In the first year or so with a baby, consistency is key: at night time especially, being rigid with the schedule and having a consistent routine allows a baby to hone in on their internal clock and to set biological rhythms. It’s important, and no one was more aware of that than I was. How rigid you are with the routine is completely dependent on the personality of your own baby and how easily they sleep, however, the personality of my baby, and my own style of winding down simply didn’t mesh well. I’ve fallen into the trap of becoming too rigid and too tense when it comes to our bedtime routine, and in short, our hasn’t worked, not for a while. In my quest for any sort of sleeping pattern, I’ve zapped all of the fun out of our night-time routine, and with it being a raring flop, I’m ready to put at least some of the fun back in.
For the last month or so, our bedtime routine has focused solely on winding down. Bath-time was mundane to say the least: I was determined to keep everything very calm and relaxing, in the hope that the combination of warm water and soothing music would tire him out. Baby massage, jammies on and a night feed in his dimly lit nursery shortly after, and having followed every recommendation to the last letter, my baby would sleep through the night. Right? Wrong. Each child is completely individual, and unfortunately for me, no matter how rigidly I follow guidelines or apply the science of sleep to my baby, it doesn’t work. My baby doesn’t benefit from relaxed, under stimulated evenings, not at the moment: whilst he may have eventually settled into this routine a few months down the line, I’d rather be comfortable allowing him to enjoy the time before he goes to bed, rather than focusing so reverently on ensuring he doesn’t get over excited. This month, I’m abandoning our rigid routine. Not entirely, but enough to inject some fun into bath-time, re-introduce our book before bed and stop fussing over every second. Routine may be important, but so is flexibility, a baby does not work by my watch, whether I want him to or not, so it’s time to relax a little.
First point of call was to bring some toys back into bath time. We essentially put all of the Munchkin Bath Range in the tub; initially I’d planned on introducing one or two toys at a time, but an overzealous dad decided to launch everything we had in, much to Harrison’s amusement. There is nothing that can quite compare to seeing the joy on your childs face as he sits in a giant inflatable rubber duck: the color and the texture of the inflatable was enough to keep him entertained for hours (roughly 3 minutes, which equated to hours when you are 4 months old…). For how much this cost, it has so many uses, and will forever be our go-to for when we want to make bath time a bit more of a party. We also used it in our Mark Warner application in the hope we’d feel like we were on the beach, which we definitely were not, but alas the thought was there, and it would quickly become a holiday essential for a small baby. The back of the tail meant Harrison was supported enough that we didn’t have to have hands and he could sit independently and play by himself.
Sticking to our schedule loosely, we’ve introduced this longer bath-time, filled with these new toys, stimulation and interaction, in the hope that whilst over-exciting him for a short time will tire him out in the long run. Bath-time is also such a key moment in our day, like many families, whilst I’m on maternity leave and Jordan at work, during our bedtime routine is often the only time we have to spend as a complete family. Bath-time has became the time in which Harrison gets a chance to bond with his daddy, to splash and play and create positive associations with him, as opposed to associating him with the negativity that revolves around bedtime in our household right now. At the moment, it’s a bit of a battle (more like a war) to get Harrison down at night, so even if there was the slightest chance that splashing about with some ducks and special sponges could tire him out and make that a little bit easier, I’d be willing to try. Even if it means sacrificing our precious (unsuccessful) routine.
Despite having upwards of 15 real toys in with him at once, he was still a sucker for the jug and a duck sponge. Two items I wouldn’t ever class as toys, but he’s a child, and I feel like sods law of children is that no matter how snazzy, high tech or expensive a toy you buy, they are always going to be better off with a cardboard box – I suppose the same can apply to our little blue jug. Every single time we poured water over him, he’d kick his legs and wave his arms about, at his own mini rave in the tub. He done this time and time again, and I couldn’t help but think about all of the energy he was using up doing this. This bath was early, it was 6pm, but he kicked and kicked and kicked, and without even having to test it, I could tell you there and then he’d drop off quickly later that night. And it worked. He still woke up three times throughout the night, a jug is no miracle worker here, but he went down so easily. No screaming match. No tears. No headaches for myself or for Jordan. Just one exhausted little baby from playing with his big duck in the bath. I like routine, and I wish Harrison fell into one like some of these ‘magical’ babies’, but he hasn’t, and that’s alright. Instead of following this regimented routine of dreams, we are experimenting again, loosening the reigns and finding out exactly what works for us. It may not be a case of quiet, relaxed evenings. Eventually it may be. Who knows: but for now, Harrison will be having fun in the bath, and I’ll be letting go of my reigns on routine.