At this time of year, you may be trying to balance getting out more with your baby and your family routines. If your baby has settled into a really good pattern, you may not feel certain about making changes to your day but it it is important for both mother and baby to get out in the fresh air, to meet friends or visit places that are stimulating and fun. Getting out and about is important for your well-being, especially if, prior to having your baby, you enjoyed an active social life. Seeing friends and family can be a lifeline in the early days when you are making that challenging adjustment to motherhood. I know mums who have felt cut off from the world once their baby arrives, leading to feelings of isolation and depression. It is, therefore, very important that you consider your own needs too, and not just those of your baby. Sometimes I worry that your fear of disrupting your baby's routine may result in your choosing not to go out, or even turning down invitations that you should accept. My routines are intended to help you enjoy your contented babies and find freedom, not hinder it. So if you are unsure as to how to adapt the routine for outings, please read on and I hope you will find some useful advice.
If you have a baby or toddler who can easily sleep two hours in his pushchair during the lunchtime nap, I would definitely recommend you stick to that. The advantage of this is that you needn't change the routine too much, and your child can stick to his regular sleep and mealtimes. Unfortunately, most babies and toddlers do not manage to stay asleep for longer than 45 minutes in their pushchair. If this is your situation, here's how to change the routine to take account of this:
For a baby under 15 months
If your baby is under 15 months, the chances of him still needing a morning nap are great. In this case, I would recommend, as a one-off, to let him sleep 1-1½ hours for his morning nap (should he want to sleep that long). This will keep him happy until after lunch, at which time you can let him have another 45 minutes in his buggy or in the car mid-afternoon. If your baby will not sleep longer than 30/40 minutes in the morning, don't worry - just accept that he may only sleep for 30/40 minutes at lunchtime and then wake up. Even if he is not due a feed, offer it to him anyway. The last thing you want is a wailing baby in a restaurant or at a friend's house, just because you are determined to stick to the routine! If he takes half his feed around 1pm, then give him a top-up at 2/2.30pm before letting him have a further nap in the buggy. He is unlikely to sleep longer than 45minutes, so he will need a further short nap late afternoon. On a day out, remember it is not a catastrophe if he has to have three short naps of 30/45minutes.
Toddler over 15 months
Evening routine at a friend's house
If you are spending the whole day at a friend's house, it is a good idea to try and keep the evening routine similar to home. Explain to your friend what your child's routine is, and ask if it would be ok to give your child a bath there. This means your child can drink his milk and get into the car at 7pm already in his sleepsuit/pyjamas and sleeping bag for the journey home. If he is not over-tired from the day's activities, he will probably enjoy having a bath somewhere different! Once at home, with luck you will be able to transfer your sleeping child straight into his cot. If he doesn't settle, offer a top-up of milk. This may result in him taking less milk at breakfast, but don't worry as his milk intake will even out over the day once he is back in the routine.
Fresh air and exercise
Wherever you may be on your day out, do try and let your baby or toddler get some fresh air and exercise. If you are going to a friend's house or visiting family, it should still be possible for a baby to have a little kick on a blanket, or your toddler to have a run round. Fresh air often helps children to sleep better, so even if your child sleeps in the car, if he has had lots of fresh air and some exercise, he could still be shattered by bedtime. When out with a young baby, try and avoid passing him round too much, so he ends up being in someone's arms most of the time. I am sure family and friends will want a cuddle, but also explain how much your baby likes his little kick!
The next day
Some children are naturally sociable, while others find busy social activities overwhelming. The latter child might be more tired after a day out than a more socially comfortable child. If your baby or toddler seems exhausted after a busy day, make sure the following one is peaceful and predictable to restore their sense of security and avoid them becoming overtired. Let your child guide you on this, but remember that a quiet day at home might seem boring to you, but it can be a great source of comfort to children who need routine in which to develop safely and at their own pace.
I hope my ideas on how to adjust the routine prove helpful. Please don't fret if your baby's routine slips a little when you go out. I have always found that when a baby is contented, he is also adaptable, so enjoy yourselves on your days out - and don't forget your camera!