Bringing Up Baby The Brocante Way.

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By popular request (because it seems at least six of you are about to become new Mommies and are begging for advice) I hereby present the "BrocanteHome Guide to Bringing Up Baby, Keeping the House Straight and Staying Sane. All At The Same Time."   

Truth is I only know what worked for me and unfortunately with babies, there  isn't  a  "tried and tested, works for everyone"  method of ensuring  a  peaceful calm baby: however I do think that consistency  and above all  else, routine (I love a good routine me!) are the key to raising confident, content babba's and in my book, confidence and contentment are all that matters....

Child rearing inevitably divides even the closest of women. I expect this post to be controversial, mostly because I have frequently taken flak from other Mummies over the way I  handled the first few months of Finleys life. I have been told that the way I  looked after Finn in the first year was cruel. That I am selfish and that Finley would suffer in the long term because I  was extremely strict about certain things and thus, apparently, stifled his developing personality. 

But all that I know is this: Until recent events took over us, from the time that Finley was six weeks old we had never, ever had a sleepless night, and yes, as I say in my 101 things, Finley has never, ever, cryed for more than five minutes.   He is a bright, alert, curious little boy and in part I put that down to the fact that routine and consistent parenting mean that he feels utterly secure and free to be whoever he is becoming. (Read cheeky little monster.)

Central to my way of thinking about children is that they do not belong to us. We have no right to expect anything of them: not a night without sleep. Not an empty bottle. Or a career in medicine. They are little people. Individuals who rely on us to satisy their every need, from hunger to curiosity, thirst to entertainment.    But at the same time , we have to remember that we do not belong to them either. We  were here before them, and our need  for sleep,  a tidy house and five minutes without the bloody Wiggles matter just as much as they did before they arrived and turned our worlds upside down... 

This is not a lecture.  Most of you already have children and have experienced all  the highs and lows of parenting babba's.  But for those of you that haven't and for those of you that have asked me to tell you how we did it without pulling out our hair or getting a divorce before we've got around to getting married (Still might happen!!), here it is...

1. The first thing that you should know is that even before the baby was born I knew exactly how our days would pan out. I was excessively organised and I had read everything I could get my hands on about bringing up children in my pregnancy, before making the decision that  my own loose version of Gina Fords  Contented  Baby Routines  would work best for us as a family (and yes I do know that the nation is divided on gina Ford's methods, but trust me they work). To me having a baby was like starting a whole new and really rather fabulous creative endeavour and I applied all the same principles in terms of preparing, reading and understanding all that I could before Finley was born, so I made educated choices on every aspect of his care from  the bottles we chose (Dr Browns  because they reduced the likelihood of colic.) to the way we changed his bum (plastering him in Sudocrem everytime and never having the ordeal of nappy rash.)

2. My housekeeping routines were already in place, and  the house for the most part  runs like clockwork. I knew that a ceasarean would severely hamper my ability to do much in the first few weeks, but having a framework for what needed to be done meant that those who were helping me could get on with it and I felt calm in the knowledge that once the bare minimum was  done, I could snuggle up with the babba  in a house that felt  peaceful-  something I believe matters above all else in the first few weeks and a fact confirmed by every health visitor who attended the house and found me and Finn calm and blissful in a sweet smelling, toxin free, organised, happy home.

3. Preparation wise, everything was in place the day I went into hospital. There were nappy changing baskets in the bathroom, living room, our bedroom and the babys room. The cot was made up, as were the two Moses baskets:  one next to my bed and  one  downstairs in the living room. All the baby's new clothes were  washed and  ready, every bottle  sterilised in case breast feeding didn't work out. The house was scrubbed clean and all traces of anything remotely toxic were eliminated. The day before I went into hospital I made a long list of everything Mark needed to know about the house and the next morning I went and gave birth safe in the knowledge that there was little else I could do to prepare for our little Finn.

4. The day after he was born, much to the nurses amusement  I  started my  feeding and sleeping routines.  I was tired, but I knew that starting the routines from day two would make all the difference to establishing them well. Breastfeeding was going well, so I had decided that Finley would be fed every three hours. No more. No less. If he fell asleep while feeding I woke him up. There would be no feeding on demand or feeds every two hours. He had two two hour long sleeps, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and I woke him up dead on the end of the two hours, for his feed. And thus a routine was born.

5. At home this meant rising at seven o'clock and waking the baby whether he wanted to or not. Letting him sleep on would have disturbed the routine and put the day out of kilter. Then we would feed at ten o 'clock, one o'clock, four o'clock,  and seven o'clock. ( I never sat down for a feed without doing something for myself first whether it be making a drink, going the loo, or eating a sandwich.)  Finley would sleep between  eight and ten and  two and four and we generally went out  between   eleven and one for a walk, visiting or to the shops... 

6. During his first sleep  I would get a shower,  do the bits of housework I deemed essential to our survival and veg out with morning television. During the afternoon sleep I would get my jamas on and go to bed myself...

7. Finley was (and still is) bathed every single evening at 6.15.  Then after his bath it would be straight into his darkened bedroom where we would have the last feed of the day. After his feed I would swaddle him completely (after a long time I decided that the benefits far outweigh the risks and I now believe that swaddling him till he was three months old went a long way to establishing his sleep routine. ) and put him down to sleep next to me in his Moses basket. 

At six weeks old Finley was put down to sleep in his cot, in his own  room in complete  and utter darkness (blackout blinds, thick curtains  and no landing light et all)  and still now goes  to bed in the dark, without any of the sleep "aids"  (light shows, dancing mobiles, bedside lamps, plug lights etc.) many mommies I know now have to rely on for a smooth ride into beddy byes.

8. What this means is that since Finley was six days old, we have had our evenings to ourselves. Finley has never refused to go to bed because going to bed follows the same sweet pattern every night and he goes without fuss. Accept for one occasion when he was sick, he is asleep within  five minutes of getting into bed.  And so  we have always had time to eat sensibly, take baths, relax, catch up on housework (though it is strictly banned after nine o'clock) and talk...

9. Until  Finn was three months old I would pick him out of bed at eleven o'clock and give him a "dream feed"- basically feeding him in his sleep to reduce the chances of his waking altogether later on. Then until he was six weeks old he would wake again at three o'clock for a fifteen minute feed, then sleep through till seven.  At six weeks old, thanks to the dream feeds, he started to sleep through the night and has done ever since.

10. I learnt very quickly to always do something for myself before I did something for Finley, whether it be as teeny as going to the loo or as important as napping before a feed. I matter and in the early days a very wise old midwife told me to always, always tell myself that when I was struggling to get through Finn's first few months...

And thats it: no magic formula, just an absolute adherence to my routines. Consistent firm parenting and a calm, peaceful house- which did  I think make all the difference...