You and your baby are safely home and settled in – now what? Despite all the baby gear that has taken over your home, babies primarily need 3 things – food, sleep and a feeling of safety or security. Everything else most likely supports one of these basic needs. The bad news? These needs reoccur frequently, so much so that your life may seem like the back of a shampoo bottle. Lather, rinse, repeat. Or in this case, sleep, feed/diaper change, Mommy time – and then do it all again within the next 120 to 180 minutes! It’s no wonder Moms are exhausted.
However tiring it is, establishing routines, even for an infant, is important. Easier said than done, especially if you feel like you spend most of your time in a sleep-deprived fog, so we have some routine tips for babies to help you focus on the basics!
Let’s face it; your baby will spend most of his awake time eating, so it’s important for you and him that you establish some sort of a routine. Whether breast- or bottle-feeding, you want to have a comfortable, cozy spot; after all, it’s very hard for your baby to relax and eat if you’re tensed up or stressed out. A glider, a comfy chair or just a relaxing place in your house works wonderfully. Play some music or put something you enjoy on the TV. If possible, have a water bottle or glass within reach. Make this time about you and your child, so if possible, avoid distractions like an iPhone or other device – though, it is good to have a watch, phone or clock within sight, especially if you’re a breast-feeding mom and need to keep track of feeding time. Feeding your child should be a pleasant time for both of you, so sit back, relax and enjoy. If you’re a mom to more than one, this time might not be as idyllic as it was with Baby #1, but do your best to entertain your other children with something that can keep them content and contained while you focus on the baby.
In terms of frequency, most moms – and pediatricians – recommend feeding when your baby shows signs of hunger such as crying or rooting. Keep in mind that a routine is just that and not a hard and fast schedule. With input from your doctor, you can judge how frequently and how much your child needs – and giving it to him supports that feeling of security that all babies crave.
Sleepy Time Schedule
Though it may not seem like it, a baby spends most of his young life sleeping. Therefore, it is important to establish sleep time rituals so that your child knows when it’s time to quiet down and drift off. Signs of fatigue for a baby include fussiness, yawning, rubbing his eyes, or droopy eyelids. The key is to start your bedtime routine before your child becomes overtired and the bedtime battle is lost. So, what should your routine be? Start calming and quieting down the activity level, probably an hour or so before you want bedtime to happen. A nighttime bath is a perfect way to do this and not only cares for your baby’s skin but also gives you some quality time with your little one and is a calming way to end the day (The 6 Things You Need to Know to Give Your Baby a Bath). Once your child is clean, comfy and ready for bed, you might want to rock him, sing or read – all are wonderful ways to end your child’s day on a happy note.
Naps will be different than nighttime, and you’ll discover what is your baby’s “normal” sleep schedule throughout the day – again, look for those cues that he’s tired. It’s a good habit to put your child down for a nap in the same place (such as a bassinet, his crib or pack and play) and try to maintain a consistent time frame; of course, this may not always be possible, but when you can, adhere to a somewhat normal nap schedule. However, motherhood and flexibility go hand in hand, so give yourself some leeway to deter from routines as needed.
“All Work and No Play . . .”
At your child’s young age, you may wonder how important playtime really is – and the answer is very! When your baby is not sleeping or eating, this is “wake time,” and even at a very young age, there is so much that he can learn and absorb about the world around him. Baby’s best play time will usually be after he’s eaten, but don’t be alarmed that the attention span is short – as in maybe only 5 to 10 minutes. That’s perfectly normal! You can engage your child through reading to him (yes, no matter the age), using toys, or with playtime on the floor including tummy time and other movements that use and increase motor skills. Babies almost always love music so play “Patty Cake” while your little one’s in his bouncy seat, introduce “instruments” including homemade ones like canisters filled with rice or beans or sing to him. Walks outside in good weather are great excursions for you both, and expose your baby to the sounds of nature, the feel of a breeze on his cheek and new surroundings. Just remember that the whole world is an amazing sensory experience for your child, so take the time to introduce and explore it with him! Playtime is also a Mommy/Baby bonding experience and expands that feeling of safety and security that we all want to provide to our children.
The bottom line is that establishing routines for your child does not involve rocket science. Rather, it’s more about identifying Baby’s basic needs and then doing all you can to meet them with confidence and consistency. You are your child’s whole world, so the more comfortable you become, the better you both will be! Yet as you go along, developing the routines and schedules that work best for you and your child, don’t forget to include a little flexibility; it’s a big beautiful world out there, and neither of you want to miss it!
Egan, Kerry. “Routines for a Happy Baby.” Parents.com. http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/routines-for-a-happy-baby-a-5-step-guide/
Latvala, Charlotte. “4 Most Important Baby Routines.” Parenting.com. http://www.parenting.com/article/4-most-important-baby-routines