Bringing a new baby home can be daunting to any new parent. No matter how many books you read, nothing can fully prepare you for the unknown territory you are about to enter.
My son spent 5 weeks in the NICU, and when we brought him home, our situation was anything but normal. Brayden came home on a medication for reflux that made him, well, scary! He cried and screamed, and screamed and cried for weeks, until I begged my pediatrician to switch medications or just take him off of that horrible stuff. Once we removed him from the meds, he was a different baby!
It was at the point, when he was about two and a half months old, that we decided we needed to put him on a schedule. My mom had been telling us for months that he needed a schedule, so he would know what to expect from his day. I only wish we had listened to her sooner!
Here are a few things that I learned about schedules. Bear in mind that every child is different, so what works for us, may not work for you. The important thing is to stick with it! Give your schedule a fighting chance before you toss it out the window – and there will be days when you want to do exactly that!
Before you make your schedule ask yourself if your baby follows any certain pattern at this very moment?
Your baby might already be giving you cues as to what they like. Spend a day or two monitoring those cues and make a list. For example, do they get fussier than normal at some point in the day? Are they more playful in the mornings? Jot down a few notes about anything that seems to be consistent, day-to-day.
Step One: Start with Bedtime
We didn’t impose a full on schedule with Brayden right off the bat. We chose to work on his nighttime routine first. As with many new parents, the lack of sleep can be over-whelming and we knew that it was important to us to develop good sleep habits.
First things first – where does your baby go to sleep? Is it set up for a restful night? Or does the morning’s first light come streaming in through the window at 5am ready to wake baby up? Take a look around the room and make adjustments as you see fit in order to make the room more suitable for resting and relaxing. In our case, we bought room darkening shades, installed a light dimmer, made sure the crib was away from any drafty windows and since his room is above our garage, we installed a silent garage door motor so that when my husband goes to work in the morning, he doesn’t wake Brayden up.
Next, comes the actual routine. I’ll use ours as an example for you, that you can copy, or leap off from. We noticed that Brayden usually gets tired around 8pm. So every single night, at 8, we start our routine. Every other night, we bathe him. Actually, I bathe him, while my husband prepares his bottle. Then Chris lotions him and puts him in his PJ’s. We both take him to his room, and dim the light. Then one of us rocks him and gives him his nighttime bottle. We give him and kiss, tell him night-night and put him down.
Consistency is key here. We do the same exact thing, every single night. At the beginning there were definitely nights when he would cry. When he did, we would wait 10 minutes and then go in, pick him up and comfort him and put him back down. We never spoke, just held him and patted his back. Then we’d put him back down. We would repeat that every 10 minutes until he went to sleep. Within three days, he stopped crying all together, and would fall asleep on his own.
NEXT: INTEGRATING NAPTIME INTO YOUR ROUTINE
Integrating Naptime into your Routine
Once you get your bedtime routine down, anything else will seem like a piece of cake. And there comes a time when Mommy realizes that she needs a little break during the day, and baby needs a nap!
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until Brayden was about 5 or 6 months old. Prior to that, he would take a few little 15 minute cat naps in his swing or while I held him. Based on my own experience, I’d recommend implementing naptimes prior to the age of 5 or 6 months, but if you wait, don’t fret! It can still be done!
So how do you do it? Brayden is a one-nap kind of baby. He always has been. Once I made up my mind that naptime was a necessity, I devised a plan of action. Everyday, after his lunch I would take him to his room, and in order to differentiate naptime from bedtime, I would give him a soft bear, and turn his mobile on (neither of which he gets at night). I would do the same routine if he cried as I do with bedtime – go in, comfort, lay back down. Within a couple of days he was falling asleep before his mobile cycled through and turned off.
Consistency is key when you are implementing a new schedule. Once you have a good foundation, and your baby knows what to expect, you’ll both feel a sense of security. It also will make for a much easier time if Grandma or Grandpa will be keeping baby – they can follow your same routine.
Of course, there will be times when you travel or your schedule is thrown off for whatever reason. Just do your best to make sure your baby still has a sense of familiarity. When we travel, I make sure to take Brayden’s stuffed bear that he naps with. When I lay him down, he associates the bear with naptime, and generally doesn’t have a problem going to sleep. Now that we give him a blanket at bedtime, I take that with us as well, and he knows that means it’s time to go to bed.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is that what works for one baby doesn’t always work for another. You have to find out what works for your child and adjust the schedule to fit their needs. All babies thrive on routine, so give them a routine that works for your family! The first few days or weeks might be difficult, but the payoff is worth it!
One mom shares how she effectively implemented a sleep routine.