My housekeeping routines were already in place, and the house for the most part runs like clockwork. I knew that a ceasarean would severely hamper my ability to do much in the first few weeks, but having a framework for what needed to be done meant that those who were helping me could get on with it and I felt calm in the knowledge that once the bare minimum was done, I could snuggle up with the babba in a house that felt peaceful- something I believe matters above all else in the first few weeks and a fact confirmed by every health visitor who attended the house and found me and Finn calm and blissful in a sweet smelling, toxin free, organised, happy home.
3. Preparation wise, everything was in place the day I went into hospital. There were nappy changing baskets in the bathroom, living room, our bedroom and the babys room. The cot was made up, as were the two Moses baskets: one next to my bed and one downstairs in the living room. All the baby’s new clothes were washed and ready, every bottle sterilised in case breast feeding didn’t work out. The house was scrubbed clean and all traces of anything remotely toxic were eliminated. The day before I went into hospital I made a long list of everything Mark needed to know about the house and the next morning I went and gave birth safe in the knowledge that there was little else I could do to prepare for our little Finn.
4. The day after he was born, much to the nurses amusement I started my feeding and sleeping routines. I was tired, but I knew that starting the routines from day two would make all the difference to establishing them well. Breastfeeding was going well, so I had decided that Finley would be fed every three hours. No more. No less. If he fell asleep while feeding I woke him up. There would be no feeding on demand or feeds every two hours. He had two two hour long sleeps, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and I woke him up dead on the end of the two hours, for his feed. And thus a routine was born.
5. At home this meant rising at seven o’clock and waking the baby whether he wanted to or not. Letting him sleep on would have disturbed the routine and put the day out of kilter. Then we would feed at ten o ‘clock, one o’clock, four o’clock, and seven o’clock. ( I never sat down for a feed without doing something for myself first whether it be making a drink, going the loo, or eating a sandwich.) Finley would sleep between eight and ten and two and four and we generally went out between eleven and one for a walk, visiting or to the shops…
6. During his first sleep I would get a shower, do the bits of housework I deemed essential to our survival and veg out with morning television. During the afternoon sleep I would get my jamas on and go to bed myself…
7. Finley was (and still is) bathed every single evening at 6.15. Then after his bath it would be straight into his darkened bedroom where we would have the last feed of the day. After his feed I would swaddle him completely (after a long time I decided that the benefits far outweigh the risks and I now believe that swaddling him till he was three months old went a long way to establishing his sleep routine. ) and put him down to sleep next to me in his Moses basket.
At six weeks old Finley was put down to sleep in his cot, in his own room in complete and utter darkness (blackout blinds, thick curtains and no landing light et all) and still now goes to bed in the dark, without any of the sleep "aids" (light shows, dancing mobiles, bedside lamps, plug lights etc.) many mommies I know now have to rely on for a smooth ride into beddy byes.
8. What this means is that since Finley was six days old, we have had our evenings to ourselves. Finley has never refused to go to bed because going to bed follows the same sweet pattern every night and he goes without fuss. Accept for one occasion when he was sick, he is asleep within five minutes of getting into bed. And so we have always had time to eat sensibly, take baths, relax, catch up on housework (though it is strictly banned after nine o’clock) and talk…
9. Until Finn was three months old I would pick him out of bed at eleven o’clock and give him a "dream feed"- basically feeding him in his sleep to reduce the chances of his waking altogether later on. Then until he was six weeks old he would wake again at three o’clock for a fifteen minute feed, then sleep through till seven. At six weeks old, thanks to the dream feeds, he started to sleep through the night and has done ever since.
10. I learnt very quickly to always do something for myself before I did something for Finley, whether it be as teeny as going to the loo or as important as napping before a feed. I matter and in the early days a very wise old midwife told me to always, always tell myself that when I was struggling to get through Finn’s first few months…
And thats it: no magic formula, just an absolute adherence to my routines. Consistent firm parenting and a calm, peaceful house- which did I think make all the difference…
I feel like standing up and applauding you! my kids are 17 and 7 so I dont need this advice,but nevertheless its excellent,my ambition in life is to be as organised as you!I feel like I am about to pass out with exhaustion today,but tomorrow,well tomorrow is another day! and as God is my witness I shall be organised!
