Routine or not to routine

Well you have survived the first few months and you may have settled into a simple routine, or be taking each day as it comes or perhaps a combination of both.
Over the years I have come to realize that too rigid a routine restricts both you and your child, too flexible can leave you disorganized and stressed. So is there a happy medium, I think there is, it depends on your level of what stresses you out.
I am a fairly relaxed person, I like a clean house, to know what my children are doing and when, however I am ready to go out if needed or just kick back and relax. I didn’t need to clean windows, dust pictures, or iron vast piles of clothing, keep a daily organizer with every minute recorded to feel content. My kitchen and bathrooms were clean and tidy, the laundry was done carpets vacuumed, floors swept, and food prepared, I got to meetings, school, doctors on time. Worked outside of home, volunteered for my church, and still raised 7 children. Sometimes the living room looked like a clothes bomb had exploded, with clean piles of clothes on all seats and just worn kids pajamas and bits of uniform on the floor. There were often toys scattered around, and most days one or more of my school going children could not find two matching shoes ( tell me where do they go!). There were often dishes to be done, my least favorite job in all the world, and the table was a usually covered in papers, books and the occasional plate / cup, and we ate take away when I was just too busy or tired to be bothered to cook. However, all my children have survived so far, they all know how to clean their own rooms, clean the bathroom / kitchen,wash their own clothes, cook, iron, vacuum, look after pets, change nappies, etc, etc. They went to school, some have gone to university ( some are still at home) and managed to get married and have kids of their own.Why am telling you this, because you don’t need a strict routine to be able to do the basics for your child, family or your home.
Establish a good bedtime routine, bath, book, music, etc, but make it portable. You do not need to be at home to get your child ready for bed, just do the things you would do if you were at home. Try to make all the items you need for bedtime easily carried with you, so that if you are out late at family or friends you can still go through the bedtime routine before placing baby in the car seat for the journey home or travel cot if you are staying over.
Nap time should also be portable, you don’t need to put baby in a their cot for their nap, if they fall asleep on the couch, leave them, or even in the push chair. When at home use the cot for nap time as needed but don’t be too strict, you want them to enjoy going to bed, not associate bed with tears and tantrums. Make sure your child has their favorite items when you travel, this will help them to settle when away from home. If your routine is always to be home for bath time, naps, and feeding you will find that your child does not enjoy excursions and will fret and cry when you travel. Of course there is always an exception to the rule, but I have not met one yet.
Routine around feeding can also be portable, if you always use the same bowl, spoon etc, just make sure they come with you. If you always feed at a certain time then be prepared to feed at that time when out or traveling. Try not to do the same thing at the same time every day, this ties you down and when your child is ready to go to nursery or kindergarten they will find it difficult to adjust.
There some things which cannot be flexible, school times, returning from work, appointments etc but most can.
Get yourself organized, this is not the same as having a daily rigid routine, write down all your appointments, put on your family calendar important dates, make your transport arrangements, who will have the car that day, or check bus / train timetables, maps if need be, put together a baby travel bag with all the dry items you will need, spare nappies, clothing, toys, snack food etc, have it ready always, just replace what you use each time you come back home. This will take out any last minute stress around getting out. It also means that you are ready to head out for an impromptu trip to the park, shops, or to visit family.
Talk to your child about what is happening and where you are going, make sure they know what is going on, talking to them helps them feel included and safe. This is most especially important for when you are taking them to the nurse / doctor / dentist. It can be a very tense and tearful experience for a small child at the doctors, make sure you have told them about all that will happen, line up a treat for afterwards, let them know you will be there all the time and most importantly do not cry… crying mum will start your child crying and make them believe there is something to be frightened of.
Now I know that for some of you having a daily routine is what keeps you sane, just remember build in some flexibility so that your child can feel comfortable & safe wherever you are with them.

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Crying.

I remember one day when my first baby son, simply cried all day. He had been up several times in the night, he was teething, tired, and stressed because I was stressed. I became more and more anxious as the day went by. It was one of the most difficult days I have had. Eventually I put him on my bed made sure he was safe and went outside my front door ( we lived in a flat), I took some deep breaths , shed some tears of frustration and then went back inside. My husband came home and took him out for a drive in the car and he eventually went to sleep.

