|Erica Neser is a UNICEF-trained Breastfeeding Consultant
and Infant Massage Instructor with the International Association
of Infant Massage. She has a BA degree in Psychology, and
is trained as an Aromatherapist, Postnatal Depression Group
Leader and Infant CPR Instructor. She has been featured
in radio talks, contributes to baby and women’s magazines
and often speaks at parenting workshops and to groups of
health professionals. She has been working as a breastfeeding
consultant and teaching baby massage at two busy baby clinics
for ten years. She is the co-author of the IAIM (South Africa)
Baby Massage Parents’ Manual. She lives in Stellenbosch
with her three young children, who have all learnt to sleep
Getting Your Baby Into
A Sleep Routine
by Erica Neser, author of Sleep Guide for Babies and Toddlers
(Protea Books, 2006)
“Is your baby in a routine yet?”
You’ve probably heard this question too many times.
Every week at our baby clinic I see mothers who are distressed
and worried about the fact that their newborn baby has no
predictable routine. There seems to be a general expectation
that babies should be in a firm sleeping and feeding routine
right from birth. Perhaps it is wise to think about how
important routine is in your own life, and whether this
expectation is realistic.
Some babies start their lives on the outside with a four-hourly
feeding routine, and sleep from one feed to the next. Parents
are thrilled that their baby has settled into a routine
so quickly. The fact is that most babies spend their first
two weeks sleeping off their ‘pregnancy hangover.’
This sets up the expectation with the parents that things
will be like this for keeps. After two weeks, the wheels
come off, and all their efforts to get baby back into this
convenient pattern are in vain. Don’t panic - this
If you are a ‘routineless’ person like me,
you may find it really hard to give your children any kind
of routine. If, on the other hand, you are used to routine,
you may find your baby’s seemingly haphazard routine
I believe that routine is important for babies and children.
They do seem to thrive on predictability. It gives them
a sense of security and helps them to know what to expect.
Having said that, I believe that a young baby cannot be
forced into a routine. Babies develop their own rhythm in
the first few weeks and months, and one of your tasks as
a parent will be to become aware of your baby’s unique
rhythm, and use that as a basis for your daily routine.
The following tips may help you make sense of your baby’s
Tips on getting baby
into a sleep routine
- Plan your
day (and outings) around your baby’s sleep times
(as opposed to her feeding times). Anticipate when
she will need to nap and work around that.
- Try to avoid interrupting baby’s
- Try to be home for at least one
long nap each day.
- Babies get tired very quickly. The following table will help
prevent you avoid over-tiredness in your baby. (Keep
in mind that every baby is unique and some babies
will sleep quite a bit more or less than indicated
below. If your baby sleeps a lot less than the average
amount, but is happy and content, don’t worry!)
|Average amount of sleep in 24h
||40 – 60 minutes
||6 – 8 hours
||14 – 16 hours
||60 – 80 minutes
||5 - 7 hours
||8 – 10 hours
||1 ½ hour
||3 – 5 hours
||10 – 11 hours
||14 – 15 hours
||2 – 3 ½ hours
||2 ½ hours
||1 – 3 hours
||13 – 14 hours
from Babysense by Megan Faure & Ann Richardson, p.37
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber
the sleep wave – watch out for signs of tiredness
and put baby down to sleep when you see that she is
- Try to establish
an early bedtime (6-8pm) for babies over 6 weeks (babies
under 6 weeks have a naturally later bedtime).
- Try to develop a
soothing bedtime routine to give baby a chance to
relax and wind down before sleeptime. This may include
a bath, massage, reading a story, singing lullabies,
feeding and cuddling.
- Where possible, try to keep baby’s
weekend routine similar to her week routine.
- Routine helps to set baby’s
“biological clock.” Try to keep to regular
feed- and sleep times, and try to keep events like
bath, massage, walks in the pram etc. at more or less
the same time each day. (This does not imply the strict
four-hourly feeding routine. Most babies need to feed
more often than that.)
- Don’t worry if you have no
sleep routine for the first 6 weeks. Babies this young
don’t have a fully developed circadian (day-night)
rhythm yet. Circadian rhythm slowly starts developing
between 6 and 16 weeks.
- Most babies switch day and night
in the first weeks. They like to sleep all day and
then wake up every hour during the night. This problem
usually corrects itself. You can help establish a
day-night routine by differentiating night and day
– keep the environment quiet and dark during
the night, and light and active during the day.
to adapt your routine as your baby grows. A newborn’s
routine will be very different from that of a six-month-old
not to be rigid about routine – you’ll
have to be flexible at times.
in your routine (going on holiday, moving house etc.)
will probably upset baby’s sleep routine. This
is especially true for babies between four and six
months. It may be wise to keep as many elements of
your baby’s normal routine during the disrupted
phase, such as his bedtime routine. Try to keep to
his usual awake times between daytime naps as well.
- Try to return to your normal routine as soon as possible
after the disruption.
- Accept that no two days will be identical.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, things
change! Be philosophical about this.
- Be realistic – your post-baby routine
will be dramatically different from your pre-baby routine!
- Be gentle, be patient. Make gradual changes.
- You may think that a routine will restrict
you, but it can actually make things easier for you,
because you can plan ahead for baby’s naptime.
And when you do go out, baby is happy and well rested.
- If mum-and-baby classes, shopping, visiting
friends etc. interfere with baby’s naps every
day, try to tone things down a little. Keep your daily
routine simple and avoid too many hectic days.
have learnt this from my three children: if you disrupt
their routine, they will disrupt yours!
Some people need a lot of structure and order
to be content. Others prefer going with the flow. There
is no right and wrong – you have to decide what works
for you and your family. Don’t agonise and obsess
about routine. It will come. Remember that getting to know
your baby takes time. Establishing a routine takes time.
Life takes time!
© Erica Neser 2006.
would like to order please contact me
Visit us at www.babysleep.co.za
Sleep - Altered sleep routine
Sleep - Appropriate
sleep routines (Jacqui Flint advises)
Sleep - Background
Sleep - Dealing
with Catnapping (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Darkened
Sleep - Night
Sleep - Reasons for waking
Sleep - Sighing
Sleep - Surviving Co-sleeping (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Toddler Sleep Problems (Author Erica Neser advises)