THIS WEIRD OBSESSION WITH ROUTINE…

My first baby was barely a week old, and already some misguided fool asked me, “So, is he in a routine yet?”

“Are you mad?! Of course not!” (OK, I never actually said this, I’m much more timid in real life than on paper. But that’s what I was thinking.)

Why are people so obsessed with routine? I suspect it’s because our lives are governed by the clock, rather than by the sun, the seasons and our bodies. We have become obsessed with numbers and measuring and quantifying things, and now we want babies to be ruled by the clock too. The thing is, babies are ruled by their biology, by their basic needs, and they don’t give a damn about your clock.

Here’s a newsflash for you: Forget about “getting your baby into a routine”!

SPECIAL FORD WARNING: So someone gave you a copy of the infamous “Contented Little Baby Book” (or another one in the series) by Gina Ford. Perhaps you read it while you were still pregnant, and thought it all made so much sense. Perhaps your best friend swears by her own perfectly behaved “Gina Ford Baby.” Perhaps you’ve even tried getting your baby into the GF routine. You probably found that your baby was not that receptive to this plan, and you ended up thinking you have failed, yet again, at sorting out this whole routine and sleep thing.

Statistically speaking, the chances are pretty slim, that this book will work for you in its entirety. It seems to me, just anecdotally (i.e. I didn’t do any formal research on this, just going by what mums have been telling me at my clinic over the years) that around 10% of babies will adjust quite happily to the GF routine. These are the “good” babies who will adjust to just about any old routine you can dream up. Don’t despair. The parents of the other 90% will just dump the book in the recycling bin or use it as a door stop. (I was once invited to a ritual burning of a GF book.) I am not saying all her advice is bad or wrong. What I do know is that these books (and some others) don’t take into account any newer research especially about breastfeeding, they encourage parents to obsess over the clock and their baby’s routine, and they tell parents that it’s OK to let their babies cry. (Keep in mind that GF is not a mother herself, so perhaps we can forgive her for thinking it’s easy, sensible and logical to let a baby cry. I thought so too, before I had babies.)

BABYWISE AKA “FEED, PLAY, SLEEP”: Have you been told your baby should always do these three activities in that particular order (and failed miserably when you tried to do so)? Well, fear not. This is just another of those unproven and unnatural programmes which claim to train babies to sleep as those authors think they should sleep. Again, this advice does not take into account the newer research on how babies feed or sleep (or play, for that matter, I suspect).

Both the Babywise and Ford regimes are all about CONTROLLING your baby. And guess what: you can’t really control another human being.

TO SUM UP:

Any advice to strictly schedule a baby’s feeding is outdated, incorrect and potentially harmful – it is not based on the true needs of human infants. Ignore those who tell you otherwise – they are ill-informed.

Tips of the week:

Babies like repetition and predictability, so go ahead and have certain “routines” or rituals – do certain things in the same order, even if it’s not at exactly the same time every day. An example of this would be to feed, bath, dress, feed again and rock baby while singing a specific lullaby before bedtime.
Routine will come anyway, even if you don’t put much effort into creating a schedule. This usually happens around 6 months.
Routine is something that respects a baby’s biological rhythms. It is not something we can just decide upon and force a baby into.
Parents who flow around their baby’s needs experience less stress than those who try to push their baby into a routine that is convenient for the parents. It’s also less stressful for the baby!
Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep by Erica Neser (c) 2015
For more information, please visit www.babysleep.o.za

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