Having a baby can disrupt any existing routine you had. In fact, you may find that it’s impossible to establish any routine in the first few weeks. However, you don’t have to follow your baby’s lead forever. In fact, as early as four weeks, you may be able to start creating a schedule for feeding them, dressing them, bathing them and getting them ready for bed. And top of this, you can adopt your own personal routine – including creating a schedule for looking after yourself and your home.
But why establish a routine? Isn’t it better to let your baby decide when they want to feed and sleep? While it may seem simpler at first to go with the flow, there are long-term advantages to trying to get your baby to adapt to a schedule. Here are just some of the benefits explained.
You can make sure your baby is eating/drinking enough
At first, it may seem like a good idea to nurse your baby whenever they cry as a way to soothe them. During the first few weeks, you may have no choice but to do this. But gradually it could be important to start creating a feeding schedule so that you’re not just feeding them when they cry.
This can help you develop an accurate idea of how much your baby is consuming. You can make sure that your baby is not only getting enough food, but also not too much as they start to get older and put on weight. This routine should be changed every few months to match the needs of your child.
Nursing your baby will be easier
Establishing feeding times isn’t just important for monitoring how much they’re drinking/eating, but it can also make life easier for you.
If you’re breastfeeding, it can allow you to space out feeds enough so that you have enough milk. You can also plan your day better around nursing your baby, so that you can go out shopping or run errands without worrying about stopping somewhere to feed your baby. Your baby also won’t rely on your breast/bottle to soothe them whenever they are having a tantrum – by forcing them to rely on a pacifier and other methods of soothing when it is not feeding time, they will learn that they don’t need milk/food every time they cry.
You can plan each day more easily around naps
Once you’ve adopted a feeding schedule, you may find that a napping schedule becomes easier to establish. Many newborn babies like to nap soon after a feed. By knowing roughly when your baby is going to nap, you can much easily plan your day around these naps – such as planning naps for yourself to catch up on sleep, doing housework, meeting friends or simply planning some relaxation time.
Baby wake windows will increase as your baby gets older and you’ll have to adapt your routine to fit around less naps (although by this time they’ll be more independent, so that you can do more tasks while they are awake). You may be able to help encourage naps at certain times by scheduling car rides or walks in their pram for specific times of the day. Some parents even wake their baby from naps at specific times to prevent them oversleeping and encourage them to sleep more at night. Of course, you cannot always determine how long a baby will nap and how easy they go to sleep, so don’t expect too much precision when encouraging a nap schedule.
You can more easily keep on top of daily chores
Keeping on top of housework with a baby isn’t easy, but it can be made simpler by adopting a housework schedule. This can be partially planned around your baby’s feeding times and nap times.
For example, once babies are able to eat finger food in a high chair without your assistance, you can start scheduling small housework tasks while they are occupied. You can also schedule daily chores for periods when your kids are napping. You may also use things like planned entertainment time to occupy kids while carrying out other housework tasks – this could include planning their favorite TV show for a certain time so that you have at least five minutes to do some decluttering while they’re glued to the TV. All of this can prevent housework from getting on top of you.
Your baby will sleep through the night more easily
A bedtime routine is great for helping your baby to relax and go down at a certain time each night. They’ll also more easily associate night time with sleep time, and may sleep more deeply through the night.
A relaxing bedtime routine could include bathing your baby, getting them into a sleepsuit, reading them a book, dimming the lights and snuggling up somewhere. As they get used to this routine each night, they will learn to associate it with sleep and will drift off more easily without fighting.
You can also adopt routines when your baby gets up in the night to encourage them to go back to sleep more easily. This includes limiting stimulation compared to during the day (such as not talking and keeping the lights dimmed). When it’s time to get up, you can do the opposite (make lots of affectionate baby noises and turn on the lights) so that they know when it’s okay to be more awake.
Your baby will learn to follow other cues
Routine can help babies to follow other cues in the long run. Having meals and snacks at certain times may stop kids from begging for food whenever they are bored, as they’ll learn in which situations they can expect food (such as only when they’re put in the high chair or when you put a bib on them). Some parents even put on certain songs during certain periods of the day to help them calm them down or stimulate them when they need to be awake.
You’ll have a better idea of why your baby is crying
A routine also makes it easier to understand why your baby is crying. This allows you to more easily diagnose when your baby is just hungry or tired, or when something is really wrong (such as they’re in pain). Without a routine, it can be very much a guessing game as to why a baby is crying.
Your baby will feel more secure and at ease
Humans are hardwired to find comfort in routines. After a week or two of feeding routines and nap routines and a bedtime routine, you could find that your baby is much more content than before. This is because your baby better understands what to expect each day. Meanwhile, you too could find that it’s beneficial to your mental health.