A common Google search for parents with babies that struggle to sleep, is what routine should by baby be on? But are strict routines really that important, and how do you find a balance?
During the early days with your newborn, it's all about feeding and sleeping for your baby. You won't likely see any pattern to their day until around 3-4 months old when their feeding has become more established and they are no longer confused between day and night. Whilst they're in this lovely newborn stage, there's no need to worry about implementing any sort of routine, so lean in to it and enjoy those wonderful newborn cuddles.
As your baby reaches the 12-16 week mark, you may have started noticing them feeding at regular intervals, and perhaps you're aware of their natural wake windows between naps. It may be that they have naturally begun to create a routine of their own. It's also very common to see each day different to the last, especially if you're running around after more than one child. If you're struggling with sleep issues, one of the first things you might have noticed when searching for advice online, is how much emphasis there is on nap routines. Here, I will go through why we put so much emphasis on them, what different routines can look like and whether they're really be all and end all.
As a Baby Sleep Consultant, routine is an effective method I use to help parents understand their little ones sleep needs and make sure they're getting enough sleep during the day for their age. Furthermore, children can thrive off routine because it provides consistency and comfort, which makes them feel safe and secure. For lots of children, change can feel quite scary, so knowing what comes next can help ease transitions from one part of their day to the next. We also use routines to prepare our babies for sleep. Gentle sleep cues like a lullaby for example, can switch the brain from play-mode to rest-mode, and in turn make settling to sleep easier for our little ones. A routine can also help you to plan your day better, and make time to rest yourself.
A Pre-Nap Routine, alongside watching for sleepy cues and wake windows, can be effective at helping get your baby to nap. This is a similar routine to bedtime, except it creates the lead up to naps instead and can be just 10 minutes long. I use a pre-nap routine with my son which consists of a nappy change, into a sleeping bag, a cuddle and my beautiful rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Having used it for over a year now, as soon as he hears the song you can see the switch turn and he visibly becomes calm and ready for sleep. Again, with any routine, consistency is key. When used each and every day, in the same way each time, these routines can really help towards encouraging your baby to settle and set their body clock for naptimes.
Many adults thrive off routine as well as babies and children. You might not notice it, but most of us have some sort of bedtime routine; shower, skincare, brush our teeth and change for bed, it's likely you're so used to doing this you haven't thought that it's habitually part of your routine in the lead up to sleep. We can establish bedtime routine with babies from day one. They are one of the simplest methods to help your little one settle to sleep, and can be as simple as nappy change, pyjamas, book, lullaby and into bed. They don't have to take an hour, and a sweet 20 minute routine can path some lovely one on one time for you and your baby each evening. If you were going to take anything from this blog, it would be to implement a consistent bedtime routine!
Are Routines really that important? Each and every family is different. Each and every baby is different! What may work for one, might not for another. Routines don't have to be so strict that you feel stuck at home, or unable to go to toddler classes because they only run right in the middle of lunch naps. They are a fantastic tool you can use to encourage settling, ensure your baby isn't overtired and use to plan your own days. The beauty of routine is that they can be adjusted because you know how much sleep your baby is getting, but also that your baby is prepared for sleep at certain times of the day and their body clock will allow them to start becoming tired at those same times. So even if you are out and about, have a nap on the go! There's no rules that you have to nap them in the cot every day. If you're baby is struggling with sleep, a routine can really help get them back on track, but it's also important to remember it's not the end of the world if you can't or choose not to stick to one. It's what works for you and your baby, and you're not doing anything wrong by not implementing one. With everything baby sleep related, it's about finding balance and not stressing out about what is out of your control.
If you're looking for advise and help with your baby or toddlers sleep, book your free 15 minute consultation with me here.