Days used to have mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights. I used to have designated times for exercise, work, dining and relaxation. I used to be able to schedule lunch dates with friends, get a facial in an hour’s notice, or walk into a cinema to catch the latest movie.
Then I had a baby.
These days, even going to the chicken rice stall around the corner takes careful planning – “Okay, baby has been sleeping for about 40 minutes. He’ll probably wake up in about 20 min – oh wait he just opened his eyes – Yes we can go now – oh wait he went back to sleep. Okay, let me quickly wash my face and change out of these milk-stained clothes – oh crap this is my last nursing top so I have to wear it in case he gets hungry while we’re outside. Oh and I should change his cloth diaper and give him a disposable for while we’re out. Now should I use the stroller or carrier…uh oh, he’s awake. Oh no, he’s crying” You get the idea.
Having a baby changes your concept of time. Days are no longer partitioned into morning, afternoon and night; they are now divided into the following segments:
Baby is awake!
Baby is asleep
You’ll have lots of ‘activities’ in between awake time till the time baby falls asleep, but practically everything you do during that time is just to get baby to fall asleep so that you have some time to yourself to get some ‘real work’ done. These days, my ‘real work’ constitutes dishes, cleaning up the poo leakage on the bed, washing-drying-folding cloth diapers, reading The Baby Book and scouring websites to find out if ‘green poop is normal’ (Google it and check out the images, I dare you) In between, I grab a bowl of cereal and try to pump some milk for a rainy day. During it all, I’ll ready to drop the half-washed plate, or put down the spoon of cereal in mid-air and go to baby the moment I hear his cries.
After two months of living from feeding time to feeding time, I put my foot down and said ‘Enough!’ I needed to establish a routine. Thankfully, baby’s daily activities were also settling into a discernible pattern. So here’s a rough sketch of our daily schedule, subject to changes of course: (my baby is 9 weeks old at this point)
|0700||Baby wakes up|
|0700 – 0800||HAPPY HOUR! When baby is happy to be by himself cooing at the walls|
|0800 – 0830||Feeding time|
|0830 – 0930||Nap|
|0930||Baby wakes up|
|0930 – 1030||Play mat time / Tummy time / Story time|
|1000 – 1030||Feeding time|
|1030 – 1130||Nap|
|1130||Baby wakes up|
|1130 – 1200||Exercise time|
|1200 – 1230||Feeding time|
|1230 – 1300||Walk (to get mommy some lunch / up and down the house while mommy cleans)|
|1300 – 1400||Nap|
|1400||Baby wakes up|
|1400 – 1430||Feeding time|
|1430 – 1500||HAPPY (half) HOUR!|
|1500 – 1530||Not-so-happy (half) hour|
|1530 – 1600||Come on baby, go to sleep|
|1600 – 1630||No such luck, Feeding time instead|
|1630 – 1700||Nap|
|1700||Baby wakes up|
|1700 – 1800||What else can I do with you?! Okay watch some TV, something educational like Big Bang Theory (It’s Science, right? Right?)|
|1800 – 1845||Feeding time|
|1845 – 1930||Walk|
|1930 – 2000||Nap|
|2000 – 2015||Bath time|
|2015 – 2030||Massage time|
|2030 – 2100||Feeding time|
|2100||Night time sleep|
|0100 – 0130||Feeding time|
|0400 – 0430||Feeding time|
|*0500 – 0600||Gassy time|
|*0600 – 0700||Feeding time|
|*highly subject to luck|
As you can see, there is little semblance of day and night. The day exists in mostly 2-hour segments while baby is awake to when baby is asleep, even at night. Aside from diaper changes, feeding times, bath time and massage time, there aren’t any other necessary activities that you must do with baby. So after you’re done kissing and hugging and cooing ‘Who’s the cutest baby?’ to your little bundle of joy, what else can you do?
1. Turn on the radio / Spotify / your favourite podcast / television
Aside from providing some edutainment (depending on what you listen to / watch), the background noise will cover up any noise you make once baby goes to sleep, so you don’t have to tiptoe around in fear that the creaky toilet door will wake baby up.
2. Exercise baby and exercise WITH baby
It’s as simple as lifting baby’s arms above his head, or helping him unclench his fists, but these exercises are not only fun for you and baby, it also helps with his muscle development. Bicycling his legs and bending them towards his stomach also doubles up as a gas-reliever!
I’ve also gone a step further to incorporate baby into my own exercise routine. I perform squats and walking lunges around the room with baby in my arms, which is great for toning my arms too. When I’m feeling ambitious (or fat), I even try a couple of martial arts kicks.
If that’s too much for you, then simply prop baby up in a comfortable and safe space, and exercise in front of him. Studies have shown that parents who exercise with their kids tend to have kids who will be more interested in exercise themselves. And trust me, baby will love watching you contort yourself in yoga poses and grunt out sit-ups.
3. Find a window that baby can look out of while seated / lying in a cocoon baby or carseat
For the entire first month of his life, baby was fascinated with just staring at the changing clouds above him. Now that he sits a little more upright, he can see the birds on the rooftops and the Bangladeshi workers at the construction side next door. And he loves looking at them!
4. Involve baby
Prepare breakfast, wash dishes, do laundry, send emails… Whatever you have to do, wrap baby up in a sling and bring him along! Talk to him while executing your task. (As I write this, baby is in my lap as I use my leg to shake him to sleep) I constantly bring baby with me to hang up my laundry. Dishes are a little trickier because he’s still not holding his head upright all the time, so I keep him close by laying him on a soft counter top where he can see and hear me as I describe to him the crock pot I am washing. But basically, you don’t have to wait until baby is asleep to try to get everything else done. Baby is happy to be with you, whatever you’re doing.
5. “All you gotta do is hold him, and kiss him, and love him, and show him that you care”
Truly, all your baby wants is for you to show him some attention. Look at him, talk to him and ask him questions (pause and wait for an answer, then answer for him, until the day he can answer for himself), laugh with him and eventually he’ll laugh back!
Finally, and this is the most important thing I’ve learned – Do Not Be Afraid of Baby. I mean this on many levels. Firstly, do not be afraid of hurting baby. Babies are much hardier than we give them credit for. I’m not asking you to toss baby around like a football but don’t be afraid to experiment letting him sit up in your lap, or stand with you holding his arms etc. After all, this is how he is going to learn, you might as well have a little fun and help him along the way.
Secondly, do not be afraid of doing the wrong thing with him. At this age, they will not know that you are singing off–key or singing the wrong lyrics. (I sometimes just sing gibberish to the tune). There is no right way to burp him, as long as burps. There is no wrong way to carry him in a sling, as long as he isn’t in pain. It is very hard to cause any permanent damage to baby, unless it is intentional.
And lastly, do not be afraid of a crying baby. It’s not healthy for you to sit around using sign language to avoid making any noise because you’re afraid of waking baby. We watch television with baby in the same room, though we try to avoid shows with loud explosions and endless curse words, but we watch television and chat and laugh, with baby sleeping just 50cm away from us. Last night, after spending 30 minutes putting baby to sleep, I opened a bag of chips and the sound woke him up. I had to spend another 10 minutes soothing him back to sleep. It is not a big deal. Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? He might fuss, he might cry, but he’s a baby. He’s going to cry whether you do all the right things or not!
And as a bonus tip, to help me feel a little more myself at the end of the day – I try to take a shower or a bath by myself. This is my precious me time. Where I let go and shake off the day’s troubles (and spilled milk, poop and pee). It helps that I go to bed clean and ready for the next day, rather than wake up in yesterday’s sour clothes.
Have a good day, and good luck!