When I first got pregnant with my first baby, I was given so much advice. It seems as soon as you get pregnant everyone wants to give you their opinions and experiences to guide you. You can take pinches of it here and there but when it comes down to it and you have the baby, most of that goes out the window. All the things you thought you wouldn’t do, you do. All the things you thought you would do, you don’t. It happens. Your gut takes over and you follow your parental instincts that seem to have appeared over night. For me, I knew I work well in life with a good routine myself so it was natural for me to want to get baby on a routine as soon as possible.
The first time around I was told by midwives, family and friends to just go with the flow those first few weeks. Feed when baby wants it, let baby sleep whenever baby wants and start routines much later. Having had six siblings and fourteen nieces and nephews between them, I got to see that waiting to establish a routine just makes it harder in my opinion. This is not for every baby, or every parent, nor do I claim to have specialized education in this area this is solely my own experiences and after three babies it’s worked so well, I thought I would share it with all of you. If routines are your thing in your own life it seems natural to me that you might want to try having a routine for your baby too.
My experience with all three of my babies up to the one month mark (where I currently at with my third baby) has been almost identical. This makes me laugh at those that said, it wasn’t my routine that made the first baby a great feeder and sleeper, it was just luck. Then the second was born and followed the same routine and again I was told if I had a third I wouldn’t get that lucky a third time. In the general sense if you teach your baby night from day and when to eat and sleep it’s no different than we condition ourselves to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and sleep at certain times. Most of you know if you wake at 6am Monday through Friday for work you are bound to wake up at the same time on Saturday and Sunday despite wanting that lie in. You have trained your body clock that way. It’s the same with your baby.
I am a fan of Gina Ford. Don’t hit me or click away just yet. She has great advice and routines and really helped me establish the routine “I wanted” for my baby. I took bits and pieces from her sleeping and feeding schedule and I accommodated them to our family life. I didn’t follow it strictly as it didn’t all work for us as a family of five now. In the early days of my first baby, I followed it strictly and with my second maybe 75% and now with my third I have used it as a guideline to really make my own routine up. But some people just like to be told a routine and follow it for every step of the way and that’s ok, I know I did with my first. It gave me something to follow and feel like I had control of what I was doing and when. You can really feel lost at the beginning with when to feed them or put them down for a nap as a first time parent especially if you haven’t been around babies a lot prior to your own baby to experience.
I also follow my baby’s cues too. I don’t totally let my routine go out the window when we are on holiday but I recognize baby is out of his/her comfort zone and might need a bit more sleep or feeding outside our normal routine. Same goes for growth spurts or when they are unwell. These are all times that you need to adjust and adapt your routine but never “throw it out the window”. If you do, you are starting from scratch again. I was once told, it takes 5 days to make a routine, 3 days to break it. One day completely out of whack is ok just make sure you rein it back before that third day or you are starting all over again.
So when do I start my feeding/sleeping routine?
The moment they are born. Yes, that sounds dramatic but it’s really just a frame of mind and getting into the speed of parenting right away. For example, Baby boy here was born at 6:45pm which was perfect and we have a big laugh that he came in time for his bedtime feed. So I fed him right away as most babies do that are being breastfed after birth. Then I dressed him and put him in his bassinet for bedtime. Babies are super sleepy when they are first born but I woke him up three hours later to feed again and right back to bed. I continued to feed on a three hour interval for the first few days. I know, never wake a sleeping baby but if you don’t wake them how will they know night from day and get their own body clocks on the right schedule. You got to remember they didn’t have day and night in your belly, they ate when they wanted and slept when they wanted.
I also think dream feeding and feeding in light or dark rooms really help establish night and day routines. Dream feeding to me is when you lift baby up from their crib, change them with minimum hassle in a very low light, feed them, no talking or eye contact, and putting them right back down in their bed so they are almost sleepy feeding. This has always been so amazing with all three of my babies. As newborns, they all three have slept 7pm to 7pm with a feed at 11pm and 4am and always went back to sleep after a feed with no rocking or singing or swaying necessary. First thing, 7am, I make sure all the curtains are drawn and the light is on and it’s super bright to wake baby up naturally and then feed downstairs in the full swing of family breakfast to help him know it’s now day time.
