Establishing a routine and creating a quiet environment for a sleeping baby were two concepts suggested to me as a new parent.
I managed to achieve neither option effectively.
Sure there were days when I was convinced I would hit the jackpot with the concept of routine but it rarely lasted past the morning sleep - for baby, not the parent.
I had friends, who were also new parents and more successful with a routine, who would share the finer points of their daily process.
It went something along the lines of:
- Wake at 6am...ish, feed, then dress and a little kick on a play mat before bub went back to bed by 9am for the morning sleep.
- Wake again at 11ish, feed for lunch, another little kick or maybe even a walk in the pram and back in bed at about 2pm.
- Then it was a matter of sleep until about 4.30ish, dinner by about 5.30pm, a little bit of a kick and a cuddle with mum and dad, followed by a bath and back to bed for the night by about 8pm...at the latest.
According to this 'perfect routine' there was sometimes a final feed at about 10pm before bub went down for sleep until 6am.
Of course this routine changed in line with the age of the child.
Just for the record, I never experienced success with such a schedule. And for a while it made me feel like a bit of a failure.
A pre-school teacher who once told me she believed my son, who was four at the time, had behaviourial problems because he wouldn't sleep during afternoon rest time didn't help.
She proceeded to point out four other children that she believed also had problems because they would rest, but not sleep. I pulled my child out of that pre-school the same day.
I found that the more routine-focused parents were also strict about limiting visitors and daily outings, and adamant that silence was golden to ensure a peaceful slumber for bub. No doubt these guidelines were essential for achieving the ultimate outcome of the perfect routine.
I don't believe there is a wrong or right - if routine is what you need then go for it.
I soon realised I was not a failure just because I didn't adhere to a rigid regiment.
As far as I was concerned I needed social interaction, more than the walls of my home for scenery, and opportunities for my children to socialise with others in activities such as playgroup, playdates, and swimming lessons for all three of my children by the time they were six months old.
Of course I developed daily habits such as the morning walk with bub in the pram - and a toddler in tow when my family grew.
However, I was a very social being and maintaining that social interaction with other mums and bubs was key to my effectiveness as a parent. No doubt it was also key to the social butterflies that have become my adult children.
Furthermore, I realised that while routine may be a possible goal with the first born, it became a little more challenging with subsequent children. At this point the sleep pattern of one rarely correlates with the other.
My third child was born seven years after the second and by that time the two older children had very busy schedules with school and after-school activities.
Someone once asked me how I would manage the routine of the newborn with two other busy children. I responded with "the baby will just fit in with the daily program" - and she did so beautifully.
She was possibly the easiest of all three to manage as a baby. I often joked that she could sleep on a barbed wire fence.
The idea of a quiet environment, conducive to the needs of a sleeping baby, are also far more difficult with other children in the house.
In fact, I found that quite the opposite proved effective in ensuring a sleeping baby.
I first learned this when my first born - who often struggled with sleep - found the perfect slumber while at a family party one evening. He was about six weeks old at the time.
It seemed as though the drone of the background noise - music and chatter - was just what was needed for him to fall asleep after a feed, and stay sleeping for several hours. I was so surprised by this outcome that I kept checking to make sure he was okay.
From that point I realised that silence was not the key ingredient for a sleeping baby, well at least not as far as my little one was concerned. Needless to say I would play music or turn on the radio whenever I put bub down for a sleep. I would even do the vacuuming while he was sleeping.
As time went on, and with subsequent children, I even opted to turn on the vacuum on outside the bedroom of each child from time to time to help them go to sleep. And this obscure lullaby always worked a treat. I never 'shushed' anyone to ensure my babies slept.
The good news is that when our oldest daughter, as an adult, moved to a location under Sydney's flight path she had no problem sleeping through the sound of planes passing overhead. Perhaps this is a result of the noisy environment she experienced during those formative years?
Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.