Routine|Babies|sleeping through|Night nannies| Is a routine really that important when encouraging positive sleep habits?

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am a spontaneous kinda gal and like to think of myself as a bit of a free spirit and before i became a mother myself i did my best to avoid any kind of routine what so ever. I have a rebellious spirit i guess and to me routine is just BORING….However in my years as a night nanny I’ve yet to meet a child who slept well at night and was on the way to sleeping all night who didn’t have a daytime routine of some sort in place. Something that became concrete, when i became a mother myself is that babies do sleep better and longer when on a routine.

Please don’t misunderstand me when i say ‘routine’ i’m not for a moment suggesting that you buy one of those books from a childless baby expert (who shall remain nameless, but you know i mean) and follow a carefully structured and timed routine for you baby to the absolute minute…..if you have and its working for you AND your baby then by all means continue……

I’ve worked with many new and first time mothers who are following these routines and then getting frustrated or end up feeling a failure because their baby didn’t want to feed at 11pm, he prefered to have his feed at 9.40pm and this where i say to all mums use these routines as a guideline only, a rough map if you will, as to what to do with your baby and when but ultimately following your baby’s cues needs to be more important than following what time The routine says your baby needs a nap.

These routines that are often published in many baby books can be helpful, they can help paint a picture of a typical day in an average baby’s life, but, and in my opinion they can also set many new mums up for failure. Firstly, your baby isn’t average he’s special and he’s yours and secondly, i can guarantee that that routine that’s making you feel like a failure, wasn’t written with your baby in mind. That baby expert doesn’t personally know your baby, so don’t take it too literally. The routine may say to feed your baby at 9am but your baby may have already fed and is actually quite sleepy at 9am. By all means follow your baby’s cue and put him down for a nap.

While having a routine in place is helpful remember to allow some flexibility to it and to follow your baby’s lead and cues. Use routines as a guideline ONLY and keep a record of what your baby does each day. Start baby’s day at roughly the same time everyday and after several days of observing and recording what your baby is doing you may just find that your baby has created a routine all of his own.

Allow me to share my story of routine with you:
I’d been night nannying for three years by the time i became a mummy myself and i was so excited at the thought of having my very own baby to look after. A lot of the mothers i worked with at the time had read ‘The Contended Little Baby Book’ and in my opinion were far to hung up on routines and driving themselves crazy because their babies didn’t always co-operate or sync with what a routine dictated. I made a conscious decision from quite early on in my pregnancy to not follow a routine at all. I figured I didn’t want my time at home with my baby to feel like work :trying to keep a clearly hungry baby happy until Gina ford said it was ok to feed them at 10.30 pm. Sod that! i decided if my baby was hungry she would get fed when she wanted it, if she was sleepy i wouldnt try to keep her awake til nap time officially started i just decided i was going with my baby’s flow.
I planned to do a bedtime ritual/routine and start mine and baby’s day between 7/8 am everyday and the rest Nia and i would make up as we went along.

It wasnt until Nia was about 8 weeks old that i realised we had fallen into a regular routine all on our own.
Our day started at 7 with a breastfeed in bed, then a little bit of play time a nap at around 8/9 for a 30/45 mins then waking for another feed. A big 2/3 sometimes 4 hr nap around lunchtime followed by another feed, another snooze of around 30/45 mins around 5/6pm with a bath, a massage and feed before she settled to sleep at roughly 10pm. She’d then sleep till around 4 when I’d feed her again for as long as she wanted til she settled back to sleep til the morning. Nia then started sleeping through the night at around 9/10 weeks old with no help or coaxing on my part other than teaching her how to settle to sleep, without my help. When she was sleeping through the night, every night it did often feel like my day was just a constant cycle of feeding her and putting her down for a nap. I’m sure this was due to the fact that she was making up for the milk feeds she no longer got at night during the day. I did note also that by following her cues more closely, that i needed to change the time we started our bedtime routine. When I first started bedtime ritual i would begin at around 8.30, so by 9.30 when i was trying to settle her she was then overtired and found it difficult to wind down. i played with the timings and then found through trial and error that by bringing her bedtime ritual forward to start at 7pm rather than 8.30 that by 8pm Nia would be naturally tired and ready to fall asleep peacefully rather than overtired and fractious causing her to fight her sleep.

My advice:
1. Use any routines as a guideline only, a rough framework to how you day could look but ultimately follow your baby’s lead. If your baby cues that she is tired or hungry earlier or later than is expected follow her cues and adjust the routine accordingly.

2. Keep a log of what your baby does on a day-to-day basis, a simple note of time fed, time fell asleep/woke up etc. Look back over what you have recorded you may notice that your baby has set in place his or her own pattern or routine

3. Remember we all have off days! we are only human and the same applies to your baby. you may have a day when everything goes pear-shaped, is nowhere near a routine or even your baby’s usual routine…its no big deal…. tomorrow is a another day.
take note though that if things really do go off the rails its could be that your baby is ill or unwell. Thats why i recommend keeping simple log as mentioned above so that you can more easily identify what is normal for your baby…..relax!!

Thank you for reading my blog post.

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