Routine or schedule?
One of the hardest aspects of life with the newborn Cassie, almost eight months ago, was coming to terms with the lack of routine. Having been fully accustomed to life governed by bells and timetables, looking after a little agent of chaos that laughed (well, actually screamed) in the face of any regularity was one of the hardest adjustments. Down the line, I'm much more accepting that her sleep needs change-a short second nap means that bedtime is pulled earlier (how awful, more time for me), equally an early wake up means I need to extend the first nap, by rocking and holding her-not ideal, but it's how we manage things and it works for us. However, in those early weeks, I struggled to see how I could ever make any plans. Social media was equally helpful and anxiety inducing-posts from mums detailing set, consistent nap times, schedules based on the clock. I spent many a long night feed searching for any clue as to when babies began to become more regular and predictable. I downloaded sleep and feeding schedules then worried that our days looked nothing like them.
However, soon enough, Cassie started to regulate out. After getting the nod from the health visitor that I didn't need to feed her every three hours around the clock, she started to wake to feed consistently at 12 and 4am. Gradually, she combined the feed to one at 3am, then pushed it to 5am. Around the time she turned 5 months, she had her last feed at 7pm, and lasted through until 7am. As for the day, I know that I need to feed her solids about an hour after the previous bottle, which she has as soon as she's up from a nap. I also know that she can do about 3 hours awake before needing a nap, and that any less than 3 hours day sleep leads to one grumpy baby. Knowing her cues and signals has meant that we have got our flexible routine-it's not minute by minute. For example, if she has a cheeky pram nap, this means she'll need her day adjusting slightly. I've found that following her needs and responding to them has been much less stressful than trying to fit her into a one-size-fits-all pattern. Now that she's awake more in the day, we can get out and about and I don't need to worry so much about rushing home for the next nap time. Change is scary, particularly when it may affect her night sleep-I want this night feeds to be well in the past! But as ever with babies, change is the only constant, and everything is a phase.