Sadly, babies aren’t born with user manuals – how simple life would be if they were! Many parents (myself included) struggle with the unpredictability of babies and aim to set up a routine and structure to their day. For many babies this can be a really positive change. Babies often thrive on routine and parents can find that once a routine is established, their babies nap better, settle better and improve their night-time sleeping.
However, this isn’t something your need to concentrate on from day one. Babies develop their circadian rhythms (body clocks) and more mature sleeping patterns from around three months, and parents often have more success establishing structure from this point on. Try and embrace the unpredictability of the first few months of parenthood. Don’t worry about “creating bad habits”.
Once you are ready to work on routine, rather than reach for the books, to pre-prescribed routines, my advice to all parents is to discover, and work with, your baby’s own natural sleep patterns. Develop a bespoke routine that’s right for them.
Here are my top tips…
1. Aim to start each day within the same hour (e.g. 6-7am) and always ensure the first feed of the day is given in the light.
2. Aim to end each day within the same hour (e.g. 6-7pm) and always ensure bedtime routines are dimly lit. You can read my tips for bedtime routines here.
3. Aim for an 11-12hr night and an 11-12hr day. So, if your baby started their day at 7pm, aim for a bedtime between 6-7pm.
4. Learn your baby’s natural awake windows. This really is the key to developing the best routines. You can see my sleep charts here for a guide on awake windows.
5. Use your baby’s awake window as a guide to start watching for their sleepy cues.
6. Once you see the cues, start your wind-down time. See here for my wind-down tips.
7. Aim for a feed, awake time, sleep, feed, awake time, sleep structure to your day.
8. Be flexible! Babies aren’t robots and often no two days are the same. If your little one has had an extra-long nap, or a really short nap, this might impact on their awake window.
9. If your baby has missed the last nap of their day, don’t stick to a normal bedtime, bring it forward to compensate. Early bedtimes help more than they hinder.
If you are looking for some support with your little ones sleep please feel free to get in touch Vikki@allaboutbabies.org.uk or you can see our Sleep Support Plans here.