Establishing A Routine

Establishing a Routine for Your BabyEstablishing A Routine For Your Baby

Some people cringe at the thought of establishing a routine for a newborn, thinking that it is not a reasonable thing for an infant to follow. This may be true for schedules, where you fit your baby to a clock, but not a routine. Babies, live adults, thrive on a routine and it helps parents in many, many ways. The important thing to remember with your routine is that is has to remain FLEXIBLE.  Setting up a rigid schedule that your baby must follow to the minute is not acceptable or fair to your baby (and will make your life more miserable).

The easiest routine we have found to follow is Tracy Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY is an acronym for a predictable sequence of events the pretty much mirrors adult lives. Eat, have some Activity, go to Sleep, then have time for You. This is a routine (not a schedule) that keeps the day structured and predictable, helps parents learn their babies ways of communicating, and prevents the forming of some bad habits (like feeding your baby to sleep). We suggest starting on this routine from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. The routine is only a daytime routine. During the night, there should be no activity period (not even a diaper change unless you know the diaper has poop in it or the diaper is leaking). At night, if your baby wakes from hunger, feed him them put him right back to sleep.

Newborn to four month old babies should be on a three hour routine (eating every three hours) and at four months babies are ready to move to a four hour routine (this is assuming a baby was not premature, is of average healthy weight and has no health problems). Establishing a routine is easier the younger the baby, so start right away and your baby will naturally and easily move from the three to four hour routine-probably even on her own.

A Routine That Works for Parents AND Baby

Tracy Hogg’s years of experience implementing the EASY routine with families, resulted in babies’ lives that were predictable and calm, which led them to be “good eaters, they learned to play independently for increasingly longer periods and they could get themelves to sleep without sucking on a bottle or breast or being rocked by their parents. As many of these babies grew into toddlers and preschoolers, they were also confident in themselves and trusted that their parents would be there if they needed them. The parents themselves learned early on to tune in to their child’s cues by carefully observing their body language and listening to their cries. Because they could “read” their child, they felt better equipped to deal with any bumps in the road.”

“With EASY, you don’t follow the baby, you take charge. You observe him carefully, tune in to his cues, but you take the lead, gently encouraging him to follow what you know will make him thrive: eating, appropriate levels of activity, and a good sleep afterward. You are your baby’s guide. You set the pace. EASY gives parents, especially first-timers, the confidence to know that they understand their baby, because they more quickly learn to distinguish their baby’s cries.”

Write It Down to Help Stick To The Routine

The most important thing you can do to keep on your routine, especially in the beginning or during periods of change, is to write everything down. Write down what time your baby eats, how long of on activity period you had, what time she went to sleep and when she woke up. This helps you remember what times things occurred (because your lack-of-sleep brain isn’t as good at remembering on its own) and helps you recognize patterns (good and bad). Writing it all down gives you the perspective of an entire day (or week).

Some of the things you might want to write down or log would be:

Eat-Time, How much (if bottle)/how long (if breast), Right or Left breast

Activity-What, How long

Sleep-How long

You-What you did for yourself (taking naps when your baby is napping is the best way to spend your “You” time in the beginning)

The Most Important Thing To Remember

It is so important to remember that this is a flexible, structured routine, NOT a schedule. Your baby will likely vary a little from day to day on when she is hungry or tired (usually only by 15-30 minutes) and that is ok. If your baby is hungry, feed her, even if it is before the “time” on your routine. When your baby starts showing signs of getting tired, put her to bed. Instead of focusing on the clock, focus on your baby. Look for signs of hunger, sleepiness and overstimulation. “The better you get at interpreting your baby’s cries and body language, the better you’ll be at guiding him and at clearing whatever obstacles get in the way.”

A Typical EASY Day for a 4 Week Old (as outlined in Tracy’s book)

E-7:00 am Feed

A-7:45 Diaper change, some playing and talking; watch cues for sleepiness

S-8:15 Swaddle and lay your baby in the crib. It may take him 15-20 minutes to fall asleep for his 1st morning nap.

Y-8:30 You nap when he naps

E-10:00 Feed

A-10:45 See 7:45 above

S-11:15 2nd morning nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-1:00 Feed

A-1:45 See 7:45 above

S-2:15 Afternoon nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-4:00 Feed

A-4:45 See 7:45 above

S-5:15 Catnap for 40-50 minutes to give him enough rest to handle his bath.

