Whether you’re pregnant or have a new baby at home, you’ve probably started to have thoughts about the kind of parent you want to be. A big part of this will be how you plan to approach sleep and feeding times with your child. Are you determined to take a baby-led approach, or would you rather work towards establishing a routine?
The approach you choose often depends upon your own family circumstances and personal outlook. Some parents are eager to try one way but for one reason or other, it’s just not working out so they shift their mindset and try another technique.
What is the difference between baby-led and routine?
Before we go any further, let’s look at what a baby-led approach is and what it means to follow a routine.
Baby-led – when you take the lead from baby with regards to sleeping and feeding, you have no set idea or schedule so you just go with baby.
Routine – when you have a definite idea of what your ideal feed times and sleep times throughout the day and night should be and you guide baby through this.
Family case-studies – what worked and what didn’t
Alot of the parents I have been speaking to and am working with are against routine but are confused by the baby-led approach. They are feeding their babies all the time and trying to carry their baby around with them rather than putting baby down for a sleep. As you can imagine many of them are exhausted and need some guidance on how they can better settle their babies to get more sleep (for them and baby!).
I was contacted by new parents who were desperately trying to be baby-led, but at 3 1/2 months old their baby was wakening several times through the night for feeds and not sleeping much through the day. Baby was feeding sometimes every hour or every two hours. The very tired parents wondered when it was going to get better…
Because the baby was taking small feeds on and off all day and a lot of the night, this was proving difficult to maintain and the poor mama didn’t have time or energy to figure out how to change it. She had hoped to get back to working part-time but it looked impossible.
Because the baby was taking small feeds on and off all day and a lot of the night, this was proving difficult to maintain and the poor mama didn’t have time or energy to figure out how to change it.Sheryl
Babies need to feed and they need to sleep, just as we as adults need to eat and sleep. If we snack through the day, it is unlikely that we come to the table hungry at mealtimes. This is the same for babies!
Ensuring the baby has a good long feed and is burped well is the ideal, and if the baby has a long stretch between feeds they are more likely to feed well and more likely to have another long stretch before the next feed. Newborns need to sleep between each feed and this can turn into a nice routine and one which also aides better sleep through the night. This is good sleep hygiene practiced from an early age.
I met with a mama of two who has a 4-year-old and a brand new little baby. Her oldest child still depends on her to lie with her an hour each night to get to sleep. This is proving difficult to keep up with now that she has a new baby. She feels she has made a lot of work for herself with her eldest and would like to do things differently this time as she physically can’t be in two places at once.
Just by simply leading the baby in the right direction with feeding and being intentional about settling the baby until sleepy (but not asleep) before laying her down has helped her to get into a good routine. It’s a routine that is manageable daily and building good sleep habits going forward.
Mama is now really tuned into listening to the baby’s needs and she knows she has to adapt her practice as baby develops. She said to me “I didn’t know it could be this easy, I am enjoying it much more this time around”.
Mama is now really tuned into listening to the baby’s needs and she knows she has to adapt her practice as baby develops.Sheryl
Could it be that sometimes mama knows best? Is it possible to still do a baby-led journey within a good routine? I think so!