As a mum, there are many days that are magical. Today is not one of those days. Today is a shit day. I need wine or coffee, or even both, and quick.
Harry is teething, having a growth spurt, has just had his vaccinations and is getting used to sleeping in a new room. Plus, his nose is blocked and I think he has hayfever (do babies even get that?!) or a cold. All at once.
Nothing I do seems right. He wanted extra milk yesterday so today I’m giving him more time on the boob and top ups with formula if necessary. But suddenly he won’t feed properly. He needs sleep, but won’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. I’ve gone from the mum who actively avoided creating sleep associations (like rocking and feeding to sleep) to now using them in abundance. If I put him down for a second, he cries. Usually happy to play on his mat while I clear up, he now needs constant attention. Which of course I’m happy to give – after all, it’s my job – but it’s also just plain draining, particularly after being up all night (and the house looks like a bomb has hit it…)
I was one of those mums who said stupid things like ‘my baby never cries’ and ‘my baby just settles himself to sleep’ (not out loud in public or I would have been lynched!) Oh how naïve I was. From around 6 weeks of age, we’ve (loosely) followed the Contented Little Baby routine (which I’ll talk more about in future posts), and it’s worked a treat. He was pretty much sleeping through the night – only up for one quick feed – by 8 weeks of age. And he would put himself to sleep, ‘self settle’, day and night. I’m the first to admit I’m slightly OCD and I love a project. After all, my previous life was media management so details were my forte as was pulling off big events or projects. What better project than getting my baby, and us, into a routine ;) And having had routines recommended to me I was keen to give them a crack for many reasons – mainly, because I’m a firm believer that ensuring your baby doesn’t get too much sleep during the day means they’ll sleep more at night. And it’s worked for us.
But (and I’m sure any fellow mum could have told me this!) you have to be pretty flexible with the routine. If our day doesn’t go according to the book (like now, when there is no way he’ll sleep for the recommended 2 hours each lunchtime) you just have to go with the flow, try to make up lost sleep a little later in the day and take whatever comes. I can definitely see the pros and cons to using and not using a routine. There’s a school of thought that says the baby should just fit in around you, whatever you’re doing. And I respect that also. As mums, we all do whatever works for our baby and us.
Reflecting on the last few days I've realised I'm doing all those things I swore I'd never do, the things that are frowned upon in the routine books. Rocking my baby to get him to sleep, relying heavily on a dummy, planning trips in the car for when he's 'meant' to sleep so that I'm guaranteed he'll get his shut eye…I'm pacing the house with Harry in the baby carrier as I write this, singing and shhhh-ing like a mad woman to hopefully make him stop crying. Suddenly, at around four months, some of his great and very 'by the book' habits went out the window. And it’s not just the sickness of the last week, it’s also him realising there’s a big wide world out there and he doesn’t want to miss out on any of it!
I know all of this is normal but it doesn’t stop it from being frustrating. I guess I have to keep telling myself (particularly the perfectionist side of me) that I have to just chill and do what works for now. Yes, sleep associations are bad if they become deep rooted so after this spell is over (it has to end at some point, right?) I will try to get Harry back into his good habits.
Motherhood really is just a constant learning experience. Right now, I think the lesson for me is that there's always something else on the horizon for babies, whether it be illness, developmental leaps or continued teething, so all you can do is take one day at a time, do your best, try to get back on track when you can and try not to sweat the small stuff. Note to self – read own advice!
And just now Harry stopped crying, looked up at me and smiled, then actually reached out to touch my cheek. And all of the above has pretty much paled into insignificance :)