By Sarah Bibi Patel – Good Night Consultant
The month of Ramadan has arrived, and whilst it is a beautiful month that is eagerly anticipated by Muslims across the world, it can prove to be a challenging time for mums with younger children.
Ramadan is the month of fasting in the Islamic faith. It represents a month where Muslims engage in unique acts of worship – fasting being one of them, where one does not eat from sunrise until sunset. The month of Ramadan requires Muslims to follow acts of worship based on specific times. They are only allowed to eat before sunrise. They break their day long fast, immediately upon sunset. They also engage in special night prayers, called the Tarawih salaah, which typically occurs 90 minutes after sunset.
As mums, we are often battling to maintain routine for our children. Ramadan presents the challenge of maintaining your child’s routine, whilst still enabling you to fulfil your religious duties timeously. Often, there can be a conflict of timing – where certain religious acts need to be performed at the same time as your baby needing your attention as well.
Whilst it helps to be flexible, you CAN also implement some practical changes to your baby’s routine, to help make it easier for you.
Babies: 4-7 months: Keep your baby on a good 3 nap routine, whilst following their age appropriate awake time. Babies at this age typically need 3 naps – 2 longer ones and one shorter one. Always make time to include that last nap of the day. It will mean that your baby can afford a slightly later bedtime and not necessarily need to sleep at the same time you need to break your fast (which in South Africa, is around 6pm).
Your baby will most likely be having that early morning feed, which will often coincide with the time of Sehri (pre-dawn meal). Try and wake up earlier, to give yourself enough time to eat before baby wakes. You can be adventurous and include easy, nutritious smoothies into your Sehri meal. You can drink it whilst feeding your baby. Prepare as much of your Sehri the night before, to make it easier for you in the morning.
Babies: 7-9 months: This is a tricky age and there may be days where your baby has no choice but to have an early bedtime. This is due to having 2 good naps and not enough time for a 3rd nap. In those instances, I would recommend bathing and feeding your baby around the time of Asr (late afternoon prayer). When your baby is done, you can concentrate on your worship, knowing that your baby is ready for bed. Once the Athan calls out (signalling the time of sunset and the evening prayer), you can break your fast, read your prayer, knowing that immediately after that, your baby is indeed ready to sleep.
10-14 months: Life gets much easier at this point. Your baby should be in a routine of 2 naps, following an awake time of around 3.5 hours. This gives you enough time to bath and put baby to bed after Iftaar (dinner after sunset) and still give you plenty of time to read your Tarawih salaah in peace, whilst baby is sleeping.
18 months and older: At this age, your baby should be on a one nap routine and having bedtime of no later than 7-7.30pm. Remember that all toddlers until the age of 5 need to have between 11-12 hours of sleep, so make sure that bedtime is not too late. This should fit in perfectly, with having the time to get your baby ready for bed immediately after Iftaar.
2.5 years and older: Some toddlers are still having a nap at this age, which is ok. The challenge presents itself when their bedtime is a little later. If you find that your toddler is taking longer and longer to fall asleep at night and bedtime is becoming too late, it may be worthwhile to consider skipping nap time and having an early bedtime so you can read your Tarawih in peace.
4 years and older: Most often at this age, children are no longer napping. However, as they get older, they do want to be involved in Ramadan and the activities happen. They want to join mum for her night prayer and it can be a beautiful time of bonding for mum and child. You can start your prayers a little earlier, and let your child read with you for a short while, before their bedtime. Have them bathed and ready in their pyjamas, so that when they are done, all they need to do is go to bed. To prevent excuses, communicate with them that you will allow them to sit with you, but only for a little while, before it is time to go to bed.
Multiple children: Often, juggling multiple children can present more of a challenge. There can be instances, where mum has no choice but to read her Tarawih, whilst her children are awake. If that is the case, I would always recommend having some of your baby’s favourite toys around you, so that they can play and keep busy whilst you pray. Try and pray in a contained space, so that your baby is not wandering all over the house whilst you are engaged in prayer. Keep rotating their toys during the evenings, so that they do not get bored with them. Avoid loud and noisy toys – not only will it distract you during your prayer, it will overstimulate your baby as well. Keep a Tarawih counter close by – it will help you keep track of your prayers. We all know the struggle!
Every family dynamic is different, especially in this month. A lot of mums face this month with apprehension and nervousness. Yes, it can be challenging. Babies are not robots and there will most likely be some bad days/nights in between with regards to your sleep. But this challenge is not forever. Remember the mummy mantra: this too shall pass. Next year, when Ramadan comes around, your precious baby will be a WHOLE YEAR older, and you will breathe a sigh of relief at how much easier it is this time around.
Most importantly, be kind to YOURSELF. We all have expectations of what we would like to accomplish in this month. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to do what we set out to do. Other times, life happens and our plans fall away. That’s ok! Because you are rewarded just for being a mum!
Life is all about moments. As a mum, don’t forget to take those moments. It can be few extra minutes spent in worship, whilst the children are sleeping. It can mean a heartfelt prayer, whispered into the dead of night, whilst you hold and feed your precious baby. It can be appreciating the quiet of the morning before dawn, on the ONE morning your baby managed to sleep without waking. All these moments – the exhausting ones, the beautiful ones, the teary ones, the peaceful ones, – every moment is a thread in the tapestry of your life – every moment is a testament to you and your strength as a mum. Through the nervousness and exhausting moments, know that there will be beautiful ones too.
From the Good Night team, Ramadan Kareem to you and your family.