There is quite a debate over what sort of routine you should establish when your baby arrives, and probably even more debate over whether or not trying to establish a routine in the early days is the right thing to do at all!
Newborns basically call the shots. It isn?t possible (nor would it be fair) to try to force them into a strict routine this early. Everything is new to your new arrival ? feeling hungry and needing to feed is a totally new concept for your baby and added to this it will take you a while to recognise the signs that your baby is hungry. At the beginning it is all about feeding and sleeping, so any routine will revolve around these two activities. At this stage, it isn?t about you creating a routine for your baby; it is about recognising what they want and starting to become aware of their natural routine.
Newborn Sleep Patterns
Your new baby will sleep for most of the day; on average a newborn baby will be snoozing for 18 out of every 24 hours! This might seem like a lot but when you consider the fact that they won?t sleep for long stretches as they are likely to want to feed every 2-3 hours, it can feel like you aren?t getting any sleep at all. The best way to deal with this is to try and get some sleep whenever your baby is asleep (even if this means neglecting housework/visitors/that much needed shower!). The best way to keep an easy routine is to remember not to allow your baby to get overtired. So after a few hours of being awake, place them down to encourage sleep. If you allow them to get overtired, they will be more difficult to get over to sleep.
RELATED: Where Should a Newborn Sleep?
Newborn Feeding Patterns
Your baby will only feed when they want to ? trying to establish a feeding routine is not healthy for a newborn. Feeding on demand is usually something we hear of in connection with breastfeeding, and indeed when breastfeeding it is essential to feed on demand because you simply don?t know how much milk your little one is getting at each feed. Feeding on demand is important in the early days when bottle feeding too; allow your baby to dictate how much milk they take. Remember their tummies are tiny at this stage and making them take extra milk in the hope of a longer nap will only cause problems. From day one your baby is learning about how to feed, and by allowing them to decide how much they want and when you are teaching them valuable lessons in listening to their own bodies and not overfeeding.
Night time Routine
Of course you want your baby to sleep for longer stretches at night! While in the very early days this isn?t always realistic, you can begin to establish a bedtime routine right away. Try to bathe your baby at the same time in the evening, dim lights and have quiet, gentle time together. It is never too early to read to your baby or play gentle music and these things can be signs to your baby that it is night time. When baby wakes at night, make sure these periods of being awake are different from daytime ones. Keep lights low, try to resist stimulating baby with lights, colours and sounds; keep things quiet and gentle. By developing the same routine each night you are helping your baby learn to recognise the difference between day and night; all these signs you give your baby will, in time, encourage them to have a longer sleep, and so can you.