Before my babies came along, I was never a very organized person. In fact, I thrived on being flexible and somewhat impulsive. I knew that parenthood was going to change this to a degree, but I was adamant that babies were adaptable and that my children would enjoy having variety and flexibility in their lives.
For the first few months I didn’t have a lot of chances to test my theory – I was too overwhelmed at home to really get out too often or for too long. But on the occasions I did get out, my twins seemed to do fine – it didn’t seem to make a big difference to them that we weren’t at home. They ate when they were hungry and slept in their infant carriers when they were tired. Granted, at this point they were still on a three hour cycle of eating and sleeping and day and night didn’t make much of a difference to them either!
The four-and-a-half-month mark was a turning point in our house. The second crib was moved out of our room and in to the nursery with the other crib. At this point we separated the babies so that they no longer slept in the same crib. We were really looking forward to getting more than two or three hours of sleep at a time. We were ready to try anything. At this point I succumbed – I started to establish a routine.
Why? Because everything I read told me that babies appreciate routine. They like to know what is coming next. It is comforting for them and allows them to relax which in turn allows them to fall asleep more easily. I could see the logic, but I still didn’t realize that a routine would benefit me, too.
You, too, will learn to appreciate routine. As your routine gets established, bedtime can become a happy, pleasant time. By the time my children were six months old, they were consistently going to bed at 7:30pm without a struggle. This meant at least two or three hours in the evening when I could get things done in peace. It also meant I got time with my husband and time by myself. I was a convert. It was worth leaving the odd dinner out early and rushing home to be home for bedtime if my evenings were at stake.
It took awhile longer to get a nap routine established, but by this time I was a believer in the power of consistency and the joy of having a routine. Morning nap was an hour and a half after the babies got up in the morning. This is when I would empty the dishwasher, feed our pet, have my shower, dry my hair, do my makeup, put away any laundry and surf the internet. What joy to have both babies napping at the same time so I could have a nice long shower in peace! Morning nap became as precious as our bedtime routine and the few times it was interrupted, either by a baby who was teething and didn’t sleep properly or a long phone call, my entire day would be thrown off.
I aimed to have afternoon nap about 2 hours after the end of morning nap, but I was more flexible with this nap due to afternoon walks and play dates. Perhaps this is the reason that our afternoon nap was never as consistently smooth as our other sleep times.
Around our naps fell the rest of our day. When the babies started on solids, I tried to give them at the same time each day. I appreciated the routine as much as they did. We all knew what was coming next. I could plan my day better. If I had to make a doctor’s appointment, I knew when everyone would be at their best. I realize now that it was naive of me to expect the babies to follow my whims. They have certainly taught me a new appreciation for the power of consistency and the joy of having a routine.
For more information on establishing a bedtime routine, see Sleep Issues