When bringing home a newborn, it can be extremely overwhelming. So many people have given you their tokens of advice, sent you articles to look at, books to read, etc.
There’s so much to do, especially if it’s your first baby. I remember so clearly being so unsure of where to turn for baby care advice and also how to absorb it all!
OUR FIRST BABY
In June of 2014, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby boy, Jaden. We were of course over the moon! (Read more about our story in my first post!)
Our sweet family friends from our church were generous enough to pass along their baby toys, gear and even their sweet crib that both of our boys have now used! (Be sure to follow my blog or on Instagram for a post on our baby nurseries to come!)
Along with those wonderful items, she happened to give me her old pregnancy and baby books. It was quite a stack (I was intimidated by them all to say the least!!)
After looking through them all (and avoiding them for QUITE some time…) I finally decided to dive in. It only made sense to me to start with the biggest book because it probably had the most information and covered the most.
Much to my surprise… the book basically transformed my ENTIRE thoughts on caring for our baby as well as both of our sweet boys’ lives!
WE. STRUCK. GOLD!!
“The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems” by Tracy Hogg is basically a gold mine for parents to help care for their newborns as well as a number of amazing techniques to soothe their babies.
We followed basically everything to a “T” in Tracy Hogg’s book. Everything she described in the book was dead-on-every-time. We call it our “Baby Bible!”
I cannot tell you how many times I went back to the book to look up something after having our boys! Whenever we have a friend or family member expecting, we ALWAYS order or pass this book along to them. It has been miraculous for us.
Tracy’s main point with newborns, as well as babies in general, is to establish a routine for them and RIGHT away. There is no need in “going with the flow” or just “wingin’ it” for a few weeks and THEN trying to guide your baby into a routine.
(If you read my 14 Musts When Bringing Home Baby this was my first point!)
BABIES NEED ROUTINE
Babies are born READY for routine. They need the structure. For their eating habits. For their digestion. For their sleep cycles- ALL of it!
There is, of course, debate about being super ridged with a newborn. Even Tracy herself would say that “babies don’t fit in clocks.” By that, she means, it’s not always about what time you’re doing things but what order.
Having a routine is SO helpful with a newborn because you’ll be taking out the guesswork! SO many new parents find themselves wondering why the baby is crying, what the baby is trying to tell them, or what the baby needs next. Establishing a routine with your newborn will (ALMOST always) help you know why your baby is upset.
If your baby is on a routine, you won’t have to guess what she is fussing about! You’ll know she’s fussing because she’s probably hungry or tired. And depending on what part of the routine she’s in, you’ll know which problem it is!
Having a routine helps you know what comes next for baby which is crucial for reading her cues.
When establishing a routine with your little one, you’re basically rotating different activities in a certain order to help them eat and sleep their best.
Tracy’s routine is what she calls E.A.S.Y. That stands for:
- EAT- When baby nurses or takes a bottle.
- PLAY- Some form of activity in between eating and sleeping (for newborns probably just a diaper change!)
- SLEEP- (Self explanatory!- Nap Time!)
- YOURSELF- Time for YOU to choose what to do while baby sleeps.
This is the first activity in your routine rotation. It’s how you’ll start the day. The rule with eating and sleeping is “wake to eat not eat to sleep.”
When babies are first born, a good “rule of thumb” to go by, is no sooner than 2 (hours) and no longer than 4. Babies who are premature or very small will need to eat every 2 hours until they are about 6-7 pounds.
But babies around 6-8 lbs can go every 3-4 hours. (If they’re born bigger than 8 lbs (YIKES! SORRY MAMA!) They can start off every 4!) However long you are spreading their feedings out is how long the routine is. If he can eat every 3-4 , your routine will repeat every 3-4 hours. (Even through the night for the first few weeks. Read #)
If your baby is going through a growth spurt (or still using a “tank up” in the afternoon or evening – see my tips post for more on the “tank up”) then you will probably need to do some cluster feeding (eating every 2 hours).
Growth spurts only last for around a day or two, so don’t let them do this too long! Otherwise he will get in the habit of eating every 2 hours and it will be hard to stretch out! (Be sure to check back for updates and my posts soon to come on baby feeding tips!)
After you’ve fed your little one, it’s play time! The age of your baby will determine the length of her play time as well as what she’ll be able to do.
Depending on how old your baby is, play time will be longer or shorter. When babies are just a few weeks old, they’ll only be up for 10-20 minutes MAX. And most of that will be getting their diaper changed!
Believe it or not, that’s enough activity for a newborn. She will be worn out and ready to go back to sleep for the next 2-3 hours (based on how long your baby goes without eating in the 2-4 hour cycle).
As your baby gets older, her awake time will eventually start to lengthen. She will be able to play longer and her naps will be shorter. A 9 or 10 month old baby may be up for 1 ½- 2 hours! (Be sure to check back for updates -post coming soon on baby routine/schedule by age.)
It is also good that her “activity” time is lengthened because she will be introduced to solids soon. She will need the extra time in her routine to nurse/drink her bottle AND eat.
Many times, parents believe the routine is around. They accidently switch the routine to play, eat (eating to fall asleep), and sleep.
Unfortunately, reversing the routine in this way will train him to ONLY sleep when nursed or bottle fed. This incorrect order of activities in the routine will keep him from learning to self soothe and learn to fall asleep on his own.
Being awake before sleep is helpful also because their activity wears them out and prepares them for sleep.
If your baby is a SLEEP-ER like my first baby, Jaden, was (and still is!) you will actually have to wake him up to feed him. I know- I know… To many, this will go against all you’ve heard or know about “waking a sleeping baby.”
