4 Principles For Creating Routines With Your Baby...

Why are we so fixated with wanting our babies to be in a routine? What is it that makes this such a sought-after thing when it comes to us as modern parents?

The simple answer is predictability. Prior to having children our lives are usually very predictable. We are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time every day, go to work at the same time and eat our meals at more or less the same time every day. We even schedule other activities such as going to gym or church or grocery shopping on set days. Then along comes the baby and totally upsets the apple cart and throws our very predictable lives into chaos! And we are not prepared for the impact that this has on our very routine oriented brains.

We have not been prepared for life with a newborn baby and we often wail “why did nobody warn me it was going to be THIS hard!” We very soon realize that a routine with a newborn is totally nonexistent and it shatters our sense of order! And it does not matter if this is your first or third or sixth baby, a new baby in the home will always throw the existing routine out the window and a sense of order will take a while before it is reestablished. In our desperation we jump onto google or grab the book that we were gifted during pregnancy. Anything we can lay your hands on that promises to get our baby into a set routine if “you just do this or that”. We devour every word and start applying strategies or start buying every type of special light or white noise generator that once again has promised to bring about a magical change in our baby’s erratic behavior! Only to find that nothing seems to work – well not immediately!

Let’s look at four principles that will help you understand how a “routine” will develop over time and how you can support your baby as the daily pattern of your lives slowly falls into place.

Set a daynight rhythm
1. Set a day/night rhythm

From the very first day you bring your baby home from hospital it is important to lay the foundation for the 24-hour internal body clock that is call our circadian rhythm. Our bodies are created to live according to the 24-hour rhythm that is governed by sunlight in the day and darkness at night. Set a reasonable wake up time in the mornings that will fit in with the general running of your home. Allow the baby to be kept in the light throughout the day – despite what you might have heard that babies must have their naps in a darkened room during the day. Then from around 8ish in the evening dim the lights and work towards getting your baby in the dark by 9pm and kept in the dark till the wake-up time in the morning.

This will encourage your baby’s body to start learning when to produce melatonin, the hormone that aids nighttime sleep.

2. Track your baby’s activities

As discussed in previous blogs, it is advisable to keep a record of what time your baby feeds during each 24 hours. Remember that this is not so that you can schedule feeds but is rather a tool for you to use to see if you can begin to establish your baby’s own feeding pattern. You should begin to notice a pattern developing that seems to repeat itself on a daily basis. There may be longer feeds at times and little snacks or cluster feeds at other times. As the days turn into weeks you should begin to feel that an element of predictability is beginning to emerge which will then begin to help you build some structure around that.

Track your baby’s activities
Introduce a daily bath time
3. Introduce a daily bath time

I usually suggest this is done in the evenings before the lights are dimmed. This may coincide with Dad coming home from work and he can get involved with this fun activity which can help him spend one on one time with the baby while mum gets a break from a full day of attending to the baby. Even though babies don’t really “need” a daily bath from a cleanliness point of view, a daily bath can help to establish a signal that the day has ended and the night has started with this activity called bathing. The evening times often involve some sort of crankiness and a soothing fun times of splashing in the water can help to calm a fractious baby.

4. Awake “windows” are not equal

Some babies may not need as much sleep during the day as has been previously thought. A short nap can help some babies to be awake and alert for longer than anticipated. It is best to learn to allow daytime naps to occur when your baby is needing a nap rather than trying to force sleep when bub may not be tired enough to drift off to sleep. In the next blog I will talk more about sleep regulation.

Awake “windows” are not equal

I trust that these few strategies have helped you understand that life will become more predictable as your baby grows.

Learning to go with the flow and trusting that things will slowly fall into place is far less stressful than trying to force an unnatural strict timetable that babies are not able to adhere to. If you are finding things challenging, then please reach out for help. Keep an eye out for part two with 5 more principles that will help you understand how a “routine” will develop over time and how you can support your baby as the daily pattern of your lives slowly falls into place.

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