For the last month or so, myself and James have been working hard to get Isla into a routine and our hard work has finally paid off!
Up until she was 4 months old I found getting her into a routine hard because she was exclusively breastfed (on demand) and knowing exactly how much milk she was getting at each feed was impossible. This in turn, made it hard to establish good sleeping habits as her feeding pattern was different one day to the next and I was never sure how much milk she had taken and how long she would be content for. This led to a lot of snack feeding and cat napping which was not ideal!
I was also told by my midwife, and at my breastfeeding class, that a breastfed baby can never be overfed and that feeding on demand works best but in hindsight this wasn’t a great option for us. It meant that Isla fed for 10/15 minutes every 2 hours, day and night, and therefore establishing good sleeping habits was tricky because she got hungry too often.
She would often stay awake until midnight (which I secretly loved) but it meant very long days and very little rest time for myself and James. On reflection, I wish I had encouraged longer feeds which would have led to longer naps and an earlier bed time. Isla has always been a very content baby and I wouldn’t change our journey for the world but I’m not sure this will be plan A next time round. No! Baby no2 is NOT on the way!
Now that Isla is on a bottle, managing feeds and naps has become a lot easier. I can now control, to a certain extent, exactly how much she drinks and encourage her to take more when she is low on ounces. Because she is used to snacking on milk, I have found getting her to take big bottles quite a struggle. However with some persistence, she will now drink between 6-7oz every 4/5 hours and this has led to us establishing a morning, lunchtime and afternoon nap, a 7pm bed time and most importantly, a very content and happy little lady!
I have taken a lot of guidance from the Blissful Baby Expert and used her sleep routine to get us started. Although her specific routine of timings isn’t bible to us, it has most definately helped us combat our main struggles and I 100% recommend it to all parents. Here is what our typical day looks like –
7:00/7:30 – Wake for a full feed
8:30/9:00 – Back to sleep for approx 1hr
10:15 – Wake if not already awake
11:00 – Full feed and get baby dressed
11:45 – Back to sleep for 2 hours maximum – Isla only ever usually naps for 1hr at this time
14:00/14:15 – Wake if not already awake
14:30/15:00 – Full feed
16:00/17:30 – Few 15/30 mins naps between these times but no sleep later than 17:30
17:30 – Offer half a feed and solid food
17:45 – Bath and pjs
18:30 – Full feed in quiet dark room
19:00 – In bed, settled and asleep – if she wakes between 19:00 and 11pm we ensure to resettle her in the bedroom
23:00 – Full feed
After the 11pm feed, Isla will sleep until 4/5am when she will have a full feed and go straight back down until 7/7:30am when we will start the above routine all over again. The Blissful Baby Expert also has a golden rule that babies should not be awake for more than 2 hours at any time without napping – this is key! Sleep breeds sleep.
Within days of introducing this routine, I found that Isla just took to it, it was almost like she was craving the rhyme and rythem of a schedule! To begin with, I spent a few weeks close to home whilst we established nap times so that she could become acquainted with her new routine in an environment she knew with little distractions etc. However, now that this is becoming second nature, Isla will happily nap on the move and we can be flexible with our day – besides our 7pm bed time!
At first, putting her to bed at 7pm felt so early and almost like we were putting her down half way through the day as we were used to her staying up with us until late. To begin I felt quite sad and like I had lost my sense of purpose, but I soon got used to it and now (I try to say it without feeling guilty!) it’s becoming one of my favourite times of day. It’s a chance for me to relax and restore myself ready to be mum again tomorrow.
Isla is now 5 months old and I’m happy with our sleep and feed progress. Every baby is different and I’m sure some of the mums reading this will have had babies who have slept through the night since 2 months old and others who share the same story as my little family. I’m no health professional and I’m certainly not the most knowing mum in the world, but I am loving having a routine and fully recommend it. It’s great for Isla and I didn’t realise how good it would be for me also. It gives me much needed time to twiddle my thumbs and balance a tub of ice cream on my belly whilst watching countless episodes of Eastenders. I know you hear me!
We have our good and bad days but I take great comfort in knowing what to hopefully expect from our day now we have a routine in place.
If you have any advice on dropping the 4am feed, I’d love to hear it!
Lots of love