I get asked this all the time, and my answer is always the same …. you can get your baby into a routine NOW, TODAY ! whatever age they are.
When should I use a routine ?
- If you are tired or exhausted from frequent feeds and lack of sleep at night
- If you want to reduce chaos and get some predictability so you know when you can do chores, or leave the house.
- If short and unpredictable daytime naps are stressing you out.
- If you need to go back to work.
- If you are struggling to manage partner, relationships, older children, work, pets, etc
If you or your baby are unhappy for any reason…there will be something you can do right now to make life better.
All the above comments have come from real mums from my mailing list and from my free FB group, Lockdown Babies, so if you are feeling the same way, you are not alone.
After 2 mums replied to an email saying they were worried about when they could start a routine, I raised the question in my FB group and got enough comments to keep me writing blogs for the next year !
I have a list of questions, including the dreaded 4 month sleep regression, that I am going to work through in my weekly blogs, but today I will start with concerns about when routines can be introduced.
How soon can I get my baby in a routine ?
When I go to work with client’s I put babies into a routine FROM BIRTH !
Or from whenever I set foot in their house, or when we speak by phone or on video call.
No matter how old the baby is, if something is going wrong, the best and safest thing we can do is to implement some sort of routine to reduce chaos, restore order, and allow us to see more clearly what is going on, which in turn shows us how best we can fix it.
I love routines, and so do my clients
The baby thrives, the parents get predictability and calm, which helps them gain confidence, understanding and skills…so why doesn’t everyone use a routine ? …
…It’s partly because of all the absolute rubbish that is written about routines that is making parents confused and so stressed and afraid that they can’t think clearly, they abandon common sense, and stop trusting their instincts.
Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.
Think about your own lives.
You know roughly when you get up and go to bed, when you are going to shower/bathe, eat, when you go to work, or exercise, or do the housework or gardening.
Most of you have different routines for week days and weekends, or for on holidays, or school holidays, and you do it all without thinking because the predictability gives you order and control, and the everyday habits give you security and make everything easier…you just know it makes sense.
You have your routines that work for you and your lifestyle, and when baby comes along, the practical thing throughout history, has been for baby to be slotted into that routine so we can continue our lives, to work and survive.
Unfortunately, nowadays we have more time on our hands, and spend too much of that time on the internet and social media, so are exposed more and more to the marketing, the myths, the misinformation, the personal bias, the conspiracies…all the crap that messes with our heads.
Parents feel anxious and overwhelmed, and the most common coping mechanism for this is to try and regain a sense of control by overthinking and micromanaging.
This actually makes things worse and it’s no wonder parents are confused and stressed, so let’s take a look and see if we can make sense of some of it.
What exactly is a routine ?
Firstly, the definition of Routine has become twisted and loaded with sinister overtones.
Routine simply means ‘a sequence of actions regularly followed’
*Oxford English Dictionary
It does NOT mean strict, or cruel, rigid, harmful or one size fits all.
Routines can be very flexible, and relaxed AND, most importantly…they can, and should be, personalised to you, your baby, your family, and the situation.
They should NOT be copied from someone else, or from a book, or from a blog, or a meme, or from a download or anywhere else.
If you create your own routine, it will be the right routine, fully understood, and controlled by you, and can be adapted by you when you need.
Ok, off my soapbox !
Can routines be harmful ?
One of the biggest myths that causes a lot of problems in the first few weeks is the idea that somehow breastfed babies can’t be put on a routine because they need to be fed more frequently, or the breasts won’t be stimulated frequently enough, or that you have to demand feed.
All of this is untrue, and I know it’s untrue because I’ve been using routines for years, very successfully, with no problems, and have taught my breastfeeding clients to do the same (any half decent maternity nurse can do the same, I’m not unique in this)
If you feed your new baby (in the first 2 weeks) every 2 to 3 hours during the day, and every 3 to 4 hours in the night, and you focus on making sure they feed well and are winded well, and your baby is happy and relaxed, they will be getting plenty of milk, and your breasts will be getting plenty of stimulation.
There is no ‘magical number’ of times that breasts need to be stimulated that guarantees a perfect supply, no matter what you hear, so stop worrying.
Every mother, baby and situation is different and deserves an individualised approach (I’ll deal with that properly in a future blog)
How can a routine help my baby ?
Another myth is that somehow routines in new babies are cruel but in fact it’s the total opposite.
A routine is a very kind thing in a baby because the regularity of food and sleep (their basic needs) become predictable, and the right routine makes it easier to ensure your baby never gets overhungry or overtired, so they are never stressed, and their bodies quickly get used to the pattern and they become relaxed and contented.
Do I need to have a routine ?
So, having just said it’s fine to have baby in a routine from birth, I’m now going to tell you that it’s fine to have NO routine from birth, because YOUR routine could actually mean having NO ROUTINE.
Remember the definition…’a sequence of actions regularly followed’, so if you regularly demand feed at irregular and unpredictable times…THAT is your routine… and that is perfectly fine.
It’s even possible to have a partial routine so maybe you have a routine for bedtime and starting the day, but then just wing it the rest of the time.
Basically do whatever feels right …as long as it is working for you and you baby. If you are all happy and healthy just keep doing what you are doing.
As soon as its stops working, for whatever reason, then you need to look at what is going wrong
What tends to happen with most people is that they get to a point where something becomes a problem, they get tired, or they have to go back to work, or they have to do school/nursery runs etc and this can happen at any time, especially in the first few months.
When your routine way of doing things isn’t working well anymore, don’t wait, don’t worry about if it’s the right time, don’t worry about your baby’s age, just start working on changing it immediately (before thing get any worse)
You cannot harm your baby in any way by introducing a well thought out, personalised routine, not when they are newborn, or when they are 6 weeks, or 3 or 4 months, or any age.
Tweaking or completely reworking your routine to deal with developmental changes, or illness, or work etc is a normal, healthy part of being a parent because no routine works for ever.
Routines, in whatever form, are your friend, so please, don’t be afraid or overwhelmed at the thought of them.
In my next blog I will be talking about how to create a routine, how to adapt someone else’s routine, and how to make sure it is fully flexible to cope with real life.
If you want to chat to other mums, in a safe and well moderated space, about anything baby related, you can join my free FB group, Lockdown Babies, we are all very friendly and welcoming, and there is no judgement or shaming…you can even talk about formula !
If you want to learn more about your baby, and how to understand and care for them, you might like to explore my very affordable online Baby Detective Parent Academy.
There are Video Courses, Masterclasses and Downloads, plus you get Direct Access to me through our private FB group, and the Weekly Coaching Calls. These last 1 to 2 hours, and is your chance to talk about your problem, and get a personalised action plan which I can then support you with over the week, before checking in again at the next call.
This way I get to know you and your baby, and we can make steady progress over time, and our current members have been getting great results working on sleep, winding, feeding, routines, lockdown, confidence, weaning, childcare, teething, regressions and leaps.
If you have any questions about the Academy, just email me at Sarah@babydetective.co.uk and we can arrange a time to chat.