Trying to live life on a routine with a new baby can seem impossible, but it’s not hopeless.
Rigid schedules certainly won’t work. Babies, especially newborns, need your flexibility and patience as they get used to the world outside the womb. However, gentle baby routines are easy to establish as long as you’re attentive and following Baby’s subtle cues.
Any sort of routine is a lifesaver in those early weeks and months! They’ll help you stay sane and grounded in some sense of normal, especially as your baby grows, changes, and expresses her need for changes to the routines.
Don’t forget to give yourself and your baby grace. Each baby is unique, including yours. Newborns should eat and sleep on demand. We do not recommend withholding food or aggravating your baby to keep her awake so she will sleep later – which doesn’t work, anyway. Overtired babies get a rush of cortisol that gives them a second wind!
However, it is possible to build in simple routines to give your day a sense of rhythm and let your baby know what happens before it’s time to sleep.
Here are some easy baby routines that have proven themselves useful for many moms.
1. Sleeping cues. When you see your baby becoming drowsy, sing a lullaby or put on the white noise machine. Over time, that will become her cue that it is time to sleep, bringing comfort that she knows what to anticipate.
2. Eating more, fewer times. Once your baby is more than 8-10 weeks, you can begin delaying her feedings by a few minutes at a time. When you notice your baby is hungry, wait 2-3 minutes to feed her (if you can!). This may encourage her to eat more at each feeding, needing less in between each feed, creating a bigger time gap.
3. Help your baby experience night vs. day. Especially in the beginning days of your baby’s life outside of the womb, she will not know a difference between night and day. She may sleep all day long (or so it seems) and be alert at night. Start some baby routines to help her sense the difference and encourage her circadian rhythms to develop. Change her clothes before bed and when she wakes up. This signifies and cues day versus night. You can also do simple things such as keeping your home bright and loud during the day, playing upbeat music and leaving the blinds open, while dimming the lights and playing quiet, calming music in the evening to help her senses wind down. Another great tip is diffusing lavender essential oils at night to relax her senses.
4. Bedtime routine from birth. It will take your little one months before they really live on a routine, BUT start a daily bedtime routine as early as possible (start as soon as you’re home from the hospital or birthing center!) will help both you and baby learn that it is time for bed. Examples: do baby massage in a dimly lit room, put her in her warm sleeper, swaddle her, read a short story, feed her…whatever you decide, try to keep your bedtime routine the same and under 30 minutes so as not to over stimulate your little one.
5. Run errands in the morning/midday. Try to plan your meetings, appointments, and errands for the morning or midday. This is when baby is learning to be alert and awake and you can allow the afternoons and early evenings for winding down towards bedtime, making it part of their built-in knowledge that bedtime is coming.
6. Let your baby lead her routine. This is absolutely the most important tip. Building a routine around her own habits and preferences will make life so much easier for you! Pay close attention to the clock for a week or two and notice that she is waking, eating, playing, and sleeping around the same times each day. She is most likely already on some sort of routine that you can support to make them more reliable. Follow her lead and soon you will be on a schedule that feels natural to her and gives you a small bit of predictability for your day.
Remember: flexibility is key! Life with babies is not predictable, especially since babies change and grow so fast. Their needs tend to change and grow right along with them. Expecting Baby to stay on a schedule will only drive you crazy! But using one, or more, of these 6 simple baby routines can help you stay sane and enjoy your baby.
Featured image source: www.nataliebrennerphoto.com