First things first, congratulations are in order! Whether you’re supporting a growing bump (in the most literal sense and figuratively too) or have already given birth, welcome to parenthood. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster but well worth the ride. And while the first few months can be a tad bumpy, having a newborn routine can certainly help.
Benefits of a newborn routine
Even as adults, many of us benefit from a schedule that sets expectations for each day, and our babies are no different. Goodness knows there’s a lot for them to take in so having a newborn routine provides consistency in a very new world. It helps you too when the sleep deprivation kicks in and you don’t know whether it’s day or night!
Working to a similar rhythm each day also helps your little one to develop healthy habits. They come to learn the importance of eating and sleeping as well as when to do so, plus the behavioural differences from day to night. As much as consistency is key, there should still be room for flexibility. Your routine will naturally shift as your baby grows to accommodate their changing needs. What matters most is to go at a pace that suits you and your baby.
Good morning world
A lot may change when baby arrives but parts of their newborn routine should be fairly, well, routine. Start the day by letting the natural light in (or flick a switch during winter), pop the radio on and get out of your pjs. That doesn’t mean being less comfy - that’s what all in ones and yoga pants are for! But it does signal to our bodies (big and small) that it’s time to wake up. Trying to get up at a regular time each day also helps build a natural body rhythm.
If you’re pottering around the house, pop your little one in a carrier and chatter to them as you go. They love the sound of your voice at this age so it helps you to bond with baby and keeps them engaged. Make sure you’re looking after yourself as well! Keep hydrated, eat well, rest up and get help if you need it. Company, if you’re feeling up to it, can also give you moral support and it’s always nice if someone else brings you a cuppa while you're comfy on the couch.
In the first few weeks of welcoming your beautiful babe, they can sleep for up to 18 hours a day. However, it won’t be for more than 1-3 hours at a time as their little tummies need frequent topping up. When they go down for a nap (and you should follow suit if you can), don’t block out all ambient noise. This helps them to learn when it’s daytime.
At about 6 weeks, your little one should (hopefully) begin sleeping for shorter spells during the day and longer at night. As they find their natural pattern by around 3 months, you can introduce a daytime nap routine. After lots of playtime stimulation, try to pre-empt their sleepiness. Whether they nap every couple of hours or at specific times, it’s better to put your little one down while they’re still awake. This encourages them to settle themselves to sleep.
Food, glorious food
Whether you decide that breast is best or bottle is better, baby will certainly be hungry. It takes a lot of energy to make their grand entrance into the world! As such, feeding is oh-so-important in any newborn routine. Don’t worry about developing a feeding routine from the day your little bundle is born though. Take your time to find your feet, get to know your precious new addition and go from there. They’ll certainly let you know when hunger strikes!
In the first few months, babies often feel the need to feed frequently; sometimes as often as every 90 minutes. They only have tiny tummies after all which fill up (and empty) very quickly. There are different approaches to feeding, either baby-led or parent-led, and the choice is yours. No matter whether you feed on demand or on a schedule, what’s most important is that your little one steadily gains weight and gets all the nutritious goodness they need.
Bath and bedtime
At such a young age, baby’s sleep is erratic so it can be hard to work into a newborn routine. However, you can make waves (sometimes literally) in the right direction which help your little one recognise when it’s time to slumber. Like bathtime and baby massage for instance which relax tiny tots and can be a wonderful way to bond too. Spend about 30 minutes winding down together and, where possible, aim for a regular bedtime around 6:30-8:30pm.
Before you even splash water around, dim the lights to a soft and gentle glow. When you speak to them, use hushed tones and sing calming lullabies. You can also safely swaddle your little bundle for the first 2-3 months to help settle and comfort them. These techniques help to signal a change from day to night and encourage them to sleep. And when baby wakes for feeds during the night, try to keep lights and sounds to a minimum so you can all sleep better.
Regardless of what the internet or other parents suggest, your newborn routine has to work for you and your baby. Don’t feel afraid to tweak it and make changes when you need to. This helps to better prepare little ones for other changes and interruptions to their schedule as they grow up. And remember that a little patience, with yourself as well as your little one, goes a long way. Parenting isn’t always easy but just one smile makes it all worthwhile.