News & Updates

Ask a Childbirth Educator (May 2023)

‘A routine sounds amazing, but is it realistic?

It is a common question, even from complete strangers – “have you got your baby into a routine yet?” Particularly in Western society many people have an obsession for getting these completely dependent wee babies into a routine.  We also have to acknowledge that they have completely different sleep needs to ours, and for you as the parent the lack of sleep is extremely hard.  And it’s really important to have support around you getting your sleep needs met, even with a baby who will be waking frequently through the night. 

Routine really is such a hard word to live up to, but it’s a word that is frequently used.  As you get to know your baby you will start to notice patterns that your baby is naturally following.  

Patterns or rituals though are particularly useful.  If you have a regular pattern every time baby is put to bed, baby tends to respond accordingly.  It might be a song you always sing to your baby before settling to bed, a head massage, or book you read (babies are never too young to be read to).   

Tired signs are important to take note of too.  Your baby will let you know when it’s tired by showing a tired sign.  They’re the same tired signs that adults show: a fixed stare, become fidgety, stinging eyes that need rubbing, facial grimace and lastly grizzling.  If you can learn your baby’s-tired signs, you’ll have greater success getting baby into bed when they are at their peak of tiredness.  Don’t beat yourself up if these don’t work 100% of the time, but if it does for 60%, then you’re doing exceptionally well!

Babies have twice as much REM sleep than adults.  This means that during a sleep cycle they will wake lightly and possibly grizzle or gurgle a little then put itself back to sleep.  This is normal, however if the grizzle becomes a cry and baby doesn’t self-sooth within a few minutes, then baby needs a cuddle and re-settling.   

From significant research, we know that leaving a baby to cry to sleep damages neuronal interconnections.  Excessive cortisol (a hormone released in response to stress) kills neurons, which are essential as the baby is undergoing rapid brain growth in its first 3 years of life.   

Leaving a baby to cry it out is sometimes a method that parents use to force independence on their baby.  Again, extensive research shows that giving babies what they need and responding appropriately, leads to greater independence later.  A caregiver who regularly responds to the needs of a baby before the baby gets distressed are more likely to have children who are independent, have strong social skills and generally more content.  For a baby, being secure in the knowledge that mum, dad or caregiver will respond if they need them enhances their security and independence, therefore making them feel relaxed. 

Perhaps you’ve missed those tired signs though, or for some reason baby isn’t managing to settle well, here are a few things you could try: 

  • Rock and cuddle your baby 
  • Sing, talk, or sssssh in a soothing tone. 
  • Check baby’s temperature and adjust appropriately 
  • Give baby a deep relaxing bath 
  • Take your baby with you into the shower or bath 
  • Go for a walk or drive in the car 
  • Feed baby 
  • White noise – vacuum cleaner, radio slightly off station
  • Massage 

Seek professional advice if baby appears unwell or you have any concerns at all. 

If you’re getting upset, either give your baby to someone else to cuddle while you calm down, or if you’re on your own, place baby somewhere safe and take 2 minutes to gather yourself and relax then go back to baby.  Baby will pick up on your stress. 

Join one of our Baby and You programmes, either face to face at your local Centre, or check out some of our online workshop by going to our website:     

There are rows of ‘baby books’ but you’ll probably find that only a couple of chapters per book will fit with the individual needs of your baby – The best book you could possibly read is to “read your baby”



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