By Victoria Swinghamer
You’ve spent the past nine months preparing for your baby’s arrival, but when you get home you discover that no amount of preparation could have predicted what your baby’s routine—or lack thereof—would be like.
And just when you think you’ve figured out when they’ll be hungry, when they’ll be tired, how long they’ll nap for, and what their different cries mean, they go and change things up on you.
Having a new baby at home can make you feel like you’re constantly playing a guessing game where you have to get every answer right, which can bring up a lot of stress and frustration when you’re really just trying to do the best you can for your little one and keep your life together.
Here’s how to stay on top of baby’s ever-changing routine while keeping your sanity:
Cultivate a Sense of Wonder
A routine is just a predictable pattern of our everyday habits. Our habits bring us a sense of comfort, stability, and preparedness. That’s why lack of a routine can make us feel stressed out or unorganized: because the basic building blocks of our day that we rely on as benchmarks aren’t in place. So how can you maintain calm and ease without the routine? Begin to wonder.
First, recognize that baby DOES have habits, and they are actually pretty reliable. He will sleep. He will be hungry. He will eat. He will be alert and playful. He will dirty his diaper. And repeat.
Although baby is reliably going through this cycle throughout her day, she doesn’t have the same sense of time—that is, time on the clock—as you do. She’s completely tuned into her own internal clock and, though it may not always jive with your day planner, it does carry out its own pattern.
Acknowledge baby’s reliable pattern by beginning each new day with the question: “I wonder how today’s pattern will evolve”. Then, throw out your normal sense of time in favor of what your baby is communicating with you that day. Rather than expecting baby to adhere to your sense of a routine, begin to wonder what their routine is, and then let yourself wonder how everyone’s needs will be met that day. Rather than saying: “I can never get a shower in”, say to yourself, “I wonder when a good time for a shower will be today” and then allow that time to pop up naturally within your day.
Cultivating a sense of wonder about how baby’s patterns will unfold that day relieves a lot of the stress that comes when we expect our day to go a certain way. This takes us out of comparing what we wanted to do versus what actually happened, and allows us to appreciate the routine that unfolds organically.
One of the easiest ways to beat the stress of baby’s random routine is probably one of the most challenging for modern mom’s to stick to: keep your to-do list small. Keep it to 3 must-do’s per day. I know that sounds crazy, but when you’re recovering from your delivery and transitioning into life with baby, adding too many other social engagements, work, or chores can pile on the stress faster than the dirty laundry. Studies show that too much stress can affect milk supply if you’re breastfeeding and can actually contribute to baby’s lack of routine and increase fussiness.
Give yourself the permission you need to temporarily cut back on the to-do list and then spend your days focusing on everything you DID accomplish, not the things that didn’t happen. Mindfulness experts suggest that shifting your focus in this way brings about a sense of abundance and accomplishment rather than feeling less-than or not-good-enough. Where your attention goes, your energy goes. Enjoy the boost of energy that comes by focusing on all the good you’re doing each day. After all, you’re raising the next generation. That’s more than worth your time.
Imagine You’re in a Video Game
This is a brilliant practice that’s been gaining a lot of popularity in the mental health world as a method for combating anxiety or depression. Basically, you imagine that your life is like a quest in a video game and you are the hero. As a new mom, you can imagine each new day as a different ‘level’ of the game, and each of the ‘challenges’ that come up with baby’s routine throughout the day are the tasks you need to complete to move up to the next level. The main character in a video game doesn’t know what challenges lie ahead at the beginning of each new level, which is much like our daily challenges as mom’s with unpredictable newborns. When we shift our focus to one where we are the hero of our own ‘video game’, we can meet and tackle those unexpected challenges with a sense of ingenuity, excitement, and thrill rather than the stress of the unknown. And then we celebrate our successes. Approaching life this way builds up one of our most valuable muscles for facing the unexpected: resilience.
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.