Gentle Newborn Routines to Strengthen Your Bond with Baby

My third trimester was filled with anxiety, and then depression ascended, and my days ebbed and flowed. Panic, anxiety, and a never ending list of tasks led into a spiral of inner thoughts that convinced me my husband and unborn child would thrive if they had a different woman in the house.

Someone more efficient, more cheerful, more kind.  Don't get me wrong, I did a LOT to reduce my stress during pregnancy, but postpartum depression and anxiety still found a way to meet me in my newfound motherhood. 

Newborn Routines

By week 3, my husband went back to work, and family wouldn't be making another visit for awhile.

I was facing my first week alone with my baby during the day, and I was scared. 

What if I get frustrated? What if we don’t bond? What if I make a mistake because I’m too tired? My mind kept thinking a schedule would protect her, but I knew it was impossible to schedule a newborn.

So instead, I focused on routine.

Routine helped me bond with my baby because it taught me how to observe her and notice her and respond to her.

Routine gave me moments to look forward to when things got rough.

Schedules vs Routines

There's a lot out there regarding newborn schedules, but it can quickly become hopeless when all those suggested schedules don't work with YOUR baby. 

Believe me, I had all sorts of plans for what that first month was going to look like, and well, it actually looked NOTHING like my plans (except for the fact that our little family of two became three).

A schedule, to me, is setting planned tasks to a specific time. In the first few weeks of life, it was hard to predict my newborn's hunger and sleep patterns; it seemed to change day-to-day! Once I realized that set schedules and routines were two totally different things, I felt liberated.

A routine is a set of habitual actions that you perform around a certain event or to achieve a goal. For example, you most likely have a set of habitual actions you perform in order to get to work on time.

So instead, I looked for her patterns and set three goals that turned into routines:

  1. Prepare her for the difference between night and day
  2. Help her get used to her crib
  3. Create a relaxing routine in the evening when she’s predictably fussy

Gentle Newborn Routines

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Routine 1: Teach baby the difference between night and day

I decided to wake up before her in the morning and turn on all the lights and open all the curtains. I turned on music or the news at a low volume level so that when she would wake up to eat, she could start to observe that daytime was a little brighter and louder than night time.

We purchased these blackout curtain liners that really helped dim the room. They were easy to clip behind her pretty teal curtains.

Routine 2: Help baby become familiar with her crib and nursery

If she fell asleep during the day, we swaddled her and put her in her crib in the nursery. At night, she slept in our room, but we knew we would eventually transition her to the nursery. I didn't want the separate room to be a foreign concept to her, so we also did at least one tummy time session in her room, and always changed her diapers and dressed her in her room.

I wanted her to associate the nursery as a relaxing, inviting and familiar place. 

This definitely paid off. She has always been better at sleeping in her own room. Our routines around her day-sleep evolved and became the nap time routine we use to this day at 20 months.

Swaddle Tip: We tried a few different sleep sacks once she started breaking out of swaddling blankets, but our absolute FAVORITE was the Halo Sleep Sack. We purchased more than one of these (as they come in multiple sizes).

We really needed something safe, secure, and hip healthy as our daughter was born with a hip click that could have turned into hip dysplasia. The Halo Sleep Sack gave us peace of mind during those first few months as we waited to see how her hips developed.

Routine 3: Create a relaxing environment when baby is fussy

We noticed that between 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM would get really fussy. It’s the time period when Matt came home, dinner needed to be made and the kitchen would get cleaned after we ate. There was more talking and background noises (like the television).

After a full day of noises and growing and taking in the world, she was overstimulated by this point, and she would cry and cry.

Our pediatrician called this purple crying, and his advice was to cut out all the noise, light, and activity that seems so normal to adults, but so foreign and intense to babies.

So at 7:00 PM, we turned off most of the lights in our apartment, turned off the tv, put on her pajamas and turned on the white noise machine for her last feeding. By 8:00 PM, she was relaxed and ready for sleep. We noticed that if we fed her in this environment between 7:30 and 8:00 PM, she’d go 4 hours until her next feed, which also made for more efficient and relaxing feeds in the middle of the night.

This is another routine that has evolved, but stuck with us. By having a solid "bedtime" routine from the start, we've never had any trouble putting her to bed (night wakings, on the other hand, are another story - and totally normal. Sorry mamas!)

Sound Machine recommendation: the Big Red Rooster White Noise Machine (not red or big at all) was the perfect machine. Simple, small, and it lasted every nap and bedtime for about 17 months.

How These Newborn Routines Strengthened the Bond

These three little routines helped me notice and understand my baby. They helped prepare me to meet her needs. When I was swirling in the midst of postpartum depression, these routines became anchors in my day.  They were written on my hands and legs, leading me to next steps, waking me up from whatever mental prison I locked myself in. 

These gentle little newborn routines helped us create familiarity for our baby; a way for her to feel secure and safe.

They were our way of saying: we notice you and what you need, and this is how we are coming to your aid. This is how we prepare for what you need. This is how we love you.

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Gentle Newborn Routines to Strengthen Your Bond with Baby - Routines can help strengthen your bond with your baby. Here's 3 gentle newborn routines you can start today to bring a little sanity back into your life.

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