Like many new parents, we didn’t really think about routine in the first few days/weeks after Reindeer arrived. Getting through each day and night was quite enough to cope with, without adding in extra pressure about what needs doing when.
Because I was breastfeeding, health visitors and other (more experienced) parents kept asking me how long he was going between feeds. Had he made it to every two, three or four hours yet? Strangely, I felt quite pressured, because he hadn’t made it to three hours and people raised eyebrows about this. Even now, during the day at least, two hours between feeds is the norm, with the occasional three or four hour gap thrown in for variety. But I thought that was the point about baby-led breastfeeding – you let them eat when they need to, not when you want them to? Apparently, the reality is that people don’t expect it to be quite as baby-led as the name suggests.
We’ve also allowed ourselves to be baby-led in the areas of sleeping and weaning. Neither has caused us particular issues but, for some reason, I often get a slight sense that we’re not doing it ‘properly’. A few months ago, several parents at our baby group were discussing the Gina Ford book. There was a general consensus that ‘I don’t do Gina Ford’, ‘it’s too restrictive’ and ‘I want to be baby-led’. This was followed by ‘…but I do give my son a dream feed’ and ‘…I do quite like her ideas on sleep’. From this I surmised that the hip thing to do is to trash Gina’s methods whilst quietly following them anyway. I haven’t read Gina’s book but I keep (vaguely) meaning to. Perhaps, if I ever get around to reading it, I will wish I had done things differently?
Despite being baby-led, I realised tonight that we have reached a routine of sorts that works for both Reindeer and us. Mornings involve cuddles, followed by breakfast, then play or groups, and possibly a sleep (if he will – that’s a whole other subject). Afternoons are a mixture of play, feeds and sleep (sometimes). The routine bit kicks in at around 4.30pm when I set up for tea time. He will try out various foods for half an hour or so and generally have a whale of a time in his high chair. After this we play, read a story, brush teeth, have a bath, feed and then sleep. It isn’t fancy, and I have no idea if we’re doing it right, but it seems to work for us.
When you’re parenting it is so hard not to worry about every little thing. Not to compare yourself to other parents. Not to compare your baby to others. Not to constantly measure what’s happening in your lives to what’s happening in the lives of others. Is he rolling over? eating? making noises? crawling? walking? sleeping through the night? is it going too fast? All of these questions are asked daily by family, friends or strangers alike.
I guess we just need to keep going. To use our intuition and do what works for us. To not get caught up too much in measuring ourselves against all the other practices out there when we know, because we keep being told, that every baby and every parent is different.
What matters is what keeps Reindeer, and us, healthy, happy and functional.