Sunday, November 1, 2009

The New Routine: 8 and 9 months old

The thing with routine is that if you blink you might miss it. Really, before the age of one year (and possibly beyond that for all I know) any sort of routine you might establish is actually just a phase.

I started writing this post a month ago and no sooner did I start than she got a really awful cold, then teethed for a bit, got completely out of her routine and then set about establishing a new one which, if it hasn't changed by then anyway, will undoubtedly change on 6th January when she starts daycare.

So, just for the record, this is what I wrote on 1st November:

"Yes, it's true, we have pretty much established a routine. I feel quite confident in saying that now as it has been going on for a few weeks and we are able to deviate from said routine without causing too many headaches.

Getting Phoebe into a routine was only semi-intentional. I got the impression a couple of months ago that perhaps she was ready for a routine. She is so much more aware of what is going on around her and there is so much to fit into one day (the right amount of sleep, breastfeeds and meals) that the only way I could really be sure of what was going on was to do things at approximately the same time each day. But basically I was attempting to resolve her previously mentioned Sleep Issues.

It's been a long and at times painful journey but I think the rewards are worth it. Basically I had to spend as much time as possible over a period of a couple of weeks at home observing Phoebe. It sort of happened by accident too. One night about four weeks ago I just decided that I was no longer going to cuddle, jiggle or walk Phoebe to sleep but that she had to fall asleep in her cot. I don't know why I chose that night as we had a friend staying with us from England for a few days. He arrived at bathtime, which probably stimulated Phoebe a little too much. I spent about an hour patting her to sleep in her cot that night.

Over the following few nights we very gradually spent less and less time in her room with her while she fell asleep until eventually, the day after James left, it took about 10 minutes. During that time Toby and I devised a method of getting her to sleep in her cot, very loosely based on Tracy Hogg's Shush-Pat and Pick-Up-Put-Down methods.
  • Firstly, whoever started putting her to bed was committed to see it through until she went to sleep; there was to be no shift-changing.
  • If she was upset and crying we'd pick her up and cuddle her until she stopped. Then she went straight back into her cot.
  • We'd lie her on her tummy and hold her down, firstly with one hand on her hips and the other patting her back. If we didn't restrain her in this manner she'd roll around wildly, crawl and stand up. If she wriggled free we'd pick her up and put her straight back down again without cuddling her or lifting her out of the cot. (Note, we only placed her on her tummy as she'd started sleeping in the position by herself when she was about 5 months old.)
  • Finally we'd sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (and various other lullabies) and whisper sleep-time mantras, such as "it's okay, you're just learning how to go to sleep, good girl" etc.
Meanwhile I was also trying to sort out her daytime sleeps so that she would sleep for longer. I established a naptime ritual and if she woke up before a full 45 minutes to an hour I would stay with her and pat her back to sleep until naptime was over. In this case I assumed that naptime would be 1 ½ - 2 hours long.

It wasn't easy. Some days she just did not want to sleep or could not because she was so wound up and over-stimulated. That said, one of my fondest memories is of a day where I kept taking her into her room for a nap and she just wouldn't fall asleep so I'd get her up, give her something to eat and start the whole cycle again. By early afternoon we'd done this a few times and most recently I'd spent about an hour trying to settle her. I decided we both needed a change of scene so I popped her into her pram and walked 3km to the beach, hoping she'd sleep on the way there and again on the way home. She did but she woke after 20 minutes so I went for a coffee and we had a lovely time. She sat in her pram and chewed a rusk whilst I enjoyed a coffee and muffin before breastfeeding her. She was very well behaved and I thoroughly enjoyed her company. She only slept for 20 minutes again on the way home but I think it's an afternoon I'll always remember."

I must have been interrupted at this point as that's all I wrote. In summary, it was hard work getting her into a routine and breaking bad sleep habits. It required lots of quiet time at home, observing Phoebe and following her cues but also being consistent and encouraging her to sleep even if she didn't seem tired (babies often seem wide awake when they're overtired). In the end it only took a couple of weeks and life has been so much easier as a result. The only bad thing is that I need to be home for her sleeps as she will really only sleep in her cot and she sleeps much better if we follow her naptime ritual.

Her naptime ritual consists of a bath if she got a bit messy during her meal, be it breakfast or lunch, followed by a clean nappy and perhaps a massage to Incy Wincy Spider. Then I put her in her sleeping bag, put on her fairy lights and close the curtains and black-out blinds. We sit in the chair in her room and read two or three stories, always finishing with Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. We have a cuddle whilst I start singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, switch off the fairy lights and place her in her cot to continue the song. There is also a blue night light in her room so I can see if her eyes are open or closed. Night time is the same but she always has a bath and she'll have a breastfeed before getting into her sleeping bag.

Once in her cot she is rolled onto her tummy and patted to sleep. We rarely need to restrain her these days. Usually it takes 10 minutes but it still frequently takes up to half an hour. If she is having trouble getting to sleep she'll shout for us to come into her room and as soon as I go in she lies down on her tummy and waits for me to pat her.

Her approximate routine when I first started this post (when she was 8 months old) was as follows:

0600 - Breastfeed
0700 - Breakfast
0800 - Begin naptime ritual
0830 - Sleep
1030 - Breastfeed
1200 - Lunch
1300 - Begin naptime ritual
1330 - Sleep
1500 - Wake
1530 - Breastfeed
1700 - Dinner
1800 - Bath
1830 - Breastfeed
1900 - Sleep
2230 - Breastfeed

This is really just a guideline. Some days she wouldn't eat much lunch and so would have afternoon tea on waking, which was really just a second lunch. Other days she wouldn't sleep for as long, or would wake up later in the morning and everything might get thrown out. And the night time breastfeed could be anywhere from 10.30pm to 4am.

In the past week she's changed again and has dropped most of those breastfeeds so her routine now looks more like this:

0645 - Breastfeed
0730 - Breakfast
0830 - Naptime
0900 - Sleep
1015 - Wake
1200 - Lunch followed by quick bath
1300 - Breastfeed
1330 - Naptime
1345 - Sleep
1515 - Wake
1700 - Dinner
1800 - Bath
1830 - Breastfeed and bedtime ritual
1915 - Sleep

Disclaimer: this seems like a really boring post but when you're the parent of a baby, especially your first, little things can seem stressful, you question yourself a lot and it is actually quite interesting to see what routines other babies follow. It's a popular topic at mums groups. I imagine I will find this quite interesting should I have any more babies and wonder when or how often I should feed them. A flexible routine takes away the guess work and can relieve a lot of stress and interestingly, most babies seem to fall into very similar routines.

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