For several months now, I've been pretty tied to keeping Oscar in a fairly rigid routine of eating, sleeping and playing. He's responded really well to it, actually, and though sheer hard work and quite a bit of luck, we've been blessed with a generally happy baby (when he's had enough sleep!) who settles pretty well and slumbers like a baby log on most of the occasions he is put down for a nap.
I know some people will hate me for admitting this in public, but he's also been sleeping through the night - 12 to 13 hours at a stretch - for at least two months now.
Before you accuse me of being smug, this routine driven, easy sleeping bliss was dramatically shattered earlier this week.
Regular readers would know that we have recently moved a long way away from where we were settled – to a different country in fact – and last week we were finally reunited with all our worldly goods in the form of a large shipping container, housing a volume of contents that was simply too large to fit into our now smaller living arrangements (but that's another story!).
We've spent the last week living with my parents while at the same time unpacking and installing all our goods and chattels into our new house. Oscar loves being at his grandparents' home, and during this frantic week he has been blissfully unaware of all the activity going on elsewhere, happy and content in his little routine.
Fast forward five days, and it's time to move back into the house. I brought Oscar inside in the late afternoon (in retrospect, probably not the best time of day to introduce a small child into a new space), and it was as if you could see the cogs working in his brain: "Yay, I'm back at my house! Hang on, this is my house, but it's not my house! What is all this stuff? What's going on in my room? Why is that there?"
I let him crawl around and explore a bit (crawling is a newly acquired skill) and he seemed quite content, and interested in all the new things to look at.
I was also careful to stick to his routine – I ran his bath, organized his dinner, fed him (he quite liked his new (old) high chair) and got him ready for bed. He took his bedtime bottle quite happily, but when I put him down in his new (old) cot, rather than turn over onto his side, sighing peacefully, he became hysterical.
He banged his little fists on the wooden bars and he thrashed around, distressingly bumping his head a few times on the wooden bed head of the cot. I picked him up, soothed him and when he was calm, I put him down into the cot again.
Cue a repeat performance of his clearly unsettled and definitely unhappy rejection of his new sleeping arrangements. This went on for a few minutes before I relented, desperate, and called my mum to come over and bring his obviously beloved travel cot with her.
By the time she arrived, Oscar had worked himself into a right funk, and I felt absolutely awful for being the one who was responsible for him suddenly feeling so insecure in what should be a safe and comfortable family home environment for him.
Unfortunately, it appeared that the damage had been done – despite our hurried attempt to bring things back to normal by putting the travel cot back together and installing it into its proper place in his bedroom, the poor mite was so worked up it took me (and then P, who arrived home in the midst of an hysterical baby and a mother on the brink of same) more than an hour to get him settled down and relaxed enough to fall asleep.
For the last few days, it's been more of the same, during the day as well as at night time bedtime. He's still in the travel cot, with the unsettling and apparently looming presence of his old cot in the other corner (we have nowhere else to put it, the house is so crammed full). I won't even entertain the idea of trying him in it again to sleep yet – it's all I can do to get him to settle down for his lunchtime nap at the moment.
So, the moral of this story? I'm not sure what – perhaps too much routine can make a baby inflexible? Or maybe in future we should plan introducing changes into Oscar's life more carefully, little by little. Babies really are very sensitive to change – it's built into their survival mechanism. Sometimes the seemingly smallest tweaks to family life can throw their balance off – let alone a nearly complete change to their environment.
Have you found changes to your family's life have affected your baby's routine?
How did you introduce change into your baby's life?