Y-5:30 Do something nice for yourself.

E-6:00 1st Cluster feed

A-7:00 Bath, into jammies, lullaby or other bedtime ritual

S-7:30 Another catnap

Y-7:30 You eat dinner

E-8:00 2nd cluster feed

A-None

S-Put him straight back to bed

Y-Enjoy your short evening

E-10-11 Dream feed and cross your fingers ’til morning!

“NOTE: Whether a baby is breast or bottle fed, I advise the above routine–allowing for variations in times–until 4 months old. The “A” time will be shorter for younger babies, and get progressively longer for older ones. I also recommend turning the two “cluster feeds” into one (at around 5:30 or ) by 8 weeks. Continue to dream feed until 7 months–unless he’s a great sleeper and makes it through on his own.”

From Our Experience

As activity time gets longer and more involved, it is necessary to have an adequate wind-down ritual to prepare your baby for sleep. It is not easy for her to go right from playing to sleeping. She has to have time to settle down and get in sleep mode. Be sure to do the same things every time before bed (swaddle, read books, sing a lullaby, sit in the chair, etc). If your baby is extra fussy when you try to put her to sleep, you might need to spend a few more minutes in your wind-down. And, enjoy this time! The time to cuddle and snuggle your baby is irreplaceable!

To read all about Tracy Hogg’s Sleep Methods and to hear many case studies, check out her incredible books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

Recommended Reading

To read more about the EASY Routine, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

Alternatives To Cry It Out

Alternatives to the Cry It Out/Ferber Method

Alternatives to Cry It Out

There are ways to help teach your baby how to put herself to sleep that, when used correctly, can work faster than the Cry It Out method, without the stress on you or your baby. You can start now, whether your baby is a newborn or well into her first year. Our favorite methods come from The Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg.

First Steps to Encourage Independent Sleep

From the day you bring your baby home from the hospital there are many things you can do that will help teach her to be an independent sleeper, which means more sleep for you! It important to realize, however, that babies are not ready to go through “sleep training” until they are four months old. These first steps do not really fall into the category of “sleep training”, yet they are extremely helpful and lay a great foundation for when your baby is a few months old and able to soothe herself.

The first thing you should do is keep your baby on a flexible routine or schedule. This benefits both parents and baby and makes it very easy to learn to read your baby. To find out more, read our article about Establishing A Routine For Your Baby.

Reading Your Baby’s Sleep Cues

Once a routine has been established, you will find that you can easily read your baby’s sleep cues. You will know when she is getting tired and learn when is the best time to put her to bed. When you hit this “window” of time, putting your baby to sleep can be quite simple. Here are some typical sleep cues, Tracy Hogg outlines by developmental stages:

“When they gain control of their heads: As they become sleepier, they turn their face away from objects of people, as if trying to shut out the world. If carried, they bury their face into your chest. They make involuntary movements, flailing their arms and legs.

When they gain control of their limbs: Tired babies may rub their eyes, pull at their ears or scratch at their faces.

When they begin to gain mobility: Babies who are getting tired become visibly less coordinated and lose interest in toys. If held, they’ll arch their backs and lean backward. In their cribs, they can inch their way into a corner and may wedge their heads there. Or they’ll roll one way and get stuck because they can’t roll back.

When they can crawl and/or walk: Coordination goes first when older babies are tired. If trying to pull themselves up, they’ll fall; if walking, they’ll stumble or bump into things. They have full control of their own bodies, so they’ll often cling to the adult who is trying to put them down. They can stand up in their cribs but often don’t know how to get back down-unless they fall, which frequently happens.”

Look for these signs and as soon as you recognize that your baby is getting tired, start your wind-down routine.

Know How Your Baby Falls Asleep

There is a three-stage process to falling asleep for all babies, but every baby will go through these stages in their own way. Watch and observe your baby to know and understand how she falls asleep. You will quickly learn whether your baby is ultra sensitive to the timing/window, if he is prone to jolting or if he drifts easily to sleep. The whole process usually takes 20 minutes, so stick it through long enough to really know when your baby has entered dreamland.

Tracy Hogg identifies the three stages of sleep as:

“Stage 1: The Window. Your baby shows you he is tired by yawning and exhibiting other sleep signs. By the third yawn , get him to bed. If you don’t he’ll start to cry rather than pass into the next stage.

