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Let’s Talk Routines!

Let’s Talk Routines!

The word routine brings dread to so many people but also can bring confidence and joy.

It’s a controversial word, I know.

What is a routine?

A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it?! As parents of a small baby or toddler,we mean a routine is a structure to your day that determines when your baby will nap, feed, have their awake time and so on.

That’s all we mean by routine!

But I do know that routines can be quite divisive in parenting and I really hope that this blog post helps to reassure you that it is possible to find a routine that is flexible and works for you and your family.

Routines are usually worked around your child’s age and their awake periods. For a smaller baby of 3 months of age you’d probably look at 1.5 hours of awake time – the maximum time they’d be awake from one nap – their “awake window”. This is what their routine is based around. In my online shop I have routines available for you to purchase that outline the ideal awake windows for babies and toddlers of different ages and you can, also, check out my sleep courses for all the extra details on specific awake windows.

Feeding plays a huge part in determining your little one’s day routine. 

Feeds usually fit around sleep times and I tend to recommend that babies follow a pattern of feed – awake – then sleep, rather than feeding to sleep, to help create good sleep patterns from early on. As babies have more awake time it’s great to break up the feeding and sleeping, if you’re looking to implement healthy sleep habits from the beginning.

You can still feed on demand and have a healthy sleep routine. 

Most routines recommend sleep and feed times combined. You can just have a sleep routine and then you will choose when you fit your feeds around that – I truly believe building a routine that works for baby AND you is the most important thing. Routines should never mean not feeding your baby if they’re hungry; any routine I use is always super responsive. 

I believe you must be responsive to your baby.

For some babies with sensitive tummies, when they feed will also determine how well they sleep. If possible, it’s helpful to think of having a feeding structure and the feeds and sleeps working in unison with each other to support them.

How do you find a routine that fits you and your baby?

When looking for that perfect routine for your family, make sure it works for you. For example, if Daddy gets home at 7pm for work and you want the baby or toddler to spend time with Dad before they go to bed then, ultimately, you would fit your feed and sleeps around that. It’s absolutely fine to pick a routine based on your lifestyle and how you’d like it to be, including which parent is involved in bedtime.

There are so many places to find a routine for your baby and it really depends on your approach to parenting. Some are fairly strict, which often incorporates when Mum should eat / pump or shower – and I know from experience that some of my clients really need set routines to help them to feel more in control. You can buy my recommended routines here.

For others, you might want a rough pattern to your day. Perhaps you know a routine helps baby sleep well but you still want to be able to go out in your day with flexibility. This is also totally fine, therefore a strict routine won’t work for you as a family. You would want to find a more flexible routine.

Is there such a thing as a flexible routine?

I always stress that you must pick the approach that works best for your family.

Whichever camp you fit into, I think it’s really important to make clear that having a routine doesn’t mean giving up your life. I promise you! It is definitely something that people believe and we have a tainted view on the word “routine”–  when people hear the word “routine” it can put people into a panic! People have horror stories of friends losing touch because they were stuck tightly to strict routines – some people need that structure and we shouldn’t judge what works for them – but it doesn’t have to be your routine. You can have a routine that means you can go to baby classes and out for lunch with some flexibility. 

I always tell my clients it’s important to focus on balance. 

A routine doesn’t mean you have to be super strict or lose your independence! Having a balance, alongside some structured routined sleeps, your baby will learn to sleep better. A one off day out of routine will not affect your baby – it’s totally fine (and really good fun for you all!) to have the odd day out and it’s really healthy for you all.

How do we go about setting up a routine?

The first thing to think about is to clear your diary for a week. That will mean no classes or commitments for one week (just a week!) whilst you get your baby into a new pattern. This doesn’t mean it’s forever, it just means you’re going to give  a good focus for a week.

A routine sets their body clock so they learn to feed and sleep at the same time each day and there are huge advantage of this.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go out of the house! There’s usually a morning, lunch and afternoon nap (if 6-7 months or under). I’d suggest an afternoon out or about can be a really good thing.

Think about gently nudging your baby in the direction of your routine by waking them at the same time each day and put them to bed at the same time each day, too. Before you begin your focused week, you can start to slowly nudge towards the time you want to wake them and for them to go down. As you start to continue to wake your baby at the same time each day, their internal body clock will start learning and help them to wake up more easily. 

Your baby’s circadian rhythm doesn’t fully develop until about 3-4 months but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine and if you help them to adjust their waking and bedtimes actually they will develop it more easily. So from 7am have the lights on, open the blinds, make noise, put the radio on  – so they know it’s time to start the day. Similarly for the evening at 7pm make everything calm, no blue light or screens, darkness and whispering to show them it’s time for sleep. These subtle clues do help to set up a routine.

There has to be a balance and it must be healthy: look at how you can make your routine flexible to suit your family.


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