In the first two years of a child’s life, there is a lot of routine care involved. There is the feeding of milk (breast/bottle), feeding of solids, diaper changing, naptime and bedtime routines and schedules. It's easy to string our babies along while we live very busy lives. It's easy to treat them as passive objects while we carry out routine care. “When will I have time to bond with my baby?”, a new parent might ask. Good question! You can, starting with routine care.
I love changing Ashley's diapers, I love nursing her, I love bathing her and feeding her. I look into her eyes, I feel refreshed, I catch a glint in her eyes as she smiles back at me. I didn't always feel that way as I treated her routine care like another job that I had to complete. I used to rush through her diaper change. I would look at my iPhone while I nursed her.
Connect with your baby or toddler during routine care and you will catch little glimpses of his personality. These moments are fleeting. Enjoy them.
Here are some tips which help you enjoy routine care with your child in their early years.
SLOW RIGHT DOWN
You do not have to rush through a diaper change just because your little one is whining. The more you rush through it, you are setting diaper changes up to be an unpleasant time for the both of you.
Put aside what you are doing for the moment, and establish a quiet and calm environment for the both of you to connect.
MAKE IT A CONVERSATION
Talk to your baby. Tell them what you are doing.
Lina explains how she makes routine care a conversation with her son, Eric. “I will tell my son, Eric, before I lower him down into the bathtub. Like a lot of babies, he doesn’t like water on his face, so I will tell him before I wash his face. Giving him notice of what I am about to do prepares him for what is coming next so he doesn’t freak out.”
Being consistent with the way routine care is carried out between the various caregivers helps a child knows what he or she is to expect and their world is more predictable, giving them a sense of calm and security.
For example, you can have a bedtime routine from birth. In our household, we usually have dinner, bath time, massage, read them a few books, pray together, brushing of teeth and then we turn off the lights for bedtime. We try and stick to this routine even when we are overseas. Be aware of your child’s cues when you go through the bedtime routine and adjust it until it suits you both, then try and stick to it. There are times where we make adjustments. For instance, I may decide that we should read one book instead of three because Ashley’s bedtime is already delayed.
Give him choices so that he can start making decisions (within limits) for himself, allowing your child to be an active participant rather than a passive recipient in his own life.
“He can select his snacks (apple, orange, banana, rice crackers, etc.); pick his own clothes and choice of shoes, and as he has longer hair, we let him decide too if he’s wearing his hair down or in a hipster bun. He’s 2.5 years old so it’s about giving him choices within safe parameters,” Jo-Lynn says.
ASK YOUR CHILD TO HELP YOU
Another way to help your child be an active participant of routine caregiving is to ask him for help. “Lift up your bum so I can wipe it please”, and then wait, giving him enough time to process your request and respond. Ask for his cooperation if you need it, and then thank him for his cooperation. Start connecting with your little one during routine care now, and hopefully, like me, you will stop seeing these caregiving activities as chores.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shumei is a local girl of Sri Lankan-Chinese heritage. Married to a British architect, she is a working mum by day and a serial multi-tasker by night. She is known in her local neighbourhood as the mother whose kid is always dirty from running around. She believes that she was born to be a mama, and loves being one! She has a heart for pregnant ladies and new parents and wants to support them as they start on their parenting journey, remembering how overwhelmed she felt as a new parent.
Shumei holds certificates in Early Childhood Education and Playwork Perspectives. She also co-founded the Respectful/Mindful Parenting Singapore group on Facebook.