A Gentle Start – a guide to establishing a routine for you and your baby.

When mentioned to new parents, the word “routine” often conjures up images of clock watching, only feeding a baby when the book tells you to, leaving a baby to cry and putting a baby to bed when perhaps you feel they are not ready for sleep. You may also have read more than one baby book, which often contain conflicting advice.Whilst all these books have excellent tips and advice about the care of babies, none of these books arespecifically about your baby or your family lifestyle.


As adults, we all have some structure to our day – usually waking at the same time in the morning, leaving for work and when we eat. Once we become parents, it is this daily structure that we should consider when thinking about routines for the newest member of our family, as ultimately it is good to have a baby whose routine fits in with your family rather than a family having to fit in around a routine.


Not only can it help parents knowing what “might” be happening next and how to preempt the needs of their baby, but it can also help the baby, as they too will begin to know “what might be happening next” for example, if you give your baby a bath every night as part of their bedtime routine, your baby will begin to realise that after their bath, they are likely to get a feed before bedtime, creating a reassuring feeling.


At the beginning the simplest advice I can give you is to maximize the number of feeds you offer your baby during the day. Ideally try feeding your baby at least every three hours. They may well wake for a feed sooner and that is absolutely normal. If your baby seems agitated less than three hours before their last feed, it may be worth considering whether your baby might be something other than hungry eg tired, in need of a cuddle or just wanting to spend some time looking around their new home!


Often, when we first become parents we are so desperate to never let our baby become upset we automaticallyoffer a feed every time they cry or become unsettled. This can often lead to a Catch-22 situation where the baby is never hungry enough to have a proper feed, which subsequently means they are never full enough to have a proper sleep, which in turn causes them to not have enough energy to take a proper feed, and so the cycle continues.


Another great option is to go out for a walk. Babies nearly always sleep once wrapped up and snuggled in their pram. By gently offering an alternative to a feed, your baby will be likely to feed better, whether breast or bottlefed, at their next feed. However, if you feel that your baby is hungry before the next feed is due, you must feed your baby.


By simply maximising the number of feeds your baby has during the day, you are automatically differentiating day from night, making daytime the “active” part of your baby’s day. I also recommend that daytime feeds are in bright rooms, with lots of natural light, and that night time feeds are calm and quiet, in a dimly lit room, preferably the room in which the baby sleeps. Introducing a bath in the evening is also a great way of encouraging a calming bedtime routine, however I would not recommend bathing a hungry baby as they are likely to become very distressed. It is better to offer half a feed then bath the baby, after which you can then offer the other half of the feed.


Not only is it important to consider your baby’s needs during the day, but it is also vitally important to consider your needs. It is only natural that you will be keen to introduce your friends and family to the newest member of your family, but be careful not to overdo it.


Visitors can be terribly helpful, especially the ones who come clutching meals and offer to care for your baby whilst you have a shower or a rest, but they can also be extremely exhausting if they stay too long or expect to be waited on! Do not be afraid of giving friends set times to visit, that suit you and your baby ie “please do come at 10.30 for an hour, as at 11.30 I will need to feed”. Also limit your visitors to perhaps one every other day, to give you, your partner and your baby enough time to bond, rest and recover from birth.

┬ęSarah Wheeler 1st May 2014


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