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Should my Newborn Have a Routine?

Should my Newborn Have a Routine?

If you read some baby books, you would have your baby in a strict routine from day one, with set times to feed and sleep. But the majority of newborns haven't read the same book as mum!

And many new mums may end up feeling like a real failure when they 'fail' to achieve baby routine perfection, which sounded so easy before your crying, hungry little baby arrived. If you had planned to have a 'contented little baby' or be 'baby-wise' it can be a rude shock when your baby won't follow the rules.

However, we do strongly recommend that you use a relaxed routine from soon after your baby arrives, as this will give simple structure to your days. It will give you the confidence that you know your baby wants, ensure you meet her needs and will help you settle your baby before she gets over-tired.

Feed, Awake & Sleep

We believe that the best routine for a newborn is feed, awake time (play), sleep. This means:

  1. Feed your baby when you get her out of bed,

  2. Then change her nappy and have a short awake time.

  3. Then swaddle her and pop her back to bed when you see a tired sign.

With a newborn, generally, you will see a tired sign within an hour from when your baby woke up. Any longer, and you risk having an over-tired baby who is very difficult to settle.

See our article on recognising baby tired signs for more information. If feeding is taking a while, it will feel like all you do is feed & put baby straight back to bed...don't worry, before long your baby will be awake for longer periods and keen to interact with you!

Demand feeding is recommended for newborn babies, which means feeding your baby when she is hungry (rather than at a set time). But this doesn't mean feeding your baby every time she cries. If you follow feed/play/sleep, you will have a good idea of whether your baby is tired or hungry.


Structured routines with set times

We don't believe a routine with strict times for feeding and sleeping is necessary until your baby is older. At about 4-5 months is a good time to move to a structured routine. See our example routine here.

We believe there is enough to learn and stress about with a newborn, without needing to watch the clock as well. Also, many babies struggle to stretch out their feed times to the 3 or 4 hours recommended in some baby routines, and this can cause you both unnecessary stress.

More information on relaxed routines

For more information on the feed/play/sleep routine, we recommend 'The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer'. This calls the routine EASY and we like that Y stands for 'you'!

So when do I move to a structured routine?

We believe that any time from about 5-6 months onwards is a good time to get a structured routine established.

A structured routine will make life easier to get out and about, as you will know when your baby will be sleeping and feeding. The structured sleep times make it far easier to avoid the catnapping that develops when older babies fall asleep for short naps in the car.

For structured routines for babies over 4 months see our guide here for routines that are simple to follow, plus links to information on how to adjust your routine for daylight savings, travel and more.

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