How to Get into a Routine with Your Newborn

I thought everything would be much easier with my second baby, but it turned out to be just as difficult. I presumed Arthur would be the same as Ivo, a good sleeper and a good eater. But he’s just the opposite! From day one, he’d wake up at the slightest noise, and he’s still not sleeping through the night at 10 months. I’ve found with both my boys, that having a routine is the easiest way for us to get along. It’s hard at first, but worth it in the long run. Here are a few techniques I learnt along the way that might help you out if you’re keen to do the same….

{Photo Credit} Pictures by Caught the Light from when Arthur was about a month old. I hadn’t had time to wash my hair for three days!

There’s No Rush
Remember there’s no rush to get into a routine. For the first month or even six weeks, just surviving is a massive achievement. You’re both getting used to feeding {breast or bottle}, so you may end up feeding every 1.5 or 2 hours, and your little one will definitely be falling asleep on the breast. I’d recommend staying in bed, or resting up on the sofa, and just ‘snugging in’. Try to relax and recuperate – this isn’t a time to be house-proud, and definitely don’t bother with make-up. I’d go many days without finding time to shower, but I tried not to make them consecutive!

While I was pregnant I read two books by authors with reasonably different views about routines, and I picked the bits I liked from both. Personally I found the routines suggested by Gina Ford really useful, but I know lots of mums who’ve completely ignored everything she says, and we’ve both ended up with babies who eventually sleep through the night, and have a two hour nap at lunchtime. Tracy Hogg is the other author – she has a great system which is easy for even the most sleep-deprived mother to remember – EASY – Eat, Active {playtime}, Sleep, You {making time for yourself when the baby is asleep}.

P.S. I also loved Your Baby Week by Week by Dr Caroline Fertleman for gentle reassurance.

Bath & Bedtime
If you’ve got through the first month, and you’re feeling a bit more confident, I’d recommend getting started with the bath and bedtime routine. I chose to start it at 5pm, but you might want to do it later, so your husband or partner can get involved. Baths are a great way to relax your baby, and I believe the warm water makes them less likely to get tummy-aches later on in the night.

The Witching Hours‘ for babies tends to come around 7pm-9pm, and lots of little ones cry constantly during this time – usually because they’re over-tired or have sore tummies. Starting the bath and bedtime process nice and early, should keep them relaxed, and avoid this nightmarish time.

Ivo never ‘witched-out’, but Arthur {needless to say}, was a very ‘witchy’ baby. He grew out of it by about six weeks, and I think that’s partly down to the bath/bedtime routine, and partly because he got older. So much of looking after babies, is just living through their phases – thank goodness everything seems to change reasonably quickly.

Around 4.30pm
Start by getting everything ready for bed. Prepare their nursery, put out their night clothes and a nappy, and get the bottles and muslins ready if you’re bottle feeding. Make sure the baby monitor is in the right place {I recommend this Motorola Video Monitor}. Find the towels, and get everything you need for a bath. We put on a towelling dressing gown to get the babies out the bath – that way we don’t get wet, and it’s lovely and snuggly for them.

Give them a decent feed. Now this might be easier said than done – because it depends how your day has gone. I started trying the routine on the day that Arthur was coincidentally due a feed at 5pm. That way he was hungry enough to eat properly.

Around 5.30 / 5.40pm

Once they’re finished, give them about ten minutes after they’ve burped to let their food settle, and then take them into the warm bathroom and give them a bath. Five to ten minutes will be enough at first, and then wrap them in a towel, and take them into their nursery, or your room – wherever they’re sleeping.

This is when I start to follow Gina Ford really closely. She suggests everything after bath-time should be quiet and calm. My husband used to say goodnight just after Ivo’s bath, and I’d do the rest of the routine on my own. No popping in for a last look – I was really militant about no extra stimulation! We still do the same routine with Arthur now.

I close the door, dim the lights, and get him dressed while singing a lullaby. I don’t give him any toys – I want him to wind down ready to go to sleep. I do everything calmly and peacefully.

Now I give him a lovely big feed – it’s a bottle now, but it used to be a breastfeed. Then a good burp {this is really important – don’t put them down until they’ve burped – it can take up to 20 minutes!}, and then into the Moses basket or cot to sleep – this should be before 7pm. Often they’ll fall asleep in your arms, so it’s all about a quiet transfer into their bed. Now turn out the lights, close the door, and have a glass of wine!

So that’s what it looks like on paper, but needless to say, every baby is different. Ivo would fall asleep, and pretty much stay asleep until 10pm, when we gave him another feed. Arthur was a different kettle of fish altogether. It took us about 3 weeks of ‘Witching’, before he got the hint, and slept from 7pm for a few hours. I’d be walking backwards and forwards in the dark, trying to soothe him – but the main thing is not to give up. Stay in the dark room, don’t talk around them, and eventually they will settle.

More Routine
Once I had this part of the routine sorted out, I aimed to do a really good feed at 10pm. Gina Ford and Tracy Hogg call this the Dream Feed, and sometimes this meant waking up my babies for food. You’ll have to decide where you stand on waking up babies to feed them – some people completely disagree with it – others consider it a complete life-saver. We’ve always done Dream Feeds, and I reckon they’ve led to good longterm sleep routines for my boys – but who knows – maybe if I hadn’t done them, we’d be in exactly the same position!

What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear from you – Arthur can still be naughty at night, so any tips gratefully received!

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