Why, when and how to establish a routine.
Routine can be the saviour for some and a sin for others. Some parents want a go with the flow approach and that is fine, if it is working for them. However, if you are thinking about establishing a routine there are some real positives to doing so.
The first is that most infants and children thrive on routine. Especially when this routine coincides with biological wake windows, once they have developed, and circadian rhythm. By working with these biological aspects we can ensure we are placing bub down for sleep at times that they are more likely to fall to sleep, and stay asleep. The benefits of this are that bub is well rested, happier and development is supported by restorative sleep. This also gives parents a foundation so that spotting those tired signs is much more straightforward. Furthermore, this can provide structure to your day, allowing you to plan activities around it. This can be easier for school drop offs and pick ups and also when others are looking after your little one – such as daycare. Getting the right amount of day sleep, and day calories can also help with the consolidation of night sleep, allowing them to sleep for longer periods overnight too.
So when might it be a good time to start establishing a routine? Once feeding is established in newborns, you can start moving towards a very loose structure of the day. This may look like a three hourly cycle of awake, feed, nap, with a consistent start and end of the day. By following this consistency, as well as establishing some great sleep environment factors, bub gets used to it and patterns can start to emerge in sleep relatively early on. It’s worth noting that of course, some babies are not able to do this in the early days, there may be reflux, CMPI, or any other factors playing a part, and that is totally normal too. It’s also worth noting you may not want a routine, you may wish to be flexible and just enjoy this time which is also completely fine!
Another great time to establish a routine is when biological sleep windows start to arise, circadian rhythm starts to settle and melatonin production becomes an influence. Around 3-6 months is a perfect time to start working towards a more structured day.
So where to start with this? The first aspect is to establish a consistent wake time and a consistent bedtime. By doing this you will help bubs circadian rhythm to stabilise. The next area to work on is naps, keeping in mind the age appropriate awake time for the bub. Again, there are biological sleep windows, so setting bub down for a nap in between these times is a great way to achieve an easier settle. If bub is still doing a third nap, this may be more difficult as there is no sleep window here, so an assisted nap is useful at this time. Once this is established you now need to work on nap length. If your little one is catnapping you need to work on resettling so that they are getting age appropriate lengthed naps and therefore enough restorative sleep in the day. Finally, make sure you adjust your routine as your bub grows. Their sleep needs change almost monthly in the first 8 months and then again at 12 months and again at 18 months, so being aware of their cues and the sleep they need is vital to maintaining a good routine!
If the information in this post is resonating with you, then I can likely help you further! Drop me an email and get in touch.