Okay, so 17.5 months into being a mummy and I have realised there is one phrase that pretty much summarises every aspect of motherhood. It is ‘whatever works’ and it’s the system that I’ve employed since my son was born. As he steams head first into toddlerhood and finds both his independence and his voice – i.e. the word ‘no’ – I can see myself using the ‘whatever works’ principle more and more.
Before I had my son – and I’m sure most mothers will appreciate this – I had an idea, however small, of what sort of mother I wanted to be.
I knew I wanted a natural birth and I had one. I knew I would breastfeed and I did. I knew I didn’t want to use a dummy and I didn’t. For about a day. I went from being rather snobby about ‘plugging him up with something unnatural’ to 24 hours later practically taping it onto his mouth to stop it coming out. A new baby is scary. A new baby with a cry as loud as a large man is utterly terrifying. Suddenly the dummy was my best friend. I felt terribly guilty about it and I would take it out the minute a camera came out, but as he peacefully sucked away I knew I had done the right thing.
One thing I never thought I would do is follow some sort of routine. I used to look down on mothers who did this, until I became one. 6 weeks in and a with baby suffering from colic, I was suddenly a mother who wasn’t coping with having no control and I read Gina Ford. I know, I know, I can hear the gasps as I type. But it worked for me. I took everything she said with a pinch of salt – you have to – but I liked the sleep and feed times and realised they were pretty much what my son was doing anyway.
For the record, I also read the Baby Whisperer and another one which I can’t remember and they’re pretty much all the same, just dressed up in different language. A routine is a routine whichever one you pick. Either way, whether you follow one or make up your own, I think any routine is very important for a baby and a mum and ultimately you will do ‘whatever works’ for you.
Since having my son and talking to lots of other mum’s, the conversation often goes back to bed time / nap time and how one’s child is currently sleeping.
In the early days when our babies had three naps a day there was a lot of chat about buggy or sling or cot. Did we put our babies down in the cot or rock them to sleep in our arms or do it in transit? I can say I did them all. Cot first and when that didn’t work he went in the sling. When that didn’t work hubby or I pounded the streets with the push chair. I remember hubby bouncing up and down outside the back door in the freezing cold trying to get the boy to sleep in the Baby Bjorn. It became the only way to do it for about two months. Poor hubby nearly had frostbite, but he did perfect the steady hand needed to transfer from sling to cot without waking the baby.
The other technique we employed was ‘the coat’. When our son was newborn we swaddled him, which when introduced meant he slept a lot better. When he started to grow out of the swaddle we panicked. He still had the morrow reflex which meant his jumpy arms were waking him up. One day we put him down in his new blue John Lewis snowsuit (yes, an outside coat) and he slept really well. The second day he wouldn’t sleep until the coat went on. From that day on he was in the coat day and night. It became the stuff of legends. It also became filthy and involved a complex wash / dry / sleep procedure. I actually considered cutting the feet off when he started to outgrow it. We were so terrified he wouldn’t sleep without it and didn’t think a sleep bag would cut it. I loved that coat. I think I might actually frame it.
The sleep bag did work. In fact he’s still in one. Partly because I love how I don’t have to worry about him being cold, but mainly because I’m scared he won’t sleep without being in one. As any parent will admit, sleep is too precious to start experimenting with anything new, especially anything as unsecure as a quilt in the cot. The fear of a sleepless night means my son will probably be in a sleep bag until he’s 18.
There have been many tricks used over the last 18 months with regards to sleep. Euan the dream sheep was purchased before my son was even born and really came into his own around the 8 month mark. He’ll probably be taking Euan to university at this rate. We also went through a stage where I had to be in the room with my son until he went to sleep. He would hold my hand tightly on his cheek with his little hand and not let me go. Sometimes I wish he still did this.
Whilst he has always slept well in his cot, lately he won’t do this for a daytime nap and we are back to being in the buggy – usually on the move. The other day I realised if I gave him a bottle and put him in front of Cbeebies in the pushchair then he would also fall asleep. Naughty Mummy. I vowed I would never do this, but it works.
The bottle is actually a really good trick. During a period of 5am wake ups we gave him his morning bottle in the cot and he went back off to sleep until 7.30. God bless, Dr Brown.
Another recent addition to the ‘whatever works’ bag of tricks is the use of modern technology whilst travelling. If you’re sitting on a train or a bus in London and hear Peppa Pig, or Mr Tumble from an iPhone – that’ll be my son. In fact for a while every time my son picked up my phone he shook his head like Mr Tumble. 18 months ago I would have been horrified by this. Now I just think he’s clever impersonating one of his heroes.
I’ve always been pretty lucky with regards to food and so far not had to employ the ‘whatever works’ strategy. He will eat anything and we haven’t had to worry too much about fussiness. I’m sure it will come though. I had a slight taster the other morning.
My son decided he didn’t want his usual Shreddies or Rice Krispies or banana or melon. What he actually wanted was a mini BabyBel and some pickled onions. So that’s what he had. It was easier than having him throw himself on the kitchen floor in a strop because I insisted he had ‘normal’ food. As I said, ‘whatever works’. As long as he’s eating.
I did question it in my head – it being a rather odd choice – but who am I to say what one should eat for breakfast. At one stage in my life mine consisted of a cup of tea and a fag. I would draw the line if he insisted on that though.