Rhythms and Routines

sleeping babyI have a bit of a love/hate relationship with routines.

When my first son was born, we instigated a bedtime routine from just a few days old. I regret it immensely. It didn’t help him sleep (not until he was a few months old anyway), and it robbed us of the Portable Baby stage – sorry Gran, we can’t come to your birthday party, it’s past Monkey’s bedtime. Apologies, mother-in-law, we can’t come for roast dinner on Sunday evening lest we mess up The Routine. Even though I could see it was making us all miserable, I dared not ditch it for fear of his sleeping habits becoming even worse than they already were. I wish I could have given myself a good shake, and reminded myself to just relax and enjoy his first couple of months without stressing over a schedule.

So, when I discovered that we were expecting Squish, we made a vow to skip the routines altogether, and let him follow his own night-time rhythm.

For a while, this approach was perfect for us. I mean, he doesn’t sleep much, but I never attributed that to his lack of routine. And you know, even if it was down to that, it was a reasonable trade-off. I have adored the freedom of just being able to pop him in the sling and go out in the evening – to a friend’s house, out for a meal, to Slimming World meetings… rhythms and routines

However, at 6 months old, I am sorry to admit that the 24/7 freedom of the Portable Baby Stage is now over. We have implemented a loosely structured bedtime routine, based on his natural rhythms. It’s nothing special or fancy; we get both boys washed and ready for bed at 7, then we read a story, sing a song, and finally nurse/cuddle/rock to sleep before placing him in the sidecar cot, ninja-style so as not to wake him.

And you know what? It’s working.

Last night was night 2 of Operation Bedtime Routine, and for the first time since the sleepy newborn days, I managed to get him down for the night by 9:30pm – and he stayed asleep until 1:30am. I couldn’t quite believe it.

Do I regret not implementing a routine sooner? Absolutely not. I have loved having him downstairs with us in the evenings, and in all honesty I miss him – even though it’s nice to be able to talk above a whisper. We have truly enjoyed those fleeting Baby Days, and I feel sad that we didn’t do the same with Monkey. Sigh. We live and learn.

And now we are moving into the next exciting stage. This was the right time to implement a bedtime routine, especially as I am forced to return to my evening job in just two short months (sob).

What is your bedtime routine? Was it something that your baby instigated, or was it a joint effort?


Image courtesy of Kekka @ flickr


  1. says

    I’m pretty laid back in my general attitude and parenting style BUT I think every baby get to the point that they just NEED a general routine. I’m not referring to a strict militant schedule for mama’s sake, but moreso a nice, baby-led routine so that they have some sort of consistency in regards to the rhythm of the day (and night). I think most newborns are definitely portable and I do love that time when they just snooze away snuggled into the sling.

    My first son who was also a horrid sleeper, demanded some sort of structure for sleep times around 4 months of age. We followed his lead and just began planning and acomodating around those times. For us, it wasn’t that we had to strictly adhere to a specific time but more following of his rhythm. So, if we had an early evening thing then it was fine as long as we respected his needs. My second son was just added into the already established bedtime routine mix, but he was portable for much longer than his big bro and thankfully, an easier sleeper.

    Plus, anything so that everyone sleeps better is a good thing, right?! lol!

    • says

      I absolutely agree; and all babies reach that stage in their own time. 6 months is definitely the right age for Squish, and he’s thriving on having a general rhythm to our days and evenings.

      And yes, anything that keeps everybody happy and well rested is a good thing!

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. says

    I think people can get so unnecessarily worried about the need for structure and routine to a baby’s day. You’re right about making the most of the portable baby stage. They aren’t on solids before 6 months so if you’re breastfeeding all you need to do is pack a couple of nappies and maybe a change of clothes and off you go! Young babies will sleep anywhere if they are tired. It’s only when they get a bit older that they seem to need the familiar surroundings of home and to have a routine to make them feel secure and know what to expect. It was only at around 8 or 9 months that I began to implement a bedtime routine for my daughter and purposely tried to change her bedtime to an earlier one. It’s much easier to get them to go to sleep at night when they become used to going to sleep at the same time each night. Of course now we’re dealing with the challenge of light evenings which has disrupted things a bit!

    • says

      Oh absolutely; thanks to the Gina Ford’s of this world, many of us go into parenthood for the first time feeling like we are doing something horribly wrong by going with the flow.

      Light evenings are proving tough here, too… Monkey (3yo) insists that it’s not bedtime because it’s still sunny, lol…

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. Amy says

    I had my first baby just over 3 months ago now and I have to admitt I had previously believed in strong structure, boundaries routines and all that jazz when I was preganant. I read everything I could on sleep routines and getting babies to sleep through the night. To my horrible shame I let my poor little girl cry alone at the end of our bed the first night she came home afraid I would be ‘spoiling her’.

    The first few weeks she went down in her carry cot and moses basket easily, sleepy little newborn that she was, but around week 4 everything changed. She got ‘clingy’ as I then described it, she wouldn’t let me put her down night or day. We tried leaving her to cry and coming back to reassure her, but she just wouldn’t stop unless she was in Mummy or Daddy’s arms. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, was I weak giving into her cries? I began researching into parenting ideas and styles and came across babywearing, slings and wraps. My little girl changed overnight into the happiest easiest baby I’ve ever known. She smiles non stop and is ahead of all her friends in development. I wore her all day as she slept and frequently let her sleep next to me in bed.

    The last week she has started to want to sleep unswaddled and on her own in the cot. She’s only 3 months but already such an independent little lady. I miss her snuggled into me but have to accept that she decided she’s ready to sleep in her own bed. I find it hard to listen to the mum’s at our local groups leaving their babies to cry in the hope of teaching their babies to sleep when I feel like the secret is to stop trying to force them into something and let them decide when things happen, when they’re tired so they can set their body clock according to their needs.

    This blog saved me from making the same mainstream mistakes. I read your article on sleep training when she was 4 weeks and we started encountering ‘problems’. I have never looked back and bitterly regret those early weeks, next baby it will be a sling home from hospital for as long as baby wants! Thank you so much.

    • says

      Hi Amy! Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experiences.

      Please don’t beat yourself up for those early weeks with your daughter. You were simply doing what you thought was best at the time – we can only work with what we know, right? You realised very quickly that the road you were taking wasn’t the right one for your family and you sought to change that. Your daughter is so lucky to have such a conscientious and caring mother :)

      “the secret is to stop trying to force them into something and let them decide when things happen, when they’re tired so they can set their body clock according to their needs.” – this is just so spot on. Motherhood is really tough, and learning to adjust to a new sleep schedule is one of the toughest things about it. Some of us get lucky and have babies that sleep well and others don’t. It’s just part of it, and like you pointed out, it’s much easier and kinder to just go with it and find ways to make sure that everybody gets enough rest without resorting to harsh sleep-training techniques.

      You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that this blog has made a positive difference to somebody. If I can help just one mother start to listen to her inner voice (rather than the seemingly omnipresent drone of The Baby Experts), I consider that a huge achievement. Thank YOU so much for your comment (you have no idea how much I needed to hear that today of all days!!).

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