When it comes to baby care a lot is said about routines.
Some people recommend a strict routine, with precise feeding and sleeping times that should be followed exactly and are the same (or very similar) for every baby. Others say that any routine at all is denying your baby’s needs and it’s best to follow their lead and never try to guide them into a pattern.
It is possible to tailor both of these approaches to work for your lifestyle and circumstances. And you may already have a very clear idea what you’d like, but many factors will play into what works best for you and baby. So be prepared to be flexible.
I believe in using a gentle, relaxed, routine – a simple “framework” for the day. Something that I work out for each individual baby.
A gentle routine isn’t a straightjacket, forcing a hungry baby to wait until a specified feed time. It’s simply a pattern or shape to the day, which lets you predict what your baby’s needs are likely to be at any particular time.
Really we all have this sort of loose routine, we tend to wake at roughly similar times most days, eat meals at predictable intervals and go to bed at fairly similar times. Unless you work shifts or are going on holiday it’s unlikely that you start your day at 4am one day and 11am the next. Lunchtime is around the middle of the day, not 11am or 4pm. Babies, even newborn babies, can very quickly be guided into a similarly predictable pattern, otherwise known as a routine.
So, why is it helpful for your baby to have a routine?
Knowing what your baby’s days are usually like allows you to predict what their needs will be and be proactive in meeting them.
You can start preparing a feed when you know your baby will be getting hungry, instead of waiting for them to get upset before you start. You’ll know when to expect your baby to get tired and can be on the lookout for those very subtle cues that you might miss otherwise.
That predictability also gives you the opportunity to fit your own needs around your baby. Knowing that they always have a nap 90 minutes after they wake up means you can plan to have a shower during that time, or enjoy a morning coffee in peace. A long lunchtime nap might be your opportunity to chat to a friend on the phone, do some gentle exercise or get that paperwork done. You will also be able to plan appointments around your baby’s needs and make sure visitors call when they are most likely to be awake.
Life as a new parent can feel frantic and overwhelming, knowing that you’ll be able to meet your own needs is vital to enjoying this time with your newborn baby.
A good routine will also help to guide your baby gently towards sleeping through the night.
Not by forcing them but by encouraging good sleep habits that will allow your baby to sleep for longer stretches naturally, as soon as they are ready.
I can’t give you a set routine that works for every baby, life would be much easier if I could!
Every baby is different. Every family is different.
As a newborn care specialist I study each baby that I look after, noting their natural rhythms, as well as the needs of the wider family. I will guide you to decide what routine is right for baby – and for you, help you weighing up the pros and cons. And the final decision of which approach to take will be entirely yours. If it’s right for your family I create a flexible routine that will benefit everyone, and which works with your individual baby.