EASY PEASY, ROUTINE’S A BREEZY
12 months Advice on baby schedules and routine can make your head spin. When should you start, and why is it important?
Routine is one of the best gifts to give your baby, as your baby will be calmer and happier if they know what to expect when. “If your baby is in a routine, they know what to expect (like a feed just before bedtime). This creates comfort and helps calm them. Lack of routine often leads to overstimulation and anxiety. It can make your baby less likely to experiment with the environment or less likely to explore. They will avoid engaging if they are overstimulated,” says Lesego Mashishi, an occupational therapist from Limitless Occupational Therapy in Pretoria.
WHEN TO START A ROUTINE
Most experts agree that a combination schedule that works for mom, baby and the family should take preference. Babies, just like adults, have built in time clocks and physical needs, and by six weeks your baby will have developed a natural rhythm or schedule that will adapt as they grows. This natural rhythm is the guideline and starting point for you to start implementing a flexible routine from around six weeks.
Naps and baths present great opportunities to get into a rhythm with your baby as you can repeat the same actions every time, and so help them to get used to the schedule. For instance: start preparing baby for sleep at around 10 minutes before she is supposed to go down by taking her to a quiet room, swaddling and even rocking her in order to relax her. Lay her down when she’s drowsy and happy, but not asleep.
Bathtime should follow the same pattern as closely as possible every night as it marks the beginning of the bedtime routine, acting as a signal to your baby that things are winding down for the night. Use baby wash with a distinctive smell, sing the same song during bathtime and follow the bath with a comforting massage. Then start getting quiet for the last feed and bedtime.
YOUR ROUTINE WILL GO THROUGH CHANGES
As babies grow, they will sleep less during the day and for longer stretches at night. Introducing solids (at around six months) will mean that your baby will naturally adjust milk feeds in frequency and amounts, explains Sister Linda Britz, a Johannesburg-based midwife and lactation specialist. So as your baby grows, you’ll be making changes to your routine.
SO WHAT DOES A ROUTINE LOOK LIKE? Use these examples as a guideline, but remember to adjust them as needed to suit you and your baby.
THREE TO SIX MONTHS
Give your baby a feed, after which she may go back to sleep for a short period