The invitation to your best friend's Christmas Eve Drinks Party sits unanswered on the mantelpiece. Of course you would love to go, but with a five-month-old baby who has been in a good routine for many weeks, this no longer seems quite so possible. Your friend will be most disappointed if you can't make it, but you can't bear the thought of ruining your little one's routine.
From my many conversations with new mums, I know that this is a common concern. It can take a few weeks to get your baby established in his routine, and as a result it seems vital to continue in exactly the same way every night, without instituting a single change, for fear of breaking the spell. This is all well and good most days, but not if it means you have to refuse all invitations and miss out on gatherings with friends and family. Having worked in the Far East, Middle East and Italy where it was common for babies to be taken to family gatherings in the evening, I know from personal experience that it is possible to adapt the routines when necessary, and the earlier that you learn to do this, the more confident you will become about accepting occasional evening invitations.
As a new parent you need the support of your family and friends. To strengthen and build these relationships, it is important that you don't foster resentment, as others may not initially understand your concern for your baby's routine, and will feel neglected if you turn down all their invitations. The key thing is compromise. Although there will be times when you do have to turn down an appealing invitation, there will be others when you decide it is more important to attend, for example, your Grandmother's ninetieth birthday party than to ensure your baby is put in his cot at 7pm.
Depending on the age of your baby, there are two ways to approach the possibility of taking your baby along with you to a party. If your baby is over six months and in a well-established routine, ask your hosts if you may arrive early to carry out your baby's bed and bath-time routine at their house. In this way, you will be able to settle the baby in a travel cot in a bedroom upstairs before the other guests arrive. However, if for any reason your baby does not settle as usual - perhaps because he senses that he is not in his usual environment - don't worry or become anxious. Accept the situation as it is and follow the advice below for younger babies.
If it is not an option to carry out your evening routine at the party venue, when, for example, the party is at a restaurant, it is still possible for you to accept the party invitation, as long as you acknowledge and understand that for this one evening your baby's routine will have to be altered, as outlined below. In this instance, the key thing to remember is that for the duration of the party, you treat your baby's feeds and sleeps as daytime ones, rather than as evening or night ones, and you don't carry out your usual bed and bath-time routine.
By following my guidelines, I hope you will begin to have the confidence to accept party invitations and learn how to adapt the routines, safe in the knowledge that your baby can come too, and will continue to be a contented little baby - and you will be a contented, relaxed mother!
Guidelines for successful socialising with contented babies:
Once back home, how you deal with settling him for the night will depend on how awake he has been at the party, and whether he gets a second wind when you arrive home. If he has fallen asleep in the car and is very sleepy I would advise that you quickly change his nappy and put him into his night clothes before settling him, so that he goes down sleepy yet aware that he is going into his cot. If he has got a second wind and seems quite awake, implementing his normal bed and bath-time routine should help settle him.
The important thing to remember is not to worry - whatever happens on this occasion, once back in his home environment your little one should pick up his routine again without too much trouble.
Of course, I am not suggesting that you take your baby out to parties every night, but I believe that it is vital that new parents are able to enjoy themselves and maintain links with friends, and do not build up resentment for a baby who they feel is tying them to the house.
So please enjoy this party season. You will definitely benefit from the chance to catch up with friends, and your baby will benefit from having a revitalised, happy mother.
Hope it goes some way to helping you have a stress-free happy Christmas.
Lots of love