Routine is so important when working on little ones’ sleep and I personally always advise following a daytime routine with set timings rather than going off awake windows from when your baby wakes up.
Whenever we work with families on their baby’s sleep, introducing an age-appropriate daytime routine (or making changes to an existing one) is imperative to any work that we do and here’s why:
Working to a 12-hour day
Starting and finishing the day at the same time each day and working to a 12-hour day is one of the best things you can do to start getting your baby’s days regulated. It also creates a consistent 24-hour routine that establishes their circadian rhythm and regulates the two hormones (Melatonin and Cortisol) that prepare their bodies for being asleep and awake.
Sometimes sleepy cues aren't obvious
Lots of parents we speak to in practice find that going by awake windows does not give them the confidence to know when their baby is actually tired and ready for a nap. Some babies just don't give the obvious sleep "cues" which can result in lots of tears around nap times and bedtimes and unnecessary stress.
Know when they will be up for activities
Having set timings for naps essentially stops you from getting into a muddle with your baby’s sleep. You can plan your day, plan social outings and baby classes and quickly get to know the times when your baby will naturally be getting tired and need to be winding down. aka, not when a swimming lesson is about to begin!
Starting to have predictability in your day will give both you and your baby a sense of calmness, as they will start to know exactly what's happening next at each point in their day. Plus, having naps at the same times each day means predictable, much-needed breaks for you as the parents. Knowing exactly when to put the kettle on and get that Netflix episode lined up - gold!
Bedtime and naptime routine
Most parents understand the importance of a bedtime routine in the evenings, but for me, having a solid pre-nap routine is super important too. When babies have the same things happening in the same order each day and particularly before sleep it instils confidence in them about “what comes next”. This ultimately leads them to feeling secure and means that you are much more likely to have easy, predictable naps and bedtimes without tears.
How to get started
If you’d like some guidance with introducing a routine for your baby, The Sleep Chief has sleep programmes available from newborn up to 4 years old. All programmes give you recommended timings for naps, feeds, meals, bedtime etc. depending on your little ones’ age.
The Sleep Chief is a sleep consultancy working with babies from newborn up to 4 years old. No-nonsense advice delivered in a caring way, with a range of downloadable sleep programmes available as well as Zoom and at home one-to-one consultations.