The theory goes that new babies sleep for 16 hours a day, but many a bleary-eyed parent would probably beg to differ!
For many infants, that sleep may be very broken up and night waking will make it seem as if your baby is getting even less sleep.
Some parents like to get quickly into sleep and feeding patterns, but most will leave any strict routine until about four months when they feel more confident as a parent, when they know their babies a little better and home life is beginning to evolve.
Why have a sleep routine at all?
Babies need to get used to going off to sleep by themselves. When they are very young it is fine to cuddle or nurse them to sleep and to always offer a reassuring presence when they are crying. But if you do not lay down some form of routine after a few months – whether it is strict or fairly casual – you could find that as your baby grows into a toddler, she simply cannot settle for a nap or at bedtime without a parent laying down with her.
Lovely as it is to let you baby drift off to sleep in your arms, it will only delay the point at which you need to encourage independence and cause distress two or three years down the line. Don’t worry – a routine rarely takes no more than a few days to get established and it doesn’t have to be torture for you or your child!
Why get into an early sleep routine?
Some people who feel they do not operate very well without order may seek to get into an early routine because they fear the ‘chaos’ that a new baby in the house can bring. Other mothers may need to get back to work for financial reasons and want things to ‘get back to normal’ as quickly as possible..
A new baby who has difficulty settling or is feeding all hours of the day might make a parent want to attempt instigating a strict early routine. However in these cases it might be better to explore the possibility that their baby is not getting enough milk first, before enforcing a new regime. The most popular baby expert associated with early feeding and sleeping routines is Gina Ford. Her books and her website take parents through a system to get a young baby off to sleep with the aim that by four to six months, the child is sleeping through from 7pm to 7am.
It is important to note that this kind of regime will not suit all babies or parents as it involves being disciplined and removes the ‘on demand’ instinctive aspect of baby feeding. While some parents find it liberating because the rules are laid down for them, others may find the system demoralising if their baby does not take to it quickly and they as parents do not want to leave their baby crying for too long.
When to get into a sleep routine
Most babies are ready for a slightly more organised routine of naps and sleep by about four months. By this time most parents will feel confident that they can read their baby’s crying patterns and know the difference between genuine distress and simply a lack of willingness to get off to sleep. If you do not feel comfortable doing this at four months you can leave it a little longer, but try to get your baby settled into some kind of routine by about five months as soon bouts of teething will start to interrupt sleep and if there is no established routine you will find you stutter towards the one-year mark with no clear habits in place.
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