Here’s a thing – I don’t really ‘believe’ in parenting books that lay out a specific way to raise a child and tell you that’s how to do it. I especially don’t believe in celebrity parenting advice, or parenting advice from people who have one six-month-old baby. I don’t believe in any of this, because I think your parenting style stems from the type of person you are, and it’s something that grows and develops over time. Plus, as much as I roll my eyes at anyone with a tiny baby giving sleep advice (lol hello 8, 12 and 18 month sleep regressions), I’m sure parents of teenagers are literally screaming at all the ‘wisdom’ from parents of toddlers. Screaming.
I try not to frame any of my ~parenting content~ as advice, more just a sharing of information and experience. I have a kid, and this is what she responds well to. I have a kid, and this is when she did x, y and z. I find these posts the most interesting to read and ultimately the most helpful, because I can enjoy them without feeling like I’m doing absolutely everything wrong and must change my approach to parenting IMMEDIATELY or risk raising a horrible, insolent child who never sleeps and never eats vegetables.
I wanted to preface this post with all that, because this is a post about routine, and I know that following a strict routine is not for everyone. But I love our routine, and I do get quite regular DMs about it, so I thought I would share. No judgement, no patronising, know-it-all advice… just a bit of blather about naps and mealtimes and bed etc.
Here’s the gal in question – Hazel at 19 months
Even before having Hazel, I was into routine. I’m a homebody and I like having my stuff around me. I’m the one making plans and organising. I always order the same thing at Nando’s. But having a baby throws your pre-child routine into complete chaos – you can’t spend every Wednesday night at the cinema, or take an hour getting ready every Saturday morning, or even get up early on Thursdays and go to yoga. Your old routine goes out the window, and for some people that means just winging it for a while, going with the flow and being more flexible. For me it meant creating a whole new routine, based entirely around the baby.
I’m not going to write much about our baby routine, mostly because it was ages ago now and I can’t really remember it (baby brain is real) but also because it’s probably not wise to try force a tiny baby into a strict routine, especially when you’re feeding on demand and awake all hours of the night. We’ve been in our current routine since Hazel dropped her second nap around the 12-month mark – it’s solid, reliable and starting to become ever-so-slightly flexible now she’s older, so I feel confident enough to say ‘this really worked for us’. Here it is:
7.30-8am: Wake up, breakfast
9am-11am: Activity out of the house – playground, soft play, playgroup, library, walk in the park, farm, museum, etc
12pm: Nap at home in her cot
3pm: Activity – sometimes at home (playing with toys, film, songs, reading, drawing) and sometimes more of the above
6.30pm: Bath and stories
The timings are flexible within an hour – sometimes lunch and nap is a bit later, sometimes bedtime can be pushed if we’re out – but we mostly stick to this day in, day out. Hazel stays with her grandparents one day and night a week and they follow this, too. She also has two days at nursery and her routine is largely the same.
Up until about a month ago, I was an absolute stickler for this routine. I would never travel far for our morning activity because I didn’t want to risk her falling asleep in the car and I would never let her stay up later than 7pm. Hazel is now 20 months and I’m more comfortable with letting the routine slide when needed – if we want to go out for a full day and she has a quick power nap in the pushchair, for example, or if we’re out for dinner and bedtime needs to be later. I think now she’s older, she can handle changes much better than she could when she was younger.
Having a strict routine and following it every day has helped me retain a sense of control over a life that is very different from the one I had before, but it’s also helped me juggle being a mum and having a job. I went back to work when Hazel was five months old, so before she was in any kind of childcare. The nature of my job (social media) means I have to work every day, and although I can do it at home, I can’t really do it with a baby attached to me so I need Hazel to sleep in her cot for a decent length of time. She is a good sleeper and I credit her character for that, but I do think putting her down in her cot at the same time every single day helped her understand that time was for sleeping. We had many days, weeks, months where she didn’t sleep longer than 45 mins but she got there eventually, and I am so grateful for those 2.5 hours of peace that I rarely do anything to risk it.
I read a lot of parenting stuff that talks about ‘children fitting into your life’ and how you can just crack on with all your favourite things, kid in tow, and not worry about it. Maybe this works for some people, but for me… extremely not. I fit my life around hers – I don’t plan anything between the hours of 12-3pm, we go to a playgroup every Tuesday, she’s always home for 6.30pm and bath time is always followed by a story.
I know for some parents this won’t work at all, and that’s cool. I’m becoming less uptight about The Routine as I grow more confident in my parenting – for example, about a month ago we stopped using the white noise machine in Hazel’s room. Rob just didn’t turn it on one night, and I was convinced she would wake up and her sleep would be terrible and it would all fall to pieces because omg it’s part of the routine… but it was fine. She didn’t need it any more, and we haven’t used it since.
For any future babies I think I will be more relaxed in general, but as a first-time mum trying to work out how the hell to parent a tiny child, having a routine helped me hugely. If you’re a fan of planning and organising and lists and schedules, I’d highly recommend applying those skills (yeah I’m calling them skills, try planning a wedding without professional help and tell me that isn’t a skill!) to your parenting style.