3 reasons I love routine!
Before our first was born, I was absolutely not going to have our lives revolve around a baby. She was going to fit in with us and our schedules. She was going to nap when she was tired and wouldn’t need a specific special environment - she would be able to sleep anywhere!
While this worked for the first few months (worked in a loose way) the wheels really fell off when the 4 month regression/progression hit, and her 10 minute naps that she had when she seemed tired, weren’t sustainable for her any longer. She started waking every 45 minutes overnight for her dummy to be replugged. And while the dummy was a big part of the problem, the short naps were the real issue.
So, we realised our lives needed to become a bit more flexible. We had to scale back on some of the activities we planned and start to respect her need for sleep. Giving her some structure to her day and ditching the dummy while she learned to self settle were our magic bullet and I was a total convert, routine was life!!
Here are the 3 biggest reasons I love routine:
1. Predictability for parents
Reading a baby’s cues can be a minefield. Babies will often display similar cues for hunger, tiredness and boredom, and putting these into context is necessary to understand just what it is your baby is needing. Knowing approximately what time your baby last fed, how long their last nap was and what time it ended, and about how long they’ve been playing under the playgym for means you can respond appropriately to their cues - if they fed only half an hour ago, but are demonstrating feeding cues - are they hungry? Or are they coming to the end of the awake period they can cope with, and they’re actually tired? Having a rhythm to your day makes it predictable, and reading their cues becomes easier!
I personally also found it so much easier to plan my day, knowing I could go to the supermarket without a screaming hungry baby in the trolley. Or I could go to a swimming class with her and she’d make it through without things turning to custard.
2. Circadian Rhythm development
Routine supports circadian rhythm development. Our circadian rhythm is mostly controlled by light and dark, hormones, body temperature and digestion. Once your baby is over 3 months old, their circadian rhythm starts to develop. By having sleep periods and feeds at similar times each day, we are giving a baby the best chance for their rhythm to develop - meaning they will feel hungry and tired in a predictable way.
The benefit of this? Bedtime will be easier, night sleep will be predictable, and the whole sleep thing will be less stressful.
3. Helps to pinpoint where any other sleep issues are.
Sleep is such a precious commodity for parents, and when sleep is being disrupted for months on end it can really take a toll on relationships and general wellbeing. Pinpointing where things have gone wrong is a process of elimination, and having a routine can make it so much easier to figure out what the main contributors to poor sleep are - there’s no guessing whether they’re overtired or undertired or hungry… so it’s likely an environmental change that’s needed, or a parent led sleep association that’s leading to challenging sleep.
While all babies have slightly different sleep needs, the average baby will do best following age appropriate awake windows and having their day start and end around about the same time every day!
These are the routines I regularly recommend as a starting point for parents who are wanting to introduce a little more structure to their baby’s day, often we tweak this after a few days once we see how the baby is responding to the routine.
As always, please know that you don’t NEED to change anything if what you’re currently doing is working for you!