Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge

Newborn Routine - How to adjust to life with your new baby

Having a new baby involves a major change in your everyday life, and you may be wondering how quickly you can return to some sort of normal.

When you become a parent, life will never be quite the same again, but you will eventually establish some sort of day-to-day routine for you and your baby. 

Don’t be in a rush to create a strict or structured timetable, though, as babies can’t tell the time and have no idea what the rules are. Instead, learn to understand your little one’s cues and create some positive habits to make both your lives easier.

For the first few months of your baby’s life, you will both be making big adjustments. You will be getting used to being a parent, and they will be getting used to being out in the big wide world after spending nine months safely tucked up inside your womb.

For the first few days and weeks, your priority should be getting to know your baby rather than trying to establish a particular routine. Most newborns spend most of their time asleep, although it might not feel that way to you!

During a 24-hour period, a newborn baby will typically sleep for between 14 and 17 hours. However, this sleep is likely to happen in short bursts throughout the day and night rather than in long stretches.

As newborns will typically feed every two to three hours, it is totally normal to feel like you are spending all your time feeding, changing nappies and settling them to sleep. They will only have short periods of being awake and alert and will be content with just a few minutes of play or activity, which could be just having a cuddle or some tummy time.

Do I need a routine for my newborn?

The most important thing is to respond to the needs of your baby. A simple and flexible routine can work well if it helps you feel more in control, but you don’t need to worry about establishing anything rigid.

For example, you might start establishing a bedtime routine early on by bathing your baby at the same time each day and then keeping their environment nice and calm with dimmed lights and no noisy distractions.

It’s a good idea to be responsive to your baby and follow their lead. Feed them when they show signs of being hungry, put them to sleep when they are tired, and play with them when they are awake, alert, and calm.

Don’t worry about trying to do things at set times, but if you want some sort of routine, you could try to do things in a similar order each day. One effective way of doing this is by following a simple routine of feed, play, and sleep.

When your baby wakes up after a sleep, offer them a feed and then change their nappy once they have finished. If they are still awake, try to use this time to talk to your baby and do some sort of activity—it doesn’t need to be anything ambitious, it might just be letting them have some time in their baby gym or stretching out on a blanket.

After this, your newborn is likely to be feeling tired, so put them back to sleep. Try to anticipate when your little one is feeling sleepy and put them down in their Moses Basket or cot before they actually fall asleep so they become used to settling themselves.

Parents often find they end up falling into some sort of routine naturally, without too much effort.

One of the common reasons parents want to establish a routine is because they are keen to get their baby sleeping through the night. Newborn babies wake through the night because they need to feed regularly, but as your little one gets older and can go a bit longer between feeds, they will usually start sleeping for longer stretches.

From about four months, your baby will usually spend twice as long asleep at night as during the day. To encourage your child to sleep well at night, it is a good idea to follow a consistent bedtime routine from about three months.

Do the same thing in the run-up to bedtime each day so your baby knows what to expect. You can decide on your own routine, but focus on keeping it simple, calm, and soothing.

You might want to include bathing your baby, putting them into pyjamas or a clean Babygro, reading them a story, giving them a cuddle, or singing them a lullaby.

Learn to read your baby

Being able to recognise when your baby is tired, hungry, or ready to play will make it easier for you to establish a simple routine. Responding to your baby’s cues will help strengthen your bond and cause less frustration for both of you.

The more time you spend with your baby, the easier it will be to spot their individual signs and cues. However, there are common things to look out for.

If your baby is tired, they may seem to lose interest in their surroundings, including people and toys. They might stare off into the distance, yawn, or suck their fists or fingers. You might also notice some jerky movements, and they may become fussy and unsettled.

Hungry babies often start "rooting," turning their head to the side and opening their mouths. They may also put things in their mouth and start sucking their hands or feet or make sucking sounds.

Don’t wait until your baby is crying, as this is a very late hunger cue, and once your baby is distressed, they are more difficult to feed and settle.

Eye contact is a good sign that your baby is ready to play and engage with you. If your baby reaches out to you, smiles, or even just seems interested, curious, or alert, take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with them.

Alert babies will have bright eyes that are wide open, and their movements are usually much smoother than when they are tired.

If your baby is upset and crying, check that all their needs are being met. Do they feel too hot or cold? Is their nappy wet or dirty? Often, babies will just want to be held and comforted so they feel safe and secure.

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