A Baby Sleep Routine – Do you even need one?

Baby Sleep Routine – Do you need one for your newborn?

Before I had my children a baby sleep routine and baby sleep training were just something I watched on super nanny and thought a little ‘Victorian’ in their ideas. In fact before I had kids I thought that baby sleep training seemed quite mean, but then I had my first child and it all changed! Read on to find out everything I discovered and my review of two specific baby sleep training and schedules.

For a start everyone I knew had a baby sleep schedule and all anyone seemed to talk about was pooing and the baby sleep routine.  Oh and of course when and if their baby slept through the night.  So everyone was doing these routines.  I admit it I felt a bit of FOMO…  I worried I was being a bad mummy by not trying to do baby sleep training and not having a daily schedule for my newborn.  I know I am a total victim of peer pressure… So the research began into baby sleep routines and schedules. 

This wasn’t only triggered by wanting to keep up with the other mummies though.   My baby just didn’t sleep.  I was broken and lets face it we will all try anything when we haven’t slept for weeks.  So I figured that a baby sleep routine was worth a try.  I wanted to find out if I really needed a newborn sleep schedule and if it made a difference or if they just another way that we are encouraged to feel ‘less than’ as new mums and encouraged to spend our money on endless books that promise the holy grail of a baby who sleeps!  

Sleep Routines for Babies
Do you need a sleep routine?

The Baby Sleep Routines I tried

Someone had bought me the Contented Baby Book and friends were doing the Gina Ford routine so I thought I would have a go, but for me it was too restrictive and labour intensive.  Everyone I knew raved about how marvellous it was, but I found darkened rooms and the need for dead quiet meant staying in and having no freedom.  For this reason I quickly abandoned the Gina Ford method, but I won’t say that I didn’t learn things from it.  See the shush pat technique further down in this article which I have heavily relied upon to settle my babies and I think is amazing!

I also tried the Baby Whisperers the Easy routine .The Easy routine seemed to me to be just that and I took to it straight away with my eldest.  It is basically:

This means you feed the baby, do an activity with them which when they are newborn can be as little as a few minutes on a play mat or singing the wheels on the bus or baby massage, put them down for a nap which again can be a few minutes or a couple of hours as they grow and then whilst they sleep take some time for you.

My advice would be during the ‘You’ time don’t rush about trying to clean, iron or shop, but instead eat, have a hot cup of tea or better still have some sleep.  Everyone says this ‘ sleep when the baby sleeps’ and after having four babies and only heeding this advice the last time round I really can’t stress enough how important this is.  Experienced mothers say this as they didn’t do it and were exhausted,emotional and basically broken. 

I too heard everyone say that, but ignored them, as I say, as I had an overwhelming urge to catch up with all of the housework etc… as soon as my baby slept.  It must be a hormonal relic from the cave man days.  Maybe mummies had to stay awake to protect their young, but generally these days there are few predators we have to worry about apart from perhaps other super competitive mummies so we are probably safe to take a quick nap.  If you don’t you will too turn into a sleep deprived, hormonal, crazed, husband nagger like I was and I’m pretty sure this is more scary for baby than not having their body suits ironed so honestly sleep when baby sleeps 😉

The exact timings for easy can be found in my other Easy post so take a look, but for me I found that this has to be adapted depending on your child as I just think they are all different.  So personally I think take the bits you like and that work from any baby sleep routine and develop something that works for your child.  With my first child I was rigid about sticking to the routine once I had started it and he is still at the age of 3 a pest to get to sleep, but with number two it took me until he was 18 weeks old to even think about a routine properly as I think the shock of having two created a need to exist and get through it rather than execute a plan.

During the first 18 weeks of number twos life I just fed on demand and let him find his own routine which basically involved napping whenever he could around the on-going noise that is a toddler and the constant raft of activities such as playgroups that we have to go to in order to keep number one occupied. Despite this lack of routine number two slept through from 8 weeks old and after a blip at around the 18 week mark which led me to try and at least sort out his nap patterns he still does sleep through and even self soothes – unlike his older brother who now does sleep through, but can’t get off to sleep alone or self soothe if he wakes up.

With number 2 there was no routine

I never really put in a strict routine for number two and yet he sleeps so why is this?  Is a baby sleep routine a waste of time and in fact counter productive? 

No I would say! 

I think they are useful to give a framework to build your own routine around, but for me, keeping to a routine made me a little crazy and in a determination to get baby to fit the routine I made some errors with my first child such as rocking to sleep, wheeling around in the buggy etc…  I do love a bit of accidental parenting!!

With number two I did none of these things.  Partly because I just didn’t have time to rock him to sleep as I needed to watch the toddler in case he did anything dangerous (he is a climber) and partly because I had reread my Gina and Hogg books and took on some of their other ideas whilst not necessarily sticking to the routine religiously.  My favourite of which is shush and pat.

The Shush and Pat technique

Shush and Pat involves just that saying shush (quite loudly and firmly, but not directly into delicate baby ears) and patting their arm.  It works on the basis that when babies are little they cannot concentrate on more than two things I believe so if they hear shush and feel pat there is no space in their brains for crying too.  There are rules/ advice about how exactly this is to be done, but I just did it my way and when he woke in the night; I knew it wasn’t time for feeding and he didn’t need changing  I just put my hand into the moses basket and did shush, pat without picking him up.  I then kept my hand lightly rested on his chest until he was back to sleep.  Now who knows if it is the fact that I didn’t keep picking him up, but he does self sooth so I do think that these sleep experts are right rocking, feeding and cuddling off to sleep do cause the parents and the children problems.  However, I would also say that they are only small once so, for me, it would be a real shame to miss out on that closeness by never doing all the things the experts say you shouldn’t.

Moderation is key

As with anything in life it seems to me to be important to do everything in moderation when it comes to sleep routines for babies.  Don’t make a routine so rigid that you can’t leave the house during the day as you will go mad.  Equally but also don’t always cuddle or feed your baby to sleep as it doesn’t do your little one any favours in the long run.  It also doesn’t do you any good as your down time is essential for your sanity and if your baby needs you to be involved so that they can sleep you will be wrecked.  Also remember that a child who is overtired is miserable so anything we can do to help them sleep well is good for them as well as good for us. 

I do think that an effective sleep routine is a vital part of helping your baby learn to settle, go to sleep and self soothe.  I now have four children and the ones that I was most strict with regarding sleep routine and bedtime routine where the twins.  They are now four and still when it is bedtime they just settle and go off to sleep.  The same cannot always be said for their older brothers.  Looking back it is hard not to attribute that at least in part to the lack of a strict routine for the boys.  If I had my time over I would certainly be more strict with sleep routines for babies as I do think it helps, but I still advocate for developing your own version of the routine that works for you and your family.

My last thought on baby sleep schedules and baby sleep training is do what works for you and your child and take the best bits from the experts to make your own routine.  Letting your baby lead the way a bit and developing a routine that has some structure, but also allows me to leave the house and have a life has worked for us so maybe it would work for you too, but I am not an expert just a busy mummy..

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