Stage 2: The Zone. At this point, your baby has a fixed, focused glaze that lasts for three or four minutes. His eyes are open, but he’s not really seeing-he’s off somewhere in the stratosphere.

Stage 3: Letting Go. Now your baby resembles a person nodding off on a train: He closes his eyes and his head drops forward or to the side. Just as he seems to be falling asleep, his eyes open suddenly and his head whips backward, jolting his whole body. He’ll then close his eyes again and repeat the process anywhere from three to five times until he finally enters dreamland.”

The third stage is especially important to pay attention to and know as you follow these other steps to teach your baby how to fall asleep on her own.

Do The Right Things Leading Up to Sleep

Establishing a calm and consistent wind-down routine before every nap and before night time sleep is very important. It helps your baby know when sleep is coming. Tell her it’s naptime, bring her to her room, make sure the blinds are closed and that the room is dark, check that her diaper is clean and dry, swaddle her or put her in a sleep sack, sing her a song or play a nice lullaby, talk to her softly in her ear or read her a story, then sit with her quietly for about five minutes. The purpose is to calm her and get her ready for sleep, not to put her all the way to sleep. If/when you notice Stage 2 setting in, or if she starts closing her eyes, put her in her crib (she should still be awake at this point).

Once you put her in her crib, stay with her to make sure she goes all the way to dreamland and help her if needed. Sometimes babies will fuss when you put them down or when they experience a “Stage 3 jolt.” If she cries at this point, try to soothe her while she is still in her bed. You can do this by rhythmically patting her back and “shhhhhhushing” to her. Once she quits crying stop your patting so she does not depend on that to fall asleep.

Once her breathing deepens and the jolts have stopped (usually around the 20 minute mark) it is probably safe to say your baby is asleep!

Putting Your Baby Back to Sleep

Hopefully your baby will take great 1.5-2 hour naps and not wake after 40-45 minutes each time (the length of an entire sleep cycle) or sleep through until the next feeding (if he still needs them) at night. If he does wake early and he needs to sleep longer, you can help him go back to sleep without using any aids that will turn into bad habits and get in the way of your baby learning how to sleep (rocking, holding, feeding, etc.).

If your baby is just stirring/fussing, but not genuinely crying, don’t rush in. Some babies will stir a little but put themselves back to sleep. By rushing in you may actually disrupt them and interfere with them putting themselves back to sleep on their own. Wait until your baby is actually crying for help to go in to him. To learn more about knowing the difference in your baby’s cries, read our article on the “mantra cry” and when it’s ok to let your baby cry. When you do go in to your baby’s room, try first to soothe them while they are still in bed. A shush and a pat while they are in bed may be all it takes for them to calm back down and go back to sleep.

If your baby is under four months old, and he won’t settle in his bed, pick him and soothe him by continuing to shush and pat. Once he is calm, put him back in his crib. If necessary shush and pat to keep him calm in his bed. But again, do not do this until he falls asleep-the purpose is just to soothe.

If your baby is four months old or older, he will have more of an ability to soothe himself and should be encouraged to learn to self-soothe instead of depend on you. If he won’t settle in his bed, pick him up, but as soon as he quits crying (immediately-the second he quits), put him back down in his crib. If he starts to cry, try to settle him in bed, if that doesn’t work, pick him up, then put him down as soon as he quits crying–repeating this cycle for as long as it takes. If your baby starts to cry on his way back down to the mattress, be sure you put him all the way down before you pick him back up. Tracy Hogg calls this the “Pick Up/Put Down” method and it works amazingly well. Babies don’t get stressed or feel abandoned because you are there with them and they quickly learn that you are not going to hold them until they fall asleep. The first time you do this, you may have to pick your baby up and put him down many, many times, but each time you do it, the number of times will shorten until you don’t have to do it anymore. Now doesn’t that sound a lot better than listening to your baby cry and scream for you while you are letting them cry it out?!

Do not try the Pick Up/Put Down method for babies under four months as it will actually stimulate and disturb them. For these young babies, just stick with the shush/pat. For babies that are older (10-12 months) and toddlers, you will eliminate the pick up portion of the method. When they stand in the crib, you will just lay them back down. Sometimes a simple hug will suffice before you lay them down.

