11 March 2013

The Name of the Game: Establishing a Happy Baby Routine

During those first few weeks, the name of the game was "survive," doing what I had to do to not fall apart.

Then came "scheduling." I was a slave to the clock. I kept a watch with my breast pump, we had a clock in Sam's room, my phone came with me everyone, I set an alarm to make sure Sam ate exactly when he was supposed to.

But as time has passed, I've learned that the name of the game doesn't necessarily have to do with time or schedules but instead, it's "routine."

I've read over and over about the importance of establishing routines for your baby and it's done wonders in our family.

Here are a few things that have helped us establish a "Sam is a happy baby" routine:

1. Don't watch the clock. Watch your baby.

A good routine starts with knowing your baby and paying attention to his or her cues. 

Sam lets us know he's tired by rubbing his eyes, fussing a little, and rubbing his face on our shoulders when we hold him. Being able to know those very first signs of sleepiness are vital to a successful nap for Sam.

Sam starts getting a little fussy when he's hungry, and when I hold him right before a feeding, he tries to eat my face, generally settling for sucking my chin. I make sure a bottle is close at hand before Sam reverts to wanting to nurse, which we haven't done in 3 months (he has tried to latch on to my shirt a few times haha).

2. But don't totally disregard the clock.

I definitely don't let the clock dictate our day, but, now that I've observed Sam and know his general rhythms, I do try to create fairly smooth days by keeping some predictable times in mind. Sam and I both work best this way.

For example, I've learned that Sam can only stay up about 1.5-2 hours between waking up, nap #1, and nap #2. If I wait too long to put him down for a nap it is a disaster. He falls apart and absolutely refuses to nap. 

Sam gets four bottles a day, about every four hours. While I try to let those times influence Sam's feedings, I definitely don't ignore him when he gets hungry. He usually eats within a half-hour (either way) or those four-hour marks.

3. Put the whole day into perspective.

During Sam's first feeding of the day (using the time he woke up as a reference point) I mentally sketch out a rough draft of our day. Sam eats some solid food about an hour after he wakes up, goes down for his first nap half hour- 1 hour later, I take a shower after bottle #2 and Sam hangs out in his bouncy chair, etc. 

Most of our days look the same. Although it can be isolating at times, having a well-rested baby who is learning to take naps, eat solid food, and new forms of play, right now it's important for me to stick close to home to develop our routines. 

4. Create mini-routines throughout the day.

It's important for Sam and I to have days that are fairly similar -- a big picture routine works well for us.

But it's also been so important to complete smaller mini-routines throughout the day. I think it's important for Sam to understand what's coming up next and to get mentally and physically ready.

Before every nap, I change Sam's diaper, swaddle him (minus the arms), and we read a book. After a few snuggles and little prayer, I put him down with his favorite stuffed dinosaur (he doesn't like sucking on a pacifier, but loves chewing on the stegosaurus' ears). It's amazing what a difference having this routine has been. He used to cry for about a half hour before unwillingly falling asleep. Now he makes a few noises and goes to sleep.

We follow the same bedtime routine every night. I'm pretty sure Sam looks forward to his bath all day.

5. Do a bit of research,

I have found babycenter.com and their sample schedules super helpful. Although I'm not a total believer in strict schedules, it has been comforting to see how others manage their days, especially on days where I feel mine is out of control!

establishing a bedtime routine / creating your baby's routine / baby's sleep and feeding schedule / sample schedules

6. But not too much research!

Ultimately, establishing a routine/schedule/typical day/what-have-you is 100% based on the needs of baby and family. There are good days, there are hard days, and all days have a variety of challenges and successes.

Have you found establishing routines helpful? I'd love to hear your examples!


And in case you're curious, because find it helpful to peek into other people's day! Here's a "I love it when this happens" day... remember, sometimes it does and other times, well it just doesn't!

Things to keep in mind that influence our routine:
I'm a stay-at-home momma
Sam will be 5 months on Wednesday
Sam is formula fed
He's been eating baby food since he was 4 months (cereal and purees) 
He's our only child

7am: Sam wakes up, 8oz bottle
7:30am: Sam in swing, momma drinks coffee
8am: baby food [all over baby, mommy, and kitchen!]
8:30/9am: nap #1
During nap #1: household stuff
10:30/11am: wakes up and 6oz bottle [with any formula left over from making cereal]
After bottle: I shower while Sam hangs out in the bouncy chair, we play and read books, he rolls on the floor while I finish stuff around the house
12:30/1pm: nap #2
During nap #2: a little momma time + remaining house stuff/dinner prep
2:30/3pm: wakes up, 8oz bottle
3:30pm: this is prime errand time! Grocery shopping, play dates, stuff around town
5pm: baby food [messiest thing ever!]
5:45pm: time with daddy!
6:30pm: operation bedtime routine -- bath, book and 6oz bottle [with remaining formula from making cereal] and down by 7:15pm

Like I said, love it when this day happens. But like I said, sometimes it does, and sometimes it so doesn't!!

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1 comment:

  1. This is so helpful. Ive now survived the first few weeks and wanting to establish some routine (at least evening sleeping schedule) before I go back to work.


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