Remember when your baby was a brand new, squishy little bundle who just ate, pooped and slept—over and over again? Yeah, those days are over, and your little one is now more active, alert and aware of her surroundings. This makes it a great time to start developing a regular routine for both you and baby.
Routines provide structure and comfort and a sense of predictability for your baby. You know how you look forward to your morning coffee or your favorite Sunday night TV show? That’s how your baby feels about her bath or post-nap nursing session. Whether you’ve returned to work or are at home with your baby full time, you can come up with a simple routine that works for your family.
Take a look at any of the (many, many) baby sleep books or parenting websites out there and you’ll notice that no matter what approach they take, they all stress the importance of routines around sleep. Having consistent sleep routines for both nap and bedtime helps your baby settle down, prepare for sleep and develop healthy sleep habits.
Here are a few ideas to create your own bedtime routine:
- Give baby a bath
- Have quiet time in baby’s room
- Read a bedtime story
- Sing a lullaby
As your baby grows, stays fuller for longer and begins eating more solids, a more consistent feeding schedule will start to emerge as part of your daily routine. Consistent times for nursing, bottle-feeding and solid food meals (if she’s ready) helps your baby to feel secure. She may happily squeal as you carry her to the chair you always nurse her in, or kick her feet in excitement when you put her in her high chair. This is her way of saying, “Yay, Mommy! Time to eat!”
You’re totally on top of this. Baby’s bedtime routine is smooth. He knows exactly when it’s time to eat and nap. You are killing it at this mom thing. And then…boom! Your baby decides to mix things up. Maybe he’s teething or going through a growth spurt. Whatever it is, you can adjust according to his developmental needs. Sometimes you’ll revert back to what worked before—once he cuts a tooth or gets over a cold—and sometimes you’ll establish new routines to meet his new needs. Keep in mind that your 6-month-old is in a different developmental phase than when he was 3 months old, so he needs different things from his routine. Stay flexible, adjust and reset as he grows.
Having a predictable routine will make your life easier, too. If your baby naps at a consistent time each day, you can take a nap or make plans to meet friends on a Saturday afternoon while Dad or another caregiver holds the fort down at home. Once you know your baby will want to nurse at specific times, it makes it easier to sneak out for a quick run or take a hot shower in between feedings. Routines are just as valuable for you as they are for your baby; they allow you to recharge with much-needed “me time.”