Are you a first time parent? Did you bring your newborn baby home in the excitement of becoming a family and asked yourself now what?
I will admit, I did this all three times I brought one of my children home for the first time. It took a few days to get into the baby routine of feeding, napping and sleeping.
I have always been a firm believer in having a routine to follow. Not just because babies thrive on routines but also because I knew what came next. I knew when feeding times were, I knew when nap times should be and I got a lot more sleep during the night time too.
So how did I go about creating a routine that worked for me and my newborns? The first rule of thumb is all parents are different and all babies are different. I have had three babies so I can tell you that this is true. They have all three been different but getting them on a routine has been the same.
I start by establishing a feeding schedule (yes, you can do this solo breastfeeding, I have with all three of mine). This isn’t in concrete there will always be times where your baby is ill or needs more during growth spurts or just extra comfort. But for the most part, I stuck to the three to four hour feeding times starting my day always at 7am. It made it easy to know when I should dash to the store in between feeds or run errands knowing I wouldn’t have a screaming baby wanting fed in the long post office line. I do this right from birth which means you will have to wake your baby sometimes to feed at those times but it’s only a matter of time when they will automatically wake up for feeding on those times and you won’t even have to watch the clock anymore.
The napping I wait to start schedule napping around the third week. Mostly because newborns need a lot of sleep both day and night. They went through birth too. It was exhausting for them as much as for us moms. You should try to sleep when they sleep but easier said than done. You will more likely be doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning while your baby sleeps than catching up on zzz’s that our bodies are screaming for.
I have used guidelines for three naps a day for a newborn. One in the morning, a long one midday and one short one in the evening. These you can alter to fit around your family schedule like I do with the school drop off being one and the school pick up being the last one makes it easier to nap on the go and get my older children where they need to go. The midday nap should be around 2-2 1/2 hours whereas the morning and afternoon is shorter closer to 1- 1 1/2 hours. I would advise no sleeping after 5pm if you want your baby to settle at 7pm bedtime. But this is only my opinion. I found that if I let one of my babies nap later because they didn’t get enough during the day, they went to bed at 7pm but than woke up an hour later and didn’t settle for the night.
Night feeds are always a thing that is the most different in routines and it depends on the baby and parent. My night feeding experiences have been different with all three of my babies. For the first six weeks, I feed every four hours at night. When they are getting to where they could go longer in between feeds at night I do a feed on demand routine but nothing before the four hour mark. After feeding and putting them to bed at 7pm, I let them tell me when they want to be fed usually by eight or nine weeks there is a five/six hour gap in the night between feeds. For example, I might feed at 7pm, 11pm and then not until 5am in the beginning. If this is he case, I still wake up and feed at 7am, always starting my day at the same time despite what I did at night. This usually only last two weeks and by 10 weeks, all three of my babies made it from 11pm feed to 7am feed. As they get older, and can go longer, I start moving the 11pm earlier and earlier until they are feeding at 7pm and then 7am. My first born did this at 14 weeks, my daughter at 16 weeks and I am currently moving the 11pm earlier with my 13 week old baby now. So they will taper off at different ages, you as their mother will know when they can go longer.
Either way, I find that once you establish a feeding routine everything naturally falls into a good routine for you
and your family.
My biggest advice is to not stress out about routines. Stay calm, know that if you have one bad day and it all goes down the toilet, it’s ok, just attempt again the next day. I once heard it takes three days to break a routine and five days to make a routine. If you go on holiday and fall out of the routine that’s ok, just work the next few days back at home getting back into it. It’s never too late to start a routine that’s the beauty of it. We are creatures of habit, it’s in our nature. Don’t panic when you get off feeding just adjust the times slightly to get back on track the next feed.
Sometimes I use pacifiers if the baby just wants to suck in between feeds for comfort. My first two babies weren’t big on them but they did help a few times getting them to the next feed happily but my third baby has it all the time. He wants to suck for hours even after a full belly. I personally am ok with this, I know a lot of mothers that don’t like to use them breastfeeding but I have never had a problem with latching from pacifier to breast to bottle.
As my baby gets older, I start cutting out the evening nap and then even older cutting out the morning nap. Usually my babies do this naturally. I know when they aren’t sleep all night for numerous nights in a row that they probably are sleeping too much during the day.
These are only guidelines I follow. We love traveling and going out for family days out. There is no reason you can’t have a great newborn routine on the go. I still put my baby down for naps even if we are in a restaurant, on a beach, shopping in a store, or visiting friends. It actually helps with them being in different places taking their naps so they aren’t just used to one room, one bed, and one way. This makes it easier to keep that routine going even on holiday too.
Have you tried a feeding, napping, and sleeping routine with your baby? How did you find it?
Jenny Taylor is a writer, and has established her own parenting and lifestyle blog, letstalkmommy, which she often contributes material to.
You can also follow her on Instagram at @letstalkmommy