For the first 4 months a routine is more about laying some good foundations, you are still getting to know your baby and understand their individual needs. We advocate that any routine should work for you and your family and that you shouldn’t feel pressure to conform to other people’s ideals.
There are, however, a few things that you can look out for that will help you determine what sort of routine will work for your baby.
Learning your baby’s sleep cues
Learning your baby’s hunger cues
Introducing some basic self-care rituals
Sleep or a lack of sleep is probably one of the biggest adjustments that new parents have to make. So, let’s talk about how we can use a routine to help create good habits that will set you up as your little one grows.
What is your baby’s natural asleep and awake times? You can find this out by tuning into the cues that they show you. A baby will experience something called sleep ‘pressure’ it is a process that the brain goes through which gradually increases the pressure to tell your baby that it is time to sleep. A young baby will experience this much more frequently as their brains need a lot of sleep to grow. We can take advantage of this sleep ‘pressure’ by learning what signs to look out for. You might see them – rubbing their eyes, pulling at their ears, yawning or becoming fussier. These are all things that you can use to guide you on when to put your baby down for a nap. As your baby grows, the length of time that they are able to stay awake will gradually increase.
In the early days, you will largely be led by when your baby wants to sleep but as they approach the 4-6 week mark you can start to help your baby learn the difference between daytime and night-time. This can be achieved by reacting to them differently during the day and night. This might sound simple, but it is a really easy way to help get your baby into a good rhythm. When you are ready you can start this off by helping to establish a consistent wake up time in the morning, this will help your baby to understand when it is the morning. It can be as simple as scheduling in a feed and opening the curtains in the morning to let in the natural light.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON IDEAL BEDTIME – 0 – 3 MONTHS+
[0 – 6 WEEKS OLD] – 8.00PM – 10.00PM
[6 – 10 WEEKS OLD] – 8.00PM – 9.00PM
[3 MONTHS+] – 7.00PM – 8.00PM – WE USUALLY PUT BABIES ONTO A 7.00AM – 7.00PM SCHEDULE
RECOMMENDATIONS ON DAYTIME SLEEP – 0 – 3 MONTHS+
[0 – 6 WEEKS OLD] – 5.5 – 6 HOURS – TYPICALLY WILL BE TAKEN IN FREQUENT SHORT NAPS
[6 – 10/12 WEEKS OLD] – 4.5 – 5 HOURS
[3 MONTHS+] – 3.5 – 4 HOURS – USUALLY SPREAD OVER 3 NAPS
RECOMMENDATIONS ON TOTAL SLEEP – 0 – 3 MONTHS+
[0 – 12 WEEKS OLD] – 16 – 18 HOURS IN 24HRS
[3 MONTHS+] – 15 HOURS IN 24HRS
RECOMMENDATIONS ON AWAKE TIME – 3 MONTHS+
[0 – 12 WEEKS OLD] – THIS WILL VERY MUCH DEPEND ON YOUR BABY, BUT LOOKOUT FOR THOSE EARLY TIRED CUES TO ESTABLISH HOW LONG THEY ARE HAPPY TO BE UP. IT WILL NATURALLY INCREASE OVER THE WEEKS.
[3 MONTHS+] – 1.5 – 2.5 HOURS
OUR TOP TIP
IF YOU CAN AVOID FEEDING TO SLEEP FROM AROUND 6 – 12 WEEKS, THEN IT WILL GO A LONG WAY INTO HELPING YOU DOWN THE LINE IF YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO SELF-SOOTHE.
WE LOVE TO FOLLOW THIS PATTERN
SLEEP – FEED – PLAY
If you do want to follow this pattern then try not to worry if your baby does fall asleep during a feed, this is NOT a failure. It is not always possible to follow a strict pattern; babies have ups and downs just like adults and the best thing you can do is to listen to what your baby needs.
Feeding is another big factor to include in any routine, and that includes finding time for you to eat as well. During the first few weeks at least you’ll be guided by your baby on how much and how often they want to feed but you’ll be looking to make sure that they are fed at least every three hours.
In terms of routine here, you can start to put in some more predictability by starting the day off right – we love to suggest that you are guided by the first feed of the day. So whatever time you decide you want to start the day, pop in a feed here. This will signal to your baby that it is time to get up. Even if they go back down for a nap shortly afterwards you can set them up in their daytime sleeping set-up to help their body start to understand the difference between day and night.
Understanding your baby’s hunger cues will go a long way into helping you determine the frequency at which they. Individually need to be fed. You might see them, putting their fists in their mouth, turning the head and nestling into you this is called seeking or rooting, they might open and close and become more physically active, usually crying is a late hunger cue so if possible, try and catch them a bit earlier this will mean that if you have a particularly fussy baby that they are more likely to have a calmer feed.
If you are breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby, then you can expect to be feeding them at least 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. The amount of time that they feed for will vary from baby to baby so try not to be worried if they take a long time or seem to only feed in shorter bursts, this is completely normal. If you feel that you are having problems with feeding, then please consult your doctor.
Establishing a good basic bathing routine from a young age can be a great thing to include in any routine. We wouldn’t suggest bathing a new-born every night as this can dry out their skin, instead you can take some cotton wool or reusable cotton pads and dip them in some lukewarm water to give baby a clean, focusing particularly on the areas such as the folds in their neck, arms and legs. This will help to stop any build up from milk residue which can occur when milk drips down into their neck during feeds. You could also think about introducing some baby massage into your self-care routine, this is not necessary if you don’t have time, but some parents find it a nice way to have a calm bonding time before bed, particularly nice for the partner who might not be able to help out with feeding in the early days.
Simple self-care opportunities also include taking a moment each morning to change baby from his/her bedtime clothes into their daytime clothes, this is another easy thing to introduce that will help everyone transition from night into day.
Make sure that you take the opportunity to have some food and drink lots of water through the day, sometimes it might feel difficult to prioritise yourself but remember you are just as important.
Sometimes things won’t go to plan and that is ok. Take a deep breath, you can always get the routine back on track. If you don’t, then also know that is OK. Find what works for you, your baby and your family. Our best advice is to always trust your instincts as the parent you know your baby better than anyone!
If you need a little help along the way, then we are always here for you.
Remember to always be kind to yourself.
Chris and Rose x
We are Chris and Rose and together we created Expect the Best. We want to help parents feel confident and secure as they navigate the ups and downs of parenting. We met in London whilst both working for different families. Immediately we found in each other a kindred spirit. The love and laughter we have found in our friendship has created the strongest foundations for our business.
Looking after children can be overwhelming and difficult. It is arguably the most important role of your life, and one people often feel the least prepared for. But that is why we are here. To help guide you through the ups and downs. For us it’s about helping you to bring up your family with your values and your beliefs at the heart of it and to help you feel confident enough to trust your instincts and not be afraid of getting it ‘wrong’. We offer a range of packages from a one hour phone consultation to daily WhatsApp support, every package we have comes with a detailed plan of action.
Or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org