Hello Annie. I’d like to know, “How do I change my baby’s routine?” In fact, I’m having trouble establishing any kind of routine at all for my 4-month-old son. He does have some semblance of a routine, but it’s very variable. He’s fine with it one week and not the next. His feedings are all over the place (he is bottle-fed); sometimes he’s always hungry, other times he’s not and cries when given the bottle. He will only eat at night. He also doesn’t sleep through the night. Although I am OK with this, it seems as though he doesn’t always awaken from hunger. I also find that I’m really not sure how to get a routine in place. I am in desperate need of structure. Am I hoping for something that isn’t possible? Thanks Isabelle
Thanks for writing to me. First, when I hear the question, “How do I change my baby’s routine?” I always take a step back. That’s because with little people under six months, there may be a number of medical issues I’m not aware of, so you should rule out those first. With my parent support services this kind of question is actually very common.
Having said that, there are some things you can do to make life easier for your baby and yourself. I understand how tiring it must be for you with his schedule all over the place. It sounds right now as if he’s quite a busy little bee at night. I know you said you were OK with that, but I think it would be helpful to try to get him to be more settled at night, both for your sake and his. We also want to look at changing his eating patterns to make sure the vast majority of his nutrition comes during the day. Is he beginning solids? Sometimes that makes a huge difference when it comes to children sleeping for a longer period at night.
How do I change my baby’s routine? Keep him awake during the day
Here are a couple of things that might help you out. Keep naps as close as possible to the same time every day. Between naps, make sure he’s up and enjoying the world. Offer good stimulation—chat, play, tickle his tummy, and generally keep him awake. Keep bedtime at the same time every night. Make it a relaxing time. Perhaps a bath, a massage, etc.
Then at night, be totally boring. Do what you have to do, but try to be as non-stimulating as you can be. Keep it as dark as possible and talk in hushed tones. When you change him or feed him in the evening, be as quiet and boring as you can. You want to give him the idea that this is now sleep time, and nobody is much fun at this point of the night.
How do I change my baby’s routine? Be consistent
Depending on whether or not you’re dealing with any medical issues, sleep training might be a good thing to consider at this point. At four months, children will naturally begin to learn how to sleep on their own, and it is important to take advantage of this time. Don’t rush in; instead, wait until he stirs before putting him to bed, sleepy but awake. Try and avoid feeding him to the point he nods off and/or rocking him to sleep, etc. Try not to worry about letting him cry for a while. You just need to go in to reassure him at first at 5-, 10-, and 15-minute intervals to let him know you haven’t deserted him. Just don’t stay in the room too long and do exactly the same thing in the middle of the night that you do when you put him to bed.
Watch the food intake
Also, try and minimize how much you feed him at night in comparison with his daytime feeds. Putting him on solids during the day may make a huge difference on that front.
Don’t be his soother
When you say he may not even be hungry when he wakes, it’s possible (and I’m only going on what you’ve told me) that he may be waking up at night because he’s become used to the fact that you’re around. Everyone has several light sleep cycles per night. Right now, when you wake up, you’ve learned to go back to sleep without anyone helping you or acting like your sleep soother. Learning to get past those cycles and go back to sleep on your own is a learned skill that babies need to learn too. Teaching babies that skill is always stressful, but it is well worth it in the long run.
Best of luck,
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