A routine is a loose timetable of baby’s daily activities. Routine is necessary as it helps baby to be more organized. A baby that eats well and sleeps well will also be a happier baby as she has rested wakeful times. Routine also helps the care provider to be able to organize her time and also be less stress, hence enjoy the baby and the journey of parenting. This is not a schedule which is planned by the care provider unilaterally which baby has to follow rigidly or a regime that can be picked up from a page in a book or some one’s idea of what is good for all babies. Every baby and every family is unique.
In establishing a routine, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. While a routine helps a baby and her care provider to be more organized and hence, achieve more in a day, the routine has to be suitable for both baby and care provider. In this case, care provider is most likely to be the parents and the family.
Generally a routine consist of a guide to baby’s feeding habits, sleeping pattern, wakeful times and daily activities such as bath or shower. During wakeful time, activities such as going for a walk, spending time exercising on tummy or under the play gym may be introduced for a young baby. For an older baby, it may consist of structured play and guided activities.
There is no best time to start planning a routine. Establishing a routine takes time and effort and as every baby and every family is different, a good time to start is when both parents are ready. As a general guideline parents can start to think of establishing a routine when baby is about 3 to 4 weeks old.
A newborn feeding and sleeping pattern is subjected to constant change in the early weeks following birth. Whether breast or formula feeding, it is advisable to practice demand feeding in the early days. It is important that in the early days, baby is allowed to feed on demand as this will encourage milk production and ensure proper weight gain
For a baby who is breast feeding, it may mean feeding between 10-12 times in 24 hours in the early days. This may mean that the feeding intervals are between 2 to 4 hours. By the end of the first month, baby may only be feeding about 8 times in 24 hours. Of these 8 feeds, the intervals may be as short as 2 hours apart and as long as four. It would be ideal if the four hours interval is in the night as both baby and parents can have better sleep in the night.
Baby sleep pattern is also subjected to change. Some babies need more sleep than others. While a newborn may sleep an average about 16 to 18 hours a day, a baby of 3 months old may only need about 15 hours of sleep. Although the 3 hours may not seem a lot, when a baby is wakeful for 3 extra hours, it may mean a lot to the care providers
In the early days, mother needs to rest when baby rest. In this way, she will be more in tune to the change in baby’s feeding and sleeping habits. From about 4weeks after birth, mother should start to keep a loose record of baby’s sleep, feeding and wakeful time. In doing so, she will see the baby’s new activity pattern .She will soon notice that baby is more wakeful and have shorter and less frequent feeds, has sleep signals indicating when she is tired and need to sleep.
By recognizing these signals and assisting baby to sleep when she is tired, feed when she is hungry and play when she is wakeful, mother will soon noticed that baby has a fairly regular pattern for these activities daily. Of course, these activities may not occur exactly at the same time every day but the pattern should be easily noticeable.
With this information, the parents will have to decide if baby’s new activity pattern is suitable or fitting into their routine. If family feels that baby’s feeding, sleeping and wakeful periods is not suitable with the rest of the family activities, the family may either make the necessary changes to adjust to baby’s routine or try to gradually shift baby’s routine to one that can accommodate the rest of the family.
There is no one routine that fits every family or every baby. In many instances, both the family and baby has to learn to accommodate each other in order that the family gets to spend time together as a family, the parents gets to spend a little time as a couple while ensuring that all members of the family gets sufficient rest. Exhausted parents cannot spend quality time with their baby while an exhausted baby will not be very attentive either. On the other hand, a baby that is well rested and well fed will be a joy to all in the family.
(This article was published in Bonda Magazine – IBU Resource Family ) in 2008