But this will actually make your baby have a better time sleeping especially through the night. My mom always tells me the story of when she brought me home how I would sleep 5-6 hours during the day. (At the time, having my brother who was 2 1/2 , she was grateful for the “baby break.”)
However, at night I, apparently, would only sleep in 2-3 hour chunks. I had my days and nights mixed up. She quickly realized if I could sleep that long through the day, she could get me to do that through the night.
Don’t let your baby sleep their “big sleep” during the day! Wake them up to feed.
GETTING ON ROUTINE
SO! You may be thinking “I NEED to get my baby on this routine but their schedule is a MESS! Where do I start?!”
If you didn’t get your baby on an established routine when they were first born, you’re not alone. Many parents don’t and realize later they wished they had. BUT! There is still hope! You can guide your baby to a routine even if they’re not a newborn! (I will say, it can be a bit more difficult the older they are but not impossible!)
The best way to start is to jump on it in the morning. When baby wakes up he’ll be hungry! So feed him! Next, (depending on age) let him have some form of playtime or activity. Be watching for sleep cues!
WATCH YOUR BABY’S CUES
If you haven’t had an established routine with your baby or you’ve been putting them to sleep with nursing/a bottle, you may not be used to looking for your baby’s sleep cues.
We all know the signs- eyes get a bit glassy, rubs eyes, yawns etc. At the FIRST sign of drowsiness, start moving towards nap time. It’s a common misconception that keeping the baby up longer will help the baby sleep better. NOT THE CASE!
KEEPING BABY AWAKE LONGER DOESN’T HELP
Have you ever stayed up past your normal bed time? What usually happens? Several stages- slap happy, wired, grumpy, whiney…etc. It’s no different for a baby! Keeping the baby up longer will make it harder for her to settle down for bed and also leads to “fitful” sleep.
As Tracy says over and over in the book, “sleep begets sleep.” The more sleep your baby has, the better she will sleep in general.
(Be sure to stay tuned in to see my post on sleeping tips for babies!)
Once your baby has started showing her sleep cues, get her to bed. If you’re just getting her on this routine, she may take a few “cycles” or even days to adjust but don’t give up! You will both benefit in the long run!
CYCLES CAN DIFFER
Each cycle of the routine during the day may look a bit different. Your baby may sleep a 2 hour nap the first cycle and a 1 hour nap during the second. That’s TOTALLY normal. The routine is more of a guideline to follow than an exact, completely-by-the-clock schedule.
Some cycles in the routine (especially when first you’re establishing the routine with your baby) will get “messy”. It can feel like the baby isn’t wanting to follow the routine you’re trying to establish.
Don’t throw in the towel though! Just restart at the next cycle! If the baby woke up too early, don’t just go ahead and feed him. Do your best to keep baby happy and soothed with a pacifier or calm activity as long as you can.
Aim towards feeding him at the correct time, but also know it won’t be the end of the world if the baby just couldn’t wait. If you had to feed the baby early, be pushing your cycle back to “normal” little bits throughout the rest of the day. Just 15-30 minutes will do!
DON’T GET STUCK IN A BAD CYCLE
Over the years, I’ve heard so many parents say things like “well, I think we finally have figured out when the baby likes to eat” or “He just does what he wants and we try our best to see what helps.”
This gets you nowhere! It is so difficult on the baby because you may be giving them something they want, not really be giving them what they need.
For example, if you’re not on a routine with your baby and he starts to fuss, most parents decide to just feed them. Feeding the baby almost always comforts and soothes the baby. But if you do this every time the baby is fussy, the baby will be trained to fuss for you and you’ll be stuck.
This is a cycle a lot of parents find themselves in. Tracy refers to a bad habit like this as “accidental parenting”- basically a habit formed when you’re trying to help or soothe the baby that works in the short term but creates a terrible habit that is almost impossible to break in the long run.
DON’T FOLLOW THE BABY!
So many moms and dads misguidelely “go off” or try their best to follow what their little one appears to need or want (which again, like said above, can be very difficult without a routine to know what would usually come next in the baby’s day).
This type of situation or “accidental parenting” can turn into a blind leading the blind situation in a hurry!. Don’t! Follow! The! Baby!
Here’s another way to put it: your sweet new baby was just born. She just came into this world not knowing a single thing about how it works. Since they’re so new, we can’t expect them to know how things work around here.
As their parents, it is our job to gently lead them- even from the very, very beginning.
A QUICK SIDE NOTE
Feeding the baby whenever he seems to want to eat will not only lead to the baby being in control of you… but also it’s very hard on their digestive system. Think about your own body. If you just ate all day long (in a newborn’s case all night long too) whenever you felt like it and never gave your body time to rest and digest, you would feel SO bloated and out of whack.
Think what this feels like to a new baby who is drinking milk for the first time! Feeding whenever they please can lead to indigestion and bad cramping (ouch…) meaning one FUSS-Y baby!
YOUR BABY WILL BE HAPPIER!
Babies start to develop and build trust with you from the moment they are born. When you establish a routine with him, he becomes more secure. He realizes that he is rested, fed, and has a dry bottom so there’s not much to fuss about.
He will be much more content and also start to pick up on the routine cycle as you gently train him. An established routine builds their bond and their trust with you stronger and in return gives you a happier, calmer, soothed baby. Which, of course, makes everyone more rested, (more sane!), and happier!
– – – –
Be sure to check back here (and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest) so you’re sure not to miss more on baby schedules, sleep routine tips and more! If you liked this post, be sure to leave a comment and check out my 14 Musts When Bringing Home Baby!!)