I have to say that this rountine thing while it works like a charm is rather out of fashion these days and the idea of putting your baby to bed at 6 is almost unheard of in the US and is considered almost abusive. When are the doting parents going to spend all that quality time with baby ? Putting your baby down after a feed to fall asleep by himself is a practice not very well understood and could be construed a cruel, even.
Routines are often underrated these days. I too had children that slept through the night from 2-3 months and even now that they are 9 and 7 they still go to bed mostly without any fuss.
Yes going to bed at 6ish here in the states is considered almost cruel but considering the number of misbehaved children that are merely tired I think it has some validity. We put our children to bed at 8:30 at night. The only time they deviate from that routine is when the chapter of the latest book is longer than we budgeted time for. As a result I have happy well behaved children who excell in school.
I too agree that early, consistent bed times go a long way to a happy and healthy baby. We get a lot of suprised looks and shaking heads when people find out that my daughter (who is Two) goes to bed at 7:00PM. In fact, our strongest detractors are our own families. I have even been accused of being lazy and selfish because, when my darling goes to sleep, that gives me the whole evening to myself. Yes, here in the states, early bedtimes (even for preschoolers) are looked at as punishment and a sign of a parent who doesn't want to spend time with their child.
But I will tell you that my baby has slept through the night from 2 months old, sleeps in her own room, and has no problem going to sleep in the dark. We never have a sleepy, grumpy child on our hands either.
How can helping your child adjust to a healthy, normal routine be cruel? I applaud you and completely agree. My girls are 7 and 5 and both slept through the night at 6 weeks. They still have constisten 8:30 bedtimes and my 5 year old still takes an hour nap in the afternoon! Their need for security, routine and guidance is what our job consists of. Kudos to you!
Wonderful advice Alison. My four-year-old goes to bed at 7 pm (bath at 6, followed by a little quiet play while I scrub the tub, etc., books and lullabies at 6:45). Sticking to this routine is so important. He sleeps so well. I wish other parents realized that children get a second wind and that is why they end up going to bed soooo late. I take a shower or bath as soon as my son is in bed and then I have the evening to myself. I have to be up at 5:30 am, so this routine is really important me.
My little bundle of joy has her first birthday tomorrow! Time has flown! I too instigated a routine when she was born. I think the midwives, mother and mother-in-law thought I was mad – I didn't see how demand feeding would work and so fed Sophia evry 3 hours, working on a cycle of eat, play, sleep. I wasn't obsesive with it and allowed for flexibility when needed. She slept through the night from 8 weeks and she is a happy, busy and curious child. Also, she has a mum who is happy, interested, has time to herself and is not reduced to a frazzle!
I agree whole-heartedly with you, Alison! For any readers out there who are hesitant to believe in this blissful routine….it truly does work. My baby (now 19 months old) has been on nearly the exact same rountine since birth and it has worked beautifully for both him and I… Never a sleepless night for either of us.I read "The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions" by Tracy Hogg. This book is my baby bible!!
I know that set routines do work but things are a little more unorthodox in our house!Each activity does have a very loose routine but none are time managed.My hubby works 6 days a week and his hours are very strange to most so our days have to be flexible to allow family time together.All my girls are happy and sleep well without rigid routines I just read the signs well I suppose.Some of our fondest memories are in that 'second wind phase' and often it means that we get alone time with one of the girls which we might have been missed:)I totally agree that children need firm parenting and a calm home I think we still manage to do that without a strict routine but know that for others this would mean chaos!
Wow~this is great information! I don't have kids yet and a HUGE issue for me (fear) is that I will become a frazzled, sleep deprived nightmare! I need a good 8 hours to feel my best and just figured that all mothers walk around like sleepless zombies. Thank you so much for this hope! 🙂