Crying is the hardest thing to cope with, especially if you have fed, changed, cuddled and done all that you can to make your baby comfortable. Sometimes crying has an underlying physical cause, such as trapped wind, reflux, teething, or more serious medical condition.
Let’s deal with the last first, it is highly unlikely that your baby will develop a serious medical condition, however if you notice any of the following call the doctor, projectile vomiting( vomit that is more than a few mls and is literally projected some way not just dribbled out) after every feed, fever combined with listlessness ( I suggest you take baby to a medical centre immediately) a constant high pitch cry as if baby had been pinched, waxy skin, with pale bruised look under the eyes and loss of appetite. There is no harm in speaking to the doctor if you are worried. I am sure all of you know this. However these problems are rare, yes you may know someone who knows someone who’s baby was rushed to hospital, but for every 1 baby taken to hospital with a medical emergency there are many many more doing just fine.
Let’s deal with wind, most babies have a problem with trapped wind at some point, it causes abdominal pain, which is very uncomfortable, but does pass. Now you can alleviate some of the problem by making sure your darling has burped well after each feed. This can be achieved in several ways:
1. A good firm back rub, while keeping baby sitting straight with the aid of your hand under their chin. Don’t be afraid to rub firmly but not vigorously. Try this method with babies tummy over your lap. Also gently patting can help. I used a combination of both.
2. Some babies need to be “burped” often during feeding. Sit them up and rub/ pat after the first few gulps. Then again a few moments later.
3. Occasionally if baby is still struggling with wind a teaspoon or too of cooled boiled water can do the trick.
4. Sometimes the wind has traveled too far down to be burped up, so give baby a little aid to release that wind by lying them down and gently bending their knees towards their stomach, then gently let them stretch out again, do this several times. This can also help babies who are slightly constipated.
These ideas have worked for me, sometimes I have had to do them all, sometimes they have worked well, sometimes not so well. I have found though that if baby has trapped wind it usually got worse the more I kept feeding them, which is the most likely thing we do as we think that baby is still hungry.

Reflux: lots of babies have this, I remember constantly having a clean cloth nappy over my shoulder with my first son, after every feed he was guaranteed to spew up some of his milk, mostly it was just a few mls, but sometimes it was a whole feed. There are lots of web sites out there that you can google just type in “reflux in babies”. To minimize reflux, give baby a few minutes of lying down after each feed, try not to jiggle them around or get baby too exited. I found that with mine whenever they burped after a feed they brought back some milk. It becomes a problem if they are bringing back whole feeds everyday, you should consult you doctor.

Now teething, every parent has horror stories of being up nights in a row while baby cried and cried, no amount of soothing, patting, rubbing, etc would help. Every baby has to go through this which means so does every parent. There is no magic formula that will take away the discomfort of teething, there are some things that may help.
Cooled teething rings.
Warm bath, and favorite snuggle toy / blanket.
Ice pop or similar frozen food to suck on.
Amber necklace ( I have not used one, some mums say they are great)
Baby calpol / paracetamol for when baby has a fever / swollen gums associated with teething, this I suggest you only use when you have really no other option and then sparingly.
It is always hard to see your baby suffer but teething is a process we all go through, they won’t remember the discomfort, but they will soon be putting those teeth to good use!

Now I can hear you saying, my baby is not hungry, is perfectly healthy, has no wind to bring up, not got reflux, nor are they teething BUT they are still crying. Before you tear your hair out, breathe, remember lesson one, Relax, and Breathe. So there can be other reasons for a constantly crying baby, in no particular order:
Strong sucking reflex ( needs to keep sucking to fall asleep) cure, get a dummy / pacifier.
Stress in the house, if you or other members of the family are stressed using loud voices etc, this will often cause baby to cry.
Must have attention all the time, no help for this one except brave it out, set good routine around nap / bedtime, or be prepared to hold baby in a sling all the time.
Too hot, this is very common especially in modern heated homes.

I do not have all the answers, sometimes you will just have to put baby down in a safe place and walk away for a few moments, just to the other side of the door.

At home with baby.

Some days are great, you love your child, you are happy to be at home with them. You have tackled the laundry, the dishes are done, baby has eaten well, slept well, even kept the same clothes dry / clean all day!  Yeah right, I hear you say, no day has been that good. It is true that although you love your baby, most days are a battle to feed, change, and get baby to sleep, let alone have time for the housework, or even to get into the shower long enough to relax. You will be tired all the time, unless you are super fit, you feel drained. I know there are those mums out there who excersised all the way through pregnancy, had no difficulty with the birth, bounced home after a few hours in the delivery suite, and then baked, cleaned, and decorated their home in the first months of babies life. They are out there we see them on TV and at the movies all the time!

The reality is that unless you have lots of help at home, superman as your husband, a paid cleaner, personal trainer and someone else to take the night shift, you are going to be tired, easily discouraged, and desperate to get out and have some adult conversation. These are all normal feelings, you are not a bad mum  just because you would like to spend 20 minutes in the shower instead of 2.

I can remember being so desperate to have an adult to talk to that my Husband would be pounced on for every detail of his day, who he talked to, where he went, what he did, I would even be interested in the football if it meant talking to an adult.

So  Get Out: make sure you get out, don’ t worry about the dishes, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, they will still be there when you get back, but your sanity might not. Join the local mother and baby group, head to the library for story time. Don’t worry that baby is still less than 3 months or 6 weeks, you need this. Go for walks in the local park, go to Mum & Bub cinema sessions, meet up with your friends once week at a local cafe and have lunch. Only talk about baby when directly asked, other wise talk about all your other interests. Baby will be happy to hear your voice, and will get used to being out. At the very least take a walk around your garden or local area each day, smile and say hello to all you meet. It will help you to realize there are people out there, the world has not forgotten you and baby will be getting used to fresh air, and interacting with others.

