It is almost impossible to establish a routine with a newborn. They eat, sleep, poop, repeat. For the first few months we are on their schedule. Whatever they need we bend our routine around them. But when it is time and your baby is ready it's so important to establish a routine. It makes life easier for you and your little one.
After the newborn stage, my husband and I selfishly had Grace on our schedule in order to maximize sleep and also time with her. She would go to bed when we did. Sometimes it would be ten o'clock, other times we wouldn't get ready for bed until 11:30 and that is when we would put her down for sleep too. She was a fussy baby, her eating times were all over the place, she would wake up multiple times a night to eat, and my husband and I never got alone time together because she was following our schedule. It was chaos. We didn't have any type of normality. We realized that we had to make a major switch in order for our family to be able to function.
Enter: A routine!
Our first step to doing this was letting Grace lead us for a few days. We watched her cues for tiredness and hunger. We made some observations in a little notebook we had lying around the house. The reason we did this was to see what natural routine she had established on her own. By doing this we were able to build a routine that made sense for Grace. We noticed that she was waking up in the morning between 6:30 and 7 and started to get sleepy (but not ready for bed) at night around 6 and her naps were mid morning (9 or 10ish) and early afternoon (1 or 2ish). As far as eating, we basically just fed her when she was hungry and decided that after we had a wake/sleep schedule we would be able to set an eating one also. Once we saw her patterns we were on to our next step. Actually planning out her new schedule.
I know a lot of parents wake their children up at the same time every day but Michael and I decided that we would let Grace determine her wake up time. Honestly, the latest she has woken up since we started this has been 7:20. Her usual wake up time is around 6:45am. So on the rare occasion she sleeps past 7 it doesn't throw her off at all. We took the raw patterns of her day that she gave us and turned it into this:
6:30-7:30 - Wake-Up
15 minutes after wake up - first bottle
7:00-9:15 - Play time and cartoons
9:15-9:30 - Breakfast (usually oatmeal)
9:30-10:45 - Nap #1
10:45 - Bottle
11 - Play time (sensory play, supported sitting, etc.)
12:30 - Lunch
1(ish) - 2:15 - Nap #2 (last nap of the day)
2:30 - Bottle
3:15 - 5:15 - Play, activities, outside time, walks, etc
5:15 - Dinner
5:45-6:15 - Play and cartoons
6:15 - Start bed time routine
6:20 - Bath time
7 - Story and final bottle
7:30 - ASLEEP
Obviously, depending on our day and work schedules this routine fluctuates from time to time. We like to go to my in-laws house on Sundays for dinner so we have to start bath a little later than usual on those days.
This has seriously been a life changer for my husband and I. First, she is a much happier baby. She rarely fusses anymore unless it's close to nap time or bed time. She gets to enjoy being awake and loves to play. Secondly, we get more "us" time. Whether it be snuggling up on the couch and catching up on our shows together, or sitting next to him while he unwinds with video games and I catch up on the blog, it has been good for us to just have time without Grace needing to be tended to. We weren't doing her any justice by keeping her on our schedule and not creating one for her. It wasn't fair. Her needs are much different than ours.
A huge help in having this work for us was cutting out a late afternoon nap. I came up with the rule 'no naps after 5'. We were letting her nap whenever she was tired and that wasn't allowing us to have a consistent bed time. If she has had a really long we will usually start bath and bed time a little earlier so she doesn't go over the edge of tiredness. If it has been a normal day, we just try to keep her busy until it is time for bath, story and bed.
Another tip that I have to getting this to work is make sure your routine with your little one is established and solid before you start to make changes or disrupt it by staying out later than usual one day. We had this going for a good three to four weeks before we kept her out late or broke routine on a rare occasion.
My final tip is to start early. Once that newborn stage is over and they outgrow the night feeding, it is time! It's not only beneficial for your little one, it's beneficial for you and your partner.
When did you start establishing a routine for your little? What worked for you?
See you soon, E