What kinds of routines are useful?
There are many small ways in which you can make life regular and predictable for your baby. This is not a timetable, but just that you do the regular things in roughly the same way each time.
Why does this matter? If life is predictable, then it is easier for your baby (and for you!), and also your baby will learn to anticipate events.
Here are some examples:
- whatever you are doing, talk to your baby about it – tell the story of what is happening. Your baby will hear your voice and this will help him or her to be more calm, but they will also notice the patterns of what you say and learn from these. The speech will give the event a pattern that they will learn and start to follow
- when changing, it can help to have a regular song, and a regular mat. You can start and end changing in the same way, with cuddles or a game so that it stops and starts with feeling good. Sometimes a particular toy can be around to help.
- similarly for bath time. Some babies really don’t enjoy this, but having a nice start and end, for example cuddles with the towel, and a regular pattern helps your baby learn that it won’t last for ever. Sometimes bathing together can be fun, and often a good thing for dads to help with
- When you are weaning your baby, it is best to offer food in the same regular place – the high chair, or similar – rather than “on the go”. This is important for building future habits for feeding, and can prevent problems before they arise.
- the most helpful routines are the ones you can do around bedtime. You can find more detail on this here.
Should we follow a fixed routine for feeding and sleeping times?
There is a lot of debate about how whether babies should be put on routines for eating and sleeping, and how soon this should happen. It can be quite confusing to know what is best.
Some babies fall into a routine naturally from very early on, while others do not. This is very individual, and usually part of their character, and does not matter for the future. What does matter is for you to respond to your baby’s needs as he or she has them – be it food, play, rest, sleep, cuddles, whatever. And to make the little events of life as regular as you can (see above)
If you do this, then over time your baby will start to learn about patterns and routines. You will be able to gently move towards a routine that suits you. But there is no rush, no timetable, and no deadline. You will never go wrong in responding to your baby.
Even when the daily timetable seems to be established, it is OK to be flexible! Don’t miss out on the sunshine just because the book says your baby should be asleep. And every baby has ups and downs when the plan just does not work out.
You can do things from early on to help your baby learn the difference between night and day, and this can be really helpful for later sleep habits – click here for some simple steps.