“New babies are extremely portable,” said all the books. And boy did we take advantage of that. With Baby having been born in the festive season, he spent his first few months zooting around in the trusty car seat, in and out of friends' houses.
Being one of the first among our friends to have a little one, we pretty much had a blank slate when it came to 'baby etiquette'. While having a child meant some major adjustments, we convinced ourselves that braais and parties need not be completely off limits. With me breastfeeding, outings needed very little planning. And having a designated driver meant Hubby was in his element.
While some couples might keep to themselves in the beginning, I was surprisingly eager to entertain family and friends. Since Baby had no regular bath time or bed time, there was hardly any pressure to regiment things. In fact, everything felt carefree and easy. “Let's just go with the flow... he'll let us know how to treat him,” I assured Hubby.
There goes the novelty
By the time we hit five months, the novelty had begun to wear off, for baby just as much as for us. While he'd always drifted off to sleep on his own (in any environment), he was becoming more and more irritable in the evenings. His natural bedtime shifted from around 6.30 to 9.30. And since Mom and Dad were battling to keep our eyes open beyond 8, we knew we had a problem.
On the paediatrician's advice, I started Baby on a napping routine during the daytime. “Sleep begets sleep” she'd told us and how right she was! Instead of plonking him in the car seat to doze off, I began putting him down in his cot. Within weeks, both Mom and Baby were looking forward to his nap times. With all the extra day time rest, we soon went from burning the midnight oil, to longer stretches of sleep at night.
Probably the biggest bonus about a decent bedtime routine, has been the quality time it's freed up for Hubby and I as a couple. Of course, it's always a mad rush to get him fed, bathed, changed and into bed while getting supper on the go, but the 'evening rush' is worth every minute. As new parents, there is something sublimely satisfying about sitting down ALONE for a meal: something we're enjoying while it lasts...
No longer routine-free
Looking back, my initial insistence on routine-free baby care was probably just my way of holding onto the ideal of my life as it was. Parenting can sometimes be a lonely occupation - and I guess facing up to that took me longer than most.
While we're no longer 'skipping the light fantastic', our routine and relatively 'stay at home' existence does have its own kind of appeal. With less rushing about, there's more down-time to be had – and I've found myself developing a greater appreciation for family life.
As we contemplate Baby number two, at least I can say I've learned from my mistakes. There are a lot of sacrifices involved in providing a comforting, stable environment for your kids - but when I see the difference it's made to our little one, the odd tedious moment is well worth enduring.
Did you try and go at it ‘routine-free’? How did it work for you? Share with us below.