A word to the wise husband, you have had long day on little sleep, but remember this parenting thing is equal, talk, take an interest in her day, you cannot fix everything, but you can listen, take your loved ones out for a drive, offer to cook, buy take away, look after baby while your wife takes that longed for 20 minute shower or long bath. I know you may be already changing nappies, and getting up to give late night feeds, but your most precious  companion needs not only your practical help, but also your listening ear, a foot rub and / or massage, a hug, and told “I love you” everyday.

Mums give dad a chance to help out too, and don’t expect him to read minds, you can’t read his, he can’t read yours. Give each other some slack, it is always stressful with a new baby, sleep deprivation takes it’s toll! “Be quick to forgive, slow to anger” Also remember that everything does not have to be done “your way” as long as it’s done that is what counts

There is no stereotypical perfect parent, your baby needs your love, and sometimes  the best way to give that love is by taking time to replenish yourself. You won’t be neglecting baby by just taking them with you while you get some adult conversation, or letting Dad  look after them.

You may never have the perfect day, whatever that is, but you can maximize the good moments. Remember, Relax, Love, Food, Shelter, Get Out, and Support each other.

In the beginning…

Well here you are you have just had your first baby, it was traumatic, wonderful, exhausting, and so many  thoughts are going through your mind. Mostly shear relief that all is over and you have a baby, followed by a mixture of wonder, joy, and panic. Where is the instruction book, how will I know if they are : hot, cold, tired, hungry, full, sick, happy.

No matter how prepared you are it is always a bit of a shock to find that you will be responsible for this tiny human being your son or daughter. These were some of my thoughts the first time I held my new born son, I do have to admit to being quite naive and thinking I could handle anything….

After 7 births, I have learned to take each day 1  at a time, and the first of my parenting principles … RELAX. Now I don’t mean lay back and do nothing, I mean just breathe, stop, take a moment to realize that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed, that your baby needs three basic things from you, love, food, and shelter (with shelter come all those tasks like clean nappies, warm beds etc). These are all you need to concentrate on. Having the perfectly dressed child, the best pram, a designer crib/nursery, baby flash cards, a fridge full of organic meals, always dressed  in your best, getting the Victoria Beckham figure, are all very nice but completely unnessecary to the welfare of your child and possibly to yours.  I think the worst thing we do to ourselves as new mums is believe that we have to have everything perfect, that our child will miss out if we don’t give them everything from the word go. Let’s deal with the 3 fundamentals.

First Love: Talk to your baby, cuddle them, do baby massage, spend time skin to skin, read them books , take them for walks, but most of all talk to them, play with them, hug them.

Second Food: If you can and you are comfortable with breast feeding DO, in my experience it was difficult to start with, my first baby it took me ten days to get the hang of it, and I had cracked nipples and blocked ducts but it got easier. My next baby cried and cried and cried every time I tried to feed her, we both got so stressed at feeding time that she was not gaining weight and I spent hours crying. So I started to bottle feed her and she was happy, I was happy because she was happy and growing.  So do what makes you and baby happy. I personally feel breast feeding is better for baby but only if Mum is not permanently stressed. A stressed Mum = a stressed baby.

Third Shelter: Now to be honest it makes no difference if you are living in a house, apartment, caravan or tent. What does matter is how you feel about your environment, please note this  is how you feel, not how your well meaning friends, parents, in-laws, neighbors, etc feel. If you and baby are warm when you need to be, cool when you need to be, clean and have the basic nessecities  water, heat, food, a bathroom, place to cook, place to sleep, baby will not care about the colour of the paint, the type of taps in the bathroom, whether you have a walk in wardrobe or designer kitchen.  Of course some environments are better than others, having a washing machine and somewhere to dry clothes, a food preparation area that is clean, proper toilet  / washing facilities and a place to go to be on your own with your family are a must, everything else is nice to have but will not affect the welfare of your child.

We lived at my Mum’s house, had one room for ourselves, shared the bathroom, kitchen, and living room with the rest of my family. Then we got a bed sit, basically one room with a separate bathroom, no real division for bedroom. It was okay, we had a good kitchen area, but no washing machine! We survived but it was stressful, I did the washing by hand in the bath, dried the clothes on the lines downstairs from our flat and in the winter pushed the pram with a bag of wet clothes to the laundromat to dry them. I very quickly came to the conclusion that a washing machine was a must and if you live in the UK or other similar climate areas a Tumble dryer.

My baby son never suffered, sometimes he had to wear the same dungarees more than once, but he was not bothered

 

This entry was posted on 23/02/2012. 1 Comment

Hello & Welcome

I have started this blog in answer to a request by some friends of mine in the UK. I was visiting my sister and her family , whilst there I had the opportunity to pass on a little of my wisdom? Experience? of being a mum and what has worked for me. I was seriously asked to get going on a blog, so just for you, here it is.

First, I am not a doctor or a child care professional, my comments reflect my personal experience and my observations of my own and other children over the past 27 years.
What has worked for me may not work for you, all children are different, even within a family. I have found that what worked with one child often did not work for another, however there are some basics principles that I feel apply to all. So let’s start at the beginning……