I have always said I would not be one of those moms with the “schedule.” As a nanny, I worked for several of these moms, quietly calling them names as I dutifully wrote down every nap, diaper, and drop of food on their meticulous spreadsheets. “Suzie MUST go down for nap at exactly 2:01!!” Oh, give me a break. When Suzie’s tired, Suzie will sleep. When I’m a mom, I vowed, I will never schedule my baby.
The lack of schedule fit right in with the attachment parenting philosophies I found myself aligned to. I would wear my baby, cosleep, and generally follow the “baby-led” ideas wherever applicable. When baby is hungry, he will let me know. When baby is tired, he will let me know. I am flexible mommy, I am super mommy, I am super attached mommy.
And then I was blessed with my little Virgo baby.
Actually, the whole shedule-free idea was doomed from the start. Because he was early and had so many issues with feeding and blood sugar, the pediatrician put us on a strict schedule of two ounces every two hours. Which meant, of course, that I had to wake J up every two hours and make him eat. Not fun, and certainly not baby-led. Once the danger had passed and we were given the all-clear to feed at will, J continued to cling to that two hour schedule. Right on the dot, two hours, he wanted to eat. He might even eat for the entire two hours, and then go right into the next feeding. All night long. He held on to that schedule until he was about six months old. I could watch the clock and know without a doubt that two hours from when he woke up (and ate), he would want to go back to sleep (and eat).
Gradually, that two hour cycle faded away, and I thought, here we go–I am flexible mommy, I am super mommy, I am super attached mommy. No more clock watching, we will just go with the flow of each day, we will follow baby’s cues.
So we went, flexible and free, naps taken at will, me waiting for his sleepy cues before I put him to bed. And each day, it got a little harder to to get him to take a nap at all, even when he looked tired. By the time bedtime rolled around, it was like wrestling a demon monkey. He would sometimes sleep through the night, or most of it, but sometimes he would be awake every two hours, every hour, every ten minutes.
I kept thinking, what am I doing wrong? I’m following his cues, I’m trying to be flexible, why isn’t he sleeping?
Finally, I realized that this particular baby really needs a schedule. Not the rigid, spreadsheet-based schedule I had learned to associate with the word, but instead a predictable routine to the day that told him when it was time to sleep and when it was time to eat. (Actually, all babies benefit from this routine, my baby just happens to be very sensitive to any deviation from that routine.) I adjusted my thinking, and started putting him down for nap at the same time every day, two solid nap blocks. I stopped playing bedtime by ear, and instead started following the more traditional bedtime routine around the same time every night. I am still flexible, but our days have started to follow a very predictable pattern. It was baby-led scheduling, if you will. My Virgo baby was very happy.
I was thinking about all of this today because we somehow got very off this past week. Between teething, birthday parties, doctor visits, and general chaos that is the weekend, any semblance of schedule has flown right out the window. I am back to baby wrestling before bed and a cranky over tired baby all day. The teething issues are exacerbated by the sleeping issues, and the cycle continues. Last night he was up until 11:30, woke up several times throughout the night, and we were up at 7 this morning. He took two short morning naps, refused to go down in the afternoon, and then completely passed out at 4 (really not the optimal napping time). It took me an hour to get him calmed down and in bed tonight.
And so we start again. It’s not the first time I’ve had to get him back on schedule after some disruption in the routine, but for some reason this time feels more overwhelming. I can’t quite remember how to begin. Perhaps because I haven’t slept for over a week.
I am scheduled mommy, I am super mommy, I am super attached mommy.