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July 27, 2016

Baby whisperer Sharlene Poole explains how having some structure to your day can help both mother and baby feel good.

Some babies need more consistency and repetition than others. Just like adults, some of us thrive in structure and some of us just need familiarity, but not necessarily a time-based schedule. Some babies are affected by the time of day, the light and sleeping cycles they have and how we balance that over the day.

What works for you as a parent will depend on what you are used to in your pre-parenting life. Women who are starting motherhood in their 20s rather than mid- to late-30s, may have a different approach to life.  When embarking on motherhood after being in the workforce for many years, we have become used to a routine to our days and weeks. Often, our jobs have a start, a middle and an end rather than continuous changes, like a baby has, particularly in their first year.

As parents we need to stop and think – think about what makes us happy and confident. If it is having some kind of structure or routine to our day then that is what is going to help a baby to be settled – because a happy mother means a happy baby.

Routine is really about creating consistency and repetition

Often, my clients tell me that having a routine helps them to better understand what their baby’s needs are at different times of the day and at each stage of their development.

Instead of blaming baby’s unsettledness on ‘colic’ or reflux, what a routine does is help parents to see how the balance in the day can affect their baby’s ability to settle.  For example, when a mother says to me, ‘My baby doesn’t like to settle to sleep or doesn’t sleep longer than 40 minutes’, often it is not the baby, it is that they are trying to put the baby to bed too early for their age and personality or due to the timing of the day. That is why I call it ‘the balance’.

Of course, babies change every few weeks. Their developmental stages are frequent and that can be hard for parents to keep up with.  Having a routine in place helps parents to see these changes more easily.

Establishing a routine can be easy IF it is the right one for your baby.

Therefore, while I believe in routine (even more today than I did 20 years ago), I recommend talking with someone who can help you know what is best for you and your baby’s personality.

The routines that I use and suggest are what I call ‘-ish time’ routines: you have a starting point based on time, but it’s all subject to how well they have fed, slept and settled throughout the day. These factors will determine what you do for the next stage of the day or routine.

Any routine needs an element of flexibility so you can get out and about to visit family and friends or attend appointments, but we also need to consider the baby and his huge adjustment to the world.

A routine can be a little bit of a handbrake for some mums, but they can also help you to slow down and stay home a little, which I believe is a good thing, especially in the first six months. I refer to the 80/20 focus: it’s not what you do 20 per cent of the time, it is what we do 80 per cent of the time, for the majority of the day and week, that helps to create that consistency and routine. This, in turn, leads to a happy and settled baby. 

Things to consider when developing a routine:

There are different types of routine and a routine might start at a different time each day but involve familiar patterns, which provide consistency.You might have a feeding routine that happens three hourly or four hourly but not necessarily at set times.

Sometimes your baby’s way of telling you that the routine you’re trying to put in place is not right for them is by becoming hard to settle and/or sleeping for short periods of time e.g. for only 20, 30 or 45 minutes.

Look at the expectations you have: are you trying to have both a routine and a social life that do not work well together or suit the personalities of you and your baby? 

See my book ‘Sharlene Poole – Baby Whispering’ for routine guides to the first year.

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