To read all about Tracy Hogg’s Sleep Methods and to hear many case studies, check out her incredible books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

Recommended Reading

To read more about trying alternatives to the Cry It Out method, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

To Swaddle? How Long?

To Swaddle? How Long?Should You Swaddle Baby or Not and For How Long?

Most parents wonder how long they should swaddle their baby, if at all. The question of whether or not to do it at all is an obvious yes! Swaddling has been around since babies have been (FOREVER) and for good reason. Some people look at swaddling through their adult eyes, not the baby’s, calling it a “straight jacket” and assuming it is too binding and uncomfortable, an unnecessary restriction of movement. The truth, however, is that babies love to be swaddled and it is best to swaddle from the day they are born until they tell you they are done with it. (For videos on how to swaddle, click here.)

Safety First

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a study in May 2005 suggesting that swaddling may reduce the chances of SIDS and that babies who are swaddled have fewer night wakings and fall back to sleep more quickly. They also suggested that swaddled babies are more responsive to outside stimuli (which means they may wake up more easily if something is wrong).

Womb To World Is a Shock

When babies are first born they are in total shock. All the comforts of a tight, dark, warm womb with the constant loud swish of mom’s heartbeat have been replaced with bright light, new sights and sounds and no more security of being snug all the time. While most of the elements of the womb are hard to replace for your baby, a tight swaddle is an easy way to give them the cozy, cradled, secure feel they miss.

The Startle Reflex

Newborns are born with the Startle Reflex, also called Moro Reflex. The Startle/Moro Reflex is when a baby will startle and spread out her arms and legs (actually a fear of falling) and possibly cry. While this reflex demonstrates proper motor development in babies up to five months, it can cause sleep disturbances or problems falling asleep.  When babies are tightly swaddled, the Startle Reflex is contained and does not interfere with sleep.

Involuntary Movement

Babies under the age of three months have no control over their arms or legs and when tired, their arms and legs wave and jerk. Babies don’t realize that their limbs are attached to their body, so when flailing arms hit them in the face, they think they are part of the environment, an outside stimulus that is disturbing them. By swaddling, you contain their involuntary movements and remove stimulation that keeps them awake.

Swaddling Is a Great Step In the Bedtime Routine

Starting from the day they are born, you can use swaddling as part of your wind-down/bedtime routine, both for naps and night. Being put in a swaddle is a consistent and recognizable sign for baby to know that sleep is coming. Many babies are ready to calm down and fall asleep as soon as they are snugged up in a swaddle.

How Long to Swaddle

The question of how long to swaddle baby is not as black and white and whether or not to swaddle at all. Almost every resource you look at will tell you a different time as well. Some will tell you as little as one month is long enough and others may suggest swaddling for up to seven or eight months. The important thing to look for are real signs from your baby that she is ready to stop being swaddled. These signs might not be as easy to recognize, either.

Getting Out of  Swaddle Doesn’t Mean She’s Ready to be Done With It

As a baby gets older he is going to get more mobile and be able to move around. And this movement will cause the swaddle to come undone. This is not an indication that your baby does not need to be swaddled anymore, though. Some babies will wake as a result of becoming unswaddled and can only fall back to sleep (and stay asleep) when reswaddled. Another cause of the swaddle coming undone is that babies get bigger and it is harder to make small blankets stay tight around a larger baby. The swaddle wraps with velcro are a fabulous way to keep a swaddle in place on babies as they get bigger.

Experiment

Around three months is a great age to experiment and try unswaddling your baby. This is the average age for babies to find their fingers, which can be very helpful for being able to self-soothe. Some babies, however, might not find their fingers until 5 months, or even later. Leave one of your baby’s arms out of the swaddle (so you can still incorporate it into your wind-down routine for now) and see how he does. Give it a few days, as the first sleep like this will likely be disturbed. If your baby does ok with it after a few days, is able to fall asleep and stay asleep, he is probably ready to get rid of the swaddle. If he is having a hard time falling asleep and wakes often, it is an indication that the swaddle is still needed. Go back to it and experiment again in another month or two. Don’t feel bad about sticking with a swaddle for a while, regardless of what others tell you. I got rid of the swaddle at six months and I hear a lot of success with using it until five months old. Do what your baby needs and feel good about that!

Recommended Reading

To read more about swaddling, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems