Andrew: Beyond the fun activities of playgyms, toys and outings, taking care of a kid also involves a lot of routine, everyday activities that take up a significant amount of time, more so than the fun stuff. These include simple things like feeding a baby, bathing a baby and putting them to sleep. At times, this can be a drag, especially if you’ve come back after a long day/week of work and just want to rest during the weekend. Nonetheless, there are ways in which these daily activities can also become a meaningful time of baby-parent bonding.
Andrew: For us adults, joy during mealtime is about eating our favourite foods or having quality bonding with the family. For babies, meal time is actually a time where you can observe your child’s skill acquisition and watch him grow day by day. As believers of baby-led weaning, we usually provide time for Dylan to engage in some time of feeding himself – this will be the ‘appetizer’ section of his meal where he eats his finger food on his own. This can range from sweet potato sticks to corn (his utmost favourite!) and potato croquettes with cheese and/or salmon filling. It’s fun to watch him nibble on these food items and take them apart, much like an adult.
Granny has lots of fun exploring new recipes too to nourish him and help him grow well. 🙂 This time of feeding himself is also when Jas and I can engage in conversation, while he enjoys his food. We firmly believe that babies should be an integral part of meal-time, meaning he should be eating while we eat and not be engaged in other activities. (Jasmine: No iPads or TV dinners!)
Andrew: We also try to cultivate in him the habit of him feeding himself his ‘main course’, i.e. we’ll pass him the spoon and let him put it in his mouth.
However, he’s been a bit too busy lately during meal time, with one (or sometimes even two) hands holding finger food, hence we’ve also started feeding him the porridge. Besides learning to feed himself, we’ve realised lately that Baby’s pincer grasp has improved – he is able to pick up very small, slippery pieces of carrot or potato and put them in his mouth! This is quite amazing and sometimes he enjoys doing that, even more than being fed. There are cute times when he will take the food and either show it to us or pass it to us!
Jasmine: Yes, sometimes when we are too engrossed in conversation, Dylan will suddenly lay his head on the table and smile, as if to say, “Why are you ignoring me?” Picking up carrot cubes has also become his favourite activity as of late. One time my mum asked Dilly if she could have a carrot, and he reached into the pocket of his bib, picked one up and gave it to her!
Andrew: Of course, not all’s good and dandy and with any baby, there’s always a huge element of unpredictability. There are days too where he just has no appetite or ends up mashing his food or spitting it out. On those days, sometimes we find that the only way is to let him treat his food as another toy, for textural play. When he seems to have eaten his fill, we’ll place the remaining porridge in front of him and he’ll just dip his hands in the porridge, smear them all over (his face, included) and often throw some bits on the floor. It drives the control freak in me crazy, but at least he’s having fun.
Andrew: Dylan has lots of fun bathing – this is probably one of his most enjoyable times of the day. It was initially quite challenging for me to bathe him when he was a newborn and I recall I used to have such great fears of him slipping off my hands and into the water or the soap getting into his eyes. There were moments too when he fell out of my grip and started bawling, but I think I’ve grown more confident when it comes to bathing him.
He giggles uncontrollably when we sang ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ to him during his bath time or even when we just went ‘Pop’ – he would start laughing. Now that he is more ‘mobile’ – he would sometimes even stand up and reach around him to explore the area. There are times when he would even cry as when taken out of his bath. Every time he is taken out of the bath, he would be in an extremely good mood and have the widest, sweetest smile when he sees us and then starts waving his hands energetically.
Jasmine: Don’t get me started on bath toys. He can stay in the bath forever with a toy on hand. Heck, even a face towel or Mustela soap bottle can keep him endlessly entertained.
We bought this for fun, it’s supposed to keep the water out of babies’ eyes… Plus it looks silly so it’s good for a photo and a laugh.
Andrew: Putting baby to sleep can be one of the most challenging parts of parenthood and I recall there were nights when he just wouldn’t sleep or kept waking up every few minutes. However, that great sense of joy, or dare I say, victory that I feel every time I successfully put him to sleep still never fails to fade away. There’s this great sense of satisfaction that you’ve been able to coax your own child well enough to bring him to a state of peaceful rest – for both him and yourself.
One other part of sleep that Dearie and I enjoy very much now is our bedtime routine for him, which we’ve come to realise is extremely essential. We only put it it in place a few months ago when we realised he was having quite bad sleep regression and kept waking up extremely often through the night. We realised then that we needed to put in place a routine that would allow him to realise it’s time to sleep.
Jasmine: Yep, Dyl used to wake up 4-5 times a night but since implementing the bedtime routine, he only wakes up 1-2 times a night, and recently once a night only. They say babies thrive on structure and it’s true!
Andrew: We’ve put in place a 4 step routine now that’s both meaningful and enjoyable for both Dylan and us:
1. Milk Feed: We’ll usually dim the lights and allow him to hold on to his penguin or the bottle cap while drinking his milk.
2. Reading of Bible Story: The Rhyme Bible has really been a godsend here for us. We’ll read him a Bible story after his milk and try our best to ensure that his eyes are focused on the book, or at least that he’s not climbing all around while we read to him. This is our attempt to enforce some kind of discipline in him, for a time of family devotion.
3. Prayer time: After the Bible story, we’ll pray for him, on pointers related to the Bible story, and for his health too. Following that, we’ll get him to lay hands on his unborn sister (heh) and of course mummy and pray for them. The laying hands on his sister hasn’t been too successful honestly and often we just plonk him there or drag his hand to place it on Mummy. He’ll squirm, but at least, his hands are there.
4. Family Hug: This is the sweetest moment of the night, where mummy will hold him and then we’ll smother him with kisses and hugs. He enjoys it too and often squeals in joy or smiles. We want him to know how loved he is.
Andrew: As he grows up, we hope this will develop into a form of bed time family devotion time, where we progress from reading Bible stories to perhaps a short passage from the Bible, so that we end off the night together as a family, spending time with God.
This routine has been in place for quite a while already and we’re enjoying it lots.
Jasmine: From birth, we have also have been doing other things like turning on white noise and drawing the blinds to help Dylan start differentiating between day (play) and night (sleep), and he can always count on his penguin too. Hopefully these have created enough sleep associations for him to sleep well through the night.
We also considered sleep training when he was waking up incessantly, but we never had the heart to carry it out when he was crying for us in his crib. With all these sleep associations, we don’t need to “retrain” him to sleep after an illness or teething spurt. He just goes back to his normal sleeping schedule when he’s ready and recovered. My baby doesn’t know but I check on him a couple times at night too, stroke his back, cover him with a muslin cloth if it’s cold and whisper that I love him.