Does Routine Rule? // by Something About Baby

Note from Naomi: Today's post is a guest post from the lovely Abi from Something About Baby. This lovely mummy blogger has written about her experience with baby routines. If you like her writing, you can visit and read her blog here.

When I was pregnant, I was told this more times than I could count... Once the baby was here, I was continually reminded about how important this was.

What am I talking about? Routine!

Before I had Alfie, all I was told was how important it was to get him in a routine as early as possible.
I remember being told that babies respond better to routine - and that I should get him feeding and sleeping at regular times as soon as possible - ideally from 6 weeks. 

Before I had Alfie I knew this was what I was going to do. He would be in a routine of feeding every 4 hours; then having a sleep. I was going to do bath; feed; story; and bed time at the same time every night. I knew I wasn't going to deviate from this routine. Then he arrived.

When I actually had a baby, I realised that you can't force them to do what you want them to do.

That's when I decided that routine wasn't for me; although admittedly, I did try!

Whether you formula feed or breastfeed - the advice is to feed on demand - which is what I did. I became a bit obsessed with timing each feed to see what kind of pattern developed. The answer? There was no pattern. It was random; it was unpredictable; and it followed no routine.

This then had a knock on effect on his sleeping.  As I didn't know when he'd feed - or how long for - I couldn't predict when he was going to nap. Generally, Alfie would fall asleep on the breast; and I would then either sit with him sleeping on me, or would put him in his cot (depending if he let me or not!) Sometimes he would sleep for an hour, sometimes two, sometimes 10 minutes. 

He was so unpredictable.

It was incredibly stressful in those early days when everyone was asking about his routine. This included the midwife; the health visitor; the GP; my friends; and family.

I felt guilty when I replied that he didn't have a routine yet. 

I felt bad that he wasn't sleeping through the night at 6 weeks.

I felt guilty that he didn't seem to know the difference between night and day.

I felt bad that he was often going to bed at 11pm.

We tried a bedtime routine at about 8 weeks, but Alfie just didn't respond to routine. He'd have his bath; we'd read a story; I would feed him then try to put him down. Often I'd end up sitting in his room for hours, trying to get him to go off to sleep. 

It was incredibly stressful.

Once I figured out that trying to implement a routine wasn't working for us - and decided to go with the flow - I relaxed so much more! I adopted a completely baby-led 'routine'. When people would ask me when he fed - or when he slept - I would answer, "when he wants". I didn't see any positives in trying to make Alfie feed and sleep to fit with what I wanted. It just stressed me out more!

On the whole, this approach has really worked for us. OK, there are times when it can be inconvenient not having a routine. Generally though, Alfie fitted in to what we needed to as a family, whilst still having us respond to his own needs and wants.

I didn't have to worry about being out at nap time, as he would just nap when we were out.

I didn't have to worry about when he was going to need feeding, as my boobs were always ready and raring to go.

It was an approach that definitely worked for us, especially in the early days.
Eventually, Alfie worked out his own rough schedule, and I began to be able predict when he'd feed and when he would sleep - but I didn't worry if it changed from day to day.

Once he started nursery - and I returned to work - his routine changed again! In a way I'm glad I didn't implement a strict routine from the start, as it may have been difficult to adapt when our situation changed.

I don't think that routine should completely be thrown out the window, as it definitely does have its place. I'm just saying it didn't work for us - and it might not work for you. Just find what does work for you and your baby.