Five Reasons Your Baby Needs A Sleep Routine (and why you need one too!)
Wouldn’t it be nice if in the year after the birth of a baby, new mamas were free to relax with their baby, feed, cuddle, sleep and bond, while family and friends cared for siblings, cooked, cleaned and generally made life easy?
If the world worked like this you could live without routine, floating from one moment to the next without a thought as to sleep routines because your only responsibility would be your baby.
The reality is that this just doesn’t happen. Life goes on, other children need caring for, school runs need doing, food needs cooking and housework piles up. Without some kind of routine, mum ends up exhausted and everyone suffers.
Establishing your baby on a gentle and consistent sleep routine is one of the most important gifts you will give your child. It’s also a gift that just keeps on giving. A gentle baby sleep routine will give you the energy to get through your day without losing the plot and the clarity of mind to be fully present with your baby.
1. Sleep routines help your baby sleep better
Yes, that’s right. Sleeping on a gentle and rhythmic schedule helps young babies sleep more soundly and for longer periods of time. This means you get the rest you need too!
Our bodies naturally adjust to the routines we set in our lives. You may have noticed how you often wake just moments before your alarm clock goes off, or how you get particularly tired the half hour before your regular bedtime. Your baby’s body works in the same way. With a sleep routine, she will quickly learn when it’s time to sleep and will begin to feel tired in the 30 minutes leading up to bedtime.
The benefit of having an age appropriate routine is that it encourages your baby or toddler to sleep for longer periods of time by making sure she is sleepy enough by the time bedtime rocks up. This reduces the risk of catnapping and falling asleep for shorter lengths of time.
If you don’t set the routine for your baby’s sleep, your baby will likely do it herself and it will usually entail lots of catnapping and snacking intermittently throughout the day and night.
2. Sleep routines help you plan your day
A lot of mums think that a baby sleep routine means they have to stay home all day and watch the clock. This simply isn’t true, and although initially you will need to monitor the time so your baby doesn’t become overtired, a consistent baby sleep schedule or routine will give you more freedom and flexibility than you could ever have imagined.
A consistent sleep routine means you know exactly when your baby will be getting hungry and tired, meaning you can more easily avoid those overtired screaming sessions at the shopping centre! It takes out the stress of guessing what your baby needs.
With a baby sleep routine you can easily plan your day. If you need to do chores or meet with friends you will have the peace of mind and confidence to plan ahead, knowing roughly when your baby will sleep. You will be able to fit in plenty of time to rest, exercise and make yourself healthy nutritious meals rather than eat on the run, or worse yet, get to 4pm before you reaslise you have haven’t had lunch.
The best part of having a sleep routine for me was knowing every night I had at least 3 hours to unwind and have some quality time with my husband, watch some TV, have a relaxing dinner or get some work done. It gave me a sense of freedom I would never have had without a routine.
The reality is that babies need quality sleep to be calm, healthy and fully connected to mum. A sleep routine helps them get the sleep they need.
3. Sleep routines help you remember to meet your baby’s needs before they actually need them
During the first year or so of a baby’s life, it’s easy to feel like you’re losing your mind. One mother told me a story of how she was driving home from her in-laws with her three month old twins and saw a blinking red light. She stared at it, unsure of what that signal meant and then drove through it without even stopping. Luckily no one was hurt, but the sound of the other cars beeping at her gave her a wake-up call.
It’s hard to remember when your child last fed or slept when you’re exhausted. Which means it’s hard to work out if they’re tired or hungry when they wake crying through the night.
4. Sleep routines are a good way to start you and your child off
Creating good sleeping habits when a child is a baby is a great way to start off a lifetime of sound sleep and healthy routines. By having good sleep routines as a baby, when baby becomes a toddler, they will already be used to having a sleep routine. And, toddlers need routine even more than babies.
Babies thrive on consistency and by starting off on the right foot you set your little one up for a more stable and consistent pattern as they grow.
5. Sleep routines help with other routines
A baby with a consistent sleep routine is also able to transition more smoothly to all other routines. This becomes even more important as they grow into toddlers and preschoolers where the demands on them grow and change.
An overtired baby or toddler can’t cope as well with the everyday changes and tasks that arise, and is more likely to become agitated and overwhelmed. A well rested baby is able to devote their energy to playing and learning as sleep is essential for healthy brain development and growth.
Whist a sleep routine may seem restrictive at first, it really does give both you and your baby the consistency you both need to be well rested and to get through the day. A sleeping baby means a well rested mama, and a well rested mama is good for baby!
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