Before Fig was born, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I had poured over baby books, and established in my head that without doubt the single most important thing about parenting was getting your child into a routine practically before they even get home from the hospital. I had even written a detailed daily schedule for us, based on what I considered to be practical hours for Saul and I and what the books said Fig, being one of those ‘typical’ babies (bear in mind there’s no such thing), would be like. Reader, I was an idiot.
The only thing this ludicrous obsession with routine did was hurt my first six weeks with Fig. I spent so much time worrying that he wasn’t feeding when he should or sleeping when he should that I didn’t enjoy the fact that he was feeding and sleeping when he wanted to, and that just by existing and surviving, he was showing me that his routine, or lack thereof, was just fine and dandy thank you. I downloaded military-style schedules like the one above and tried to fit my round baby into the square timetable. And when he wouldn’t fit, I sobbed my heart out thinking he would therefore never learn to sleep at night or eat at reasonable times, and therefore we would never be able to leave the house and he’d fail his GCSEs and… Saul and I argued interminably over it. And for some time, I was genuinely miserable and convinced I was failing as a mother.
But guess what? At three months, Fig was feeding five times a day, sleeping for (sometimes) up to nine hours at a stretch at night, and following the same pattern, more or less, every day. Did I implement this routine? Did I heck! He did it all by himself. As he got older, he established his own schedule, and we fit in around it. He refuses point blank to sleep for any length of time during the day, which is a little frustrating, but that’s Fig. You can’t force someone, however small, to sleep if they don’t want to. And OK, sometimes it means Saul and I don’t eat together in the evening because Fig won’t settle and we have to take it in turns to be with him, or occasionally that we bring him downstairs to fall asleep in his bouncy chair because our meal is ready and he’s decided that now, right now, is the optimum time to be awake, but we just go with it and generally, it works well for us.
For interest’s sake, this is how we roll in our house:
Between 8.30 and 9.30 – Fig wakes and has a feed.
About 11ish – Fig has a 20 minute nap.
1ish – Feed.
Another 20 minute nap at some random point in the afternoon.
5ish – Feed.
6.30 – bath and bed, including a story. Asleep by about half 8.
Between 9.30 and midnight – Feed.
Between 3 and 5 – Feed.
This may look appalling to the Gina Fords and Jo Frosts of this world, but they don’t live in this house. And I’m now of the mind that if and when the routine needs to change, we’ll work it out without the micro-time-management skills of baby experts.
Looking back, I wish I’d been more relaxed about the whole thing. I wish I’d ignored the books, which have served little purpose other than to make me feel inadequate and unhappy, and just enjoyed my little baby doing what he did when he felt like doing it.
Incidentally, I was going to use a picture of the routine I concocted before Fig was born as the image for this article, but I am delighted to report that I couldn’t find it. It went in the bin a long time ago.