Nap times I do around our own family routine that was already in place. With the school run at 8:30 it’s easy to wake and feed at 7am and get us all ready. He naps from 8:30-10 which is on the school run and when I run all my errands after the drop off. It’s a smooth and perfect setup for us. The big long nap midday can be taken at home if I am working, or on the go if I am out with friends, or weekends this is when we might be at the beach or the park with the older two kids and he sleeps from 11:00 – 1:30. This works perfect for us having lunch with the other two uninterrupted and they feel our attention is on them solely. His third nap in the late afternoon is on the school pickup 3:00-4:30. It enables me to have him asleep on the go. He loves all the attention he gets at the kids after school activities from swimming, golf, gymnastics, and Spanish before getting ready for bedtime with his siblings. By 7pm my house is back to silence and I can get back to working the evenings away.
I don’t’ believe having a feeding/sleeping routine makes you have to stay home or stay in either. I just make sure wherever I am he is still feeding and sleeping the same time everyday whether we are at the beach, in our back garden or away on holiday. It works so well for us. I know when I should go to the post office, grocery store and between what times I can nip out for a gym session or get some work done for a client while he is with Daddy. It’s an on the go routine.
I am not so strict in my routine that I won’t let the baby be picked up for a cuddle or two by his sister and brother or when we are at the park and Daddy wants a snuggle after working all week and missing out. Daddy is fond of the swings during baby boy’s nap times below. I have to admit it’s a great time to walk the two miles down the road to our local Starbucks for a refreshing drink and get my exercise on too during his big nap if the weather is nice.
Sometimes routines don’t work it depends on the baby and the parent. I am more relaxed when I know what time baby will be eating or sleeping. Out of three children, I haven’t had one refuse it but I think consistency is the key. Staying calm and relaxed about it is another key factor. You can’t get stressed if it’s 11:00 and your baby refuses to sleep. Just adjust your routine if baby finally falls asleep at 11:30 instead add a little bit earlier to his/her next nap. It’s easy once you got the routine down you want to move it around a few minutes here or there to adjust on those days it’s not working. If one day fails try again the next day is my motto.
At a month old, baby boy is nearly reaching 5am and going four hours during the day between feeds. I am getting a little bit more sleep at night which is lovely. It’s surprising what you can do during the day when you get some sleep. I am still tired, feeding, working full time since he was born, two older kids, and lots of house cleaning in between is exhausting not going to lie. I don’t have it all easy or figured out. Having three children is lovely and what I have always wanted but it’s a lot of work too.
This little boy has slotted into our family so perfectly like he has always been there. I am so amazed at how well he has adapted to us and to his feeding /sleeping routine too. I hope it continues to be the easier baby of the three of my kids. It’s always nice to end your baby era with your last baby being totally blissful, isn’t it? Not that my first two were ever hard work. I did get lucky in that sense. For those that already have babies reading this (don’t hit me or hate me if your baby doesn’t sleep or feed routinely please) it’s never too late to start a routine whether you are at 3 months, 6 months or 3 years. Honestly try it. Write down your family routine and what your baby needs in terms of feeding and sleeping and accommodate the two together. Try it for over two weeks I think with strict consistency before you try to go out and about winging it. I helped my friend get her baby onto a routine and she will forever be grateful and love me for it.
Out of all my friends that are parents, all the babies that are on a routine sleep all night very early on and all my friends that demand feed and go with the flow seem to have a longer time getting their babies to sleep all night and feed and nap regular times until a lot later in age. I know it seems like a lot of work at first but it will pay off later.
Most importantly though enjoy your newborn baby bliss. Enjoy those first few weeks in that bubble that’s so beautiful. Soak up every tiny toe and every tiny finger. They grow up so fast. They change so fast. They are constantly going to wow you from here on out. It’s an amazing thing bringing a baby into this world. I always feel so empowered with strength and appreciation. Our bodies are miracles. Our babies are angels.
This is solely just a guideline of how I got all three of my babies on feeding/sleeping routines and got them to sleep all night and establish night and day routines. This isn’t for someone to judge my parenting nor is it me judging anyone else’s parenting tactics. Parenting is an amazing journey and every single parent is different and every single baby is different. As humans we condition ourselves to eat and sleep at certain times and I have only applied this to my babies to make life run smoothly and efficiently as a family of five.
Did you or do you use a feeding/sleeping routine with your baby? I would love to know, please comment below. If you didn’t and your baby is on it’s own routine, well done. The most important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy and you are happy and healthy to take care of baby.