Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since starting on this parenting journey, then you will know that there is a lot of debate about babies and routines. You are likely to have had several conversations on the topic with friends and family. You may have read parenting books or articles that suggest routines of one kind or another. You may be wondering…  Does my baby need a routine? When should I start it? What are the best ways to get my baby to sleep? What is my parenting philosophy and how do I put it into practice?

And I get it. I’ve been a tired and exhausted parent of a newborn 3 times. I had 3 very different babies and they all seemed to have different needs. At the beginning it felt complicated and I was never sure if I was doing the right thing. But eventually, over time I have learnt what I think is the most helpful parenting lesson. I share it with all new parents when I meet them because it’s such an empowering message.

  1. Follow your instincts AND your baby’s Sounds simple right? Well it is a simple message and it feels like it should come naturally to all of us but with all the background noise coming from all around us, it can be very hard to feel your instincts at times. What I mean by “noise” is perhaps, your friend with an older baby who may have the winning solution that meant her baby slept through the night (her baby may just have done that anyway, without any intervention!). Your Mother-in-law says that 4 hourly feeds is best for your little one and any more than that will cause you to have a demanding baby (luckily there is tons of evidence disputing this). Your Mum is worried about you and thinks that introducing solids at 4 months will help your baby to sleep more at night ( we now know more about infants precious guts). Your health visitor tells you that you are putting your baby at risk by sharing a bed with her (more about that in a minute!).The noise may not be direct advice, it can be little side comments from family. Innocent seeming (but in reality, competitive) questions from friends. Adverts on the TV or the media banging on about The Mummy Wars! It comes from all directions.But I believe that if you try your best to shut it out and look to your baby for direction and do what feels right to you then you’ll be able to start making those decisions. You’ll start to build your own unique philosophy of parenting. Here’s some of my favorite ways of bonding with and tuning in to your baby.

    Hold her close as often as possible
    Have a babymoon for the first few weeks and keep visitors to a minimum- if your baby is older plan one now instead 🙂
    Keep up the skin to skin as often and as long as you can
    Feed him when he asks
    Talk to your baby
    Try and do something for yourself each day ( even if it’s just 10 uninterrupted minutes in the shower).

  2. Routine is important….to us! I’m a huge fan of routine. It doesn’t come naturally to me but I see a difference in my children when they know what is coming next and how our days and weeks are going to be. It reduces stress, raises their confidence helps them to learn at home and at school. It reassures them.  I myself am at my best when I have everything in order and know where I am and what I’m doing. Now that my kids are older we have a flow to our day and certain rituals that we follow. I would personally like to bit a little more flexible and spontaneous on occasion, but in truth, it doesn’t suit my kids.When life is a bit daunting and unpredictable it’s nice to know that you can rely on some things being a certain way and that is a comfort to children. I agree with lots of other people that our society pushes us to believe that “good babies” sleep well. But I believe that there’s a lot more to us seeking out a routine than that. As new parents we are thrown into disarray. Everything is new and we are forced onto a VERY steep learning curve. We don’t feel like ourselves. We’re exhausted and can’t believe we can function on 2 hours sleep! We want it to end, but It feels like it never will and we crave reassurance and comfort. We dream of a life where we call the shots again, where we know what is going to come next and where we can plan our lives again.However we know that small babies don’t seek comfort in timely routines. The routines that comfort a baby are  having their needs met whenever they ask and  hearing the routine heart beat and breath of another human being. This is the reason that they want to be kept close. Their tiny tummies mean that they are hungry often and their short sleep cycles work perfectly to ensure the feed often enough. Babies generally know what they want and it’s up to us to tune in and then meet their needs. So give it time. Call it a compromise. In those early months start to carve out little rituals with your newborn. Perhaps the same little song at nappy time or books in the evening. Feeding lying down and in the dark at night time and on the sofa or out and about in the day. You’ll grow into your routines together. Some of the rituals and routines we have, have been very much guided by me and others more by the children. Sometimes it’s been done in a bit of a trial and error and muddly type way, other times it’s just a natural progression.
  3. Keep life simple. I’m not sure this is much of a secret really. I was desperate to get out with my newborn in the early weeks and show him off to the world. I invited everyone down to come and see us. But in reality this could have waited. A Babymoon is a lovely idea. To have a few weeks of just you, your partner,siblings and the baby to get to know each other, to bond and start forming those little rituals as a newly formed family.  Visitors can be a mixed blessing. I say only invite those who will bring you prepared meals or will put the washing on the line or do the washing-up. Someone who can take your toddler out whilst you breastfeed or get some sleep is giving you a wonderful gift. And although I agree that the housework can be and should be left I always struggled with this so a stretchy wrap sling was a godsend when I felt the urge to hoover.
  4. Gather your information from the right places. So if there’s one things that has revolutionised being stuck under a cluster feeding baby it’s our smart phones! But all that access to information, news and views can sometimes add to the noise and get in the way of us following our instincts.I certainly love reading parenting books and blogs but I think it’s important that you just take the bits that work for you and your baby. The author doesn’t know your situation, but sometimes reading something reassuring can keep you on the right track and boost your confidence. But if something works against your inner voice or just doesn’t feel right I would step away.

Read about normal newborn behaviors and how to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Babies have tiny tummies and need feeding often. For this reason they have a very short sleep cycle and wake frequently for more food.

Find a group of like minded parents. Either at a local group or online. It can make the world of difference. Try your local peer support  breastfeeding group. Le Leche League run groups world-wide and provide breastfeeding support and also focus on gentle parenting.