Creating A Routine For Your Baby

By Nancy Da Silva

The arrival of a new baby is sure to throw your routine out of whack. Forget needing the alarm to wake up, you’ll be up early every morning because your new ‘alarm clock’ needs to be fed and/or changed or just needs attention. Your baby’s schedule has now become yours.

So how do you avoid living in your baby’s nursery twenty four hours a day? You have a life. You have a job or other responsibilities that have to be met. Sleep would be nice sometimes too, I bet.

You want to make sure you fulfill your baby’s needs but you also need to make sure that that’s not all you’re doing.

Mention the words ‘time management’ and most people cringe. You’re deluged with tips thrown at you by fast talking ‘gurus’ who seem to forget one thing, you’re baby is running the show now, not you.

The key is not to feel like you have to squeeze every available minute out of every day. Some days you’ll have more time than others. Some day’s you’ll get only one thing done on your to do list and some days you’re baby won’t have his feeding or nap at the same time as you usually give it to him.

It’s not bad ‘time management’. It’s called life. And life…like that other thing, happens.

Your baby is an instinctual impatient creature who knows nothing of restraint. He wants what he wants now.

By setting up a routine, you teach your child to want what he wants when you can give it to him.

Elke, a thirty year old stay home mom from Virginia describes her routine for infant son as the following, “Wake around 6am, breakfast, get dressed, play, nap around 9 or 10 am, just whenever he gets tired. Lunch around 12 more play time. Nap around 2 or 3, again whenever. 6pm dinner then bath. Bed at 7pm.”

Now does this mean that Elke’s routine never changes? What happens if people come over? What happens if they’re visiting friends? What happens if they’re out at a party in a restaurant or during the holidays? Elke offers this piece of advice, “We roll with it!” Shake ups are going to happen. If every time they do you get stressed, so will your baby which will make the diversion from the routine that much more difficult to deal with it.

So let’s start with setting the bedtime routine. About half an hour before you hope to set him down, stop play time and use a softer tone of voice, dim the lights in the house if you can. Your baby will start to associate dim lights with sleepiness. Get out his pajamas and ready his bath. If you can use a low light in the bathroom that will keep the sleepy mood going. Keep the routine simple, maybe playing some soft music or using a music box only at bedtime. Make sure the sheets in his crib and blankets are warm.

Bedtimes are usually the first thing you want to get set is for your own sanity. When night comes we go to bed and fall asleep. When babies get sleepy, they cry. If they can’t get to sleep they cry a lot. So you want to set certain things in place to make it easier for your baby to drift off.

Other aspects of your baby’s routine are more forgiving if they’re thrown off schedule. Like feedings. True, a hungry baby is not a happy baby but chances are your baby will be okay when he feels the first stirrings of hunger and start getting fussy to let you know his stomach wants attention. It’s a lot easier to feed a baby than it is to get one to sleep because feedings are all on you.

According to the book ‘On Becoming Babywise’ by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam you want to work your feedings in around the same time as your baby’s nap times. For the first two weeks, try to give your baby longer, fuller feedings instead of the two to three hour common guideline. Feed them and set them down so that when you set them in their cribs at night after feeding them, they’ll recognize the pattern and it will make them more likely to drift off and sleep for longer periods…even, imagine it, all through the night!

It’s important to let your baby give you cues as to what he wants and is ready for. Elke adds, “There are bottle feedings in between the breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We pretty much follow the baby's cues as to feedings and nap times, but he's a very regular baby, so things generally happen at around the same time everyday.”

You’ll need to be very flexible in the first two months of implementing your routine for your baby. The world is new to him and he’s getting stimulated from all sides by all these new experiences. He’s depending on you to guide him through, but not be so rigid that your routine actually causes more stress for you and your baby.

In fact, make sure that while you work on the biggies like bed times, naps and feedings, you allow blocks of time for playing with your baby so his brain can develop and he can learn how to relate to the world around him.

Meaghan, a 22 year old nursing student advises that other parents learn to simply go with the flow. “We just go with it. There are some days we have places to be and he misses a nap or goes in late, he'll sleep in the car or stroller, but it’s no big deal. The next day he’s back on track.” The point of a routine is to set the same activities at the same time but if life gets in the way, no need to worry. Tomorrow is another day.

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