Writing about routines seems appropriate when we are coming out of a week where our routine has been seriously interrupted. Last week, I saw what it is like (for me and my kids) on the other side... the no routines side. It was not pretty.
I know there are many people who hear the word "routine" and shudder. I can honestly say that, having 3 children in 3 years, the one thing that has kept me sane (more than sane, actually loving life), apart from the grace of God, is following a flexible routine.
My baby routine is the most flexible of our routines. Miss 3 month's routine needs to fit around preschool drop off and pick up times, Bible study, play-group, daddy's work times... When 2.5, and even Mr 18 months were babies, there was not as much flexibility required. Having said that though, I have done pretty much the same thing with all three babies in the first 3 months.
Go with the flow
I am blessed that my husband has always had at least 2 weeks off work after the birth of each child. I have been in hospital for half of the first week each time. We have also been blessed with meals from our church family. All I need to focus on during that first week is following and observing what bub is doing.
Start introducing a 3 hour routine, with a lot of flexibility.
With my babies, this week has mostly been spent getting them to differentiate between night and day. During the day, I don't allow them to go longer than 3 hours between feeds (from the start of one feed to the start of the next). This sometimes involves waking a sleeping baby (Gasp! Horror!). At night, I let baby sleep until he/she wakes up.Although I am happy to wake baby for a feed, I am not happy to hold off feeds. If baby wakes earlier than 3 hours and is hungry, I feed.
Week 3 - 6:
Feed - wake - sleep
The most important part of the routine I follow is not watching the clock, but keeping things in a consistent order. I start following the feed-wake-sleep cycle from whenever baby becomes more alert and awake (which was from day one with Miss 2.5, day four-ish with Mr 18 months and about week 3-4 with Miss 3 months).
Basically, baby has a full feed, then is awake for up to an hour, then goes to sleep. Doesn't that sound simple? Those with babies of course know, that usually one (or all) components of the cycle are a bit harder than that (e.g. baby is not feeding well, baby falls asleep during the feed, baby won't go to sleep, baby has bad wind pain or reflux...). But I found with my babies that knowing where I am up to in the cycle helps me figure out how I should try to help an unsettled baby (e.g. if they just fed, probably don't try feeding again straight away or if they just woke up from a two hour sleep they are probably not crying because they are tired...)
By the way, don't believe any book that tells you that following the feed-wake-sleep cycle will ensure your baby sleeps through the night by x weeks of age. As I mentioned, I did this with all 3 babies. Miss 2.5 slept from after a 10pm feed - 6am from about 10 weeks, Miss 3 months has been doing the same thing from about 11 weeks. Mr 18 months however did not sleep through the night until after 8 months of age. Sleeping through the night is not really the goal!
Week 6+ (warning: includes gratuitous pictures of my little one):
1) Mix up the wake time:
|Floor time - on back|
|A bouncer to watch the rest of the family in action|
|Play with mummy/ daddy/ siblings|
2) Start a consistent bedtime routine.
For us this involves dinner, family Bible time, bath, story, kid's Bible, prayers (and later sharing time/ thank you God...with one parent). Miss 3 months usually has a feed just before our dinner, watches us have dinner then has a bath. Depending how tired she is after that she will go straight to bed or observe story, kid's Bible and prayer time.
3) Tell baby what is happening
e.g. "You're awake. Mummy is going to feed you now". "I'm putting you under the play-gym". "Let's go over on your tummy", "You are getting tired". "It's time for sleeping now". (No, baby won't understand you, but they are getting used to hearing your voice. It is a good signal/ warning that something is about to change.)
How do you feel? Do you love routines? Do they make you shudder? Or somewhere in between?