The first month with a newborn is all about survival. And depending on the temperament of your child, you may continue to be in do-whatever-it-takes to-get-through-the-day mode for a while. But hopefully you will be able to get your baby in the habit of doing certain things everyday so that these activities become routine. This is not to say that your baby should be on a routine because, let’s face it, you will only drive yourself crazy if you try to put your newborn on any type of schedule. Even if you succeed in doing this, it will change in a matter of a few weeks because, well, babies are like that. But there were a few things that I wanted Leo to be in the habit of doing everyday. It wasn’t much, but these items were, and still are, part of Leo’s daily routine.
Tummy Time. I cannot remember what our pediatrician recommended, but I’ve read that babies should be doing tummy time everyday for at least 5-10 minutes (which can be broken down into multiple sessions) by the time they are a month old. We started doing tummy time with Leo starting when he was two weeks old. He would only tolerate it for one or two minutes at a time before he would start to fuss, but hey, we had to start somewhere. We went from doing one session a day to doing three by the time he was six weeks old. Now, at five months old, he’s rolling all over the place with his toys like a pro. He’s almost got the scooting thing down too, he just has to figure out how to go forward (instead of back). All those baby planks and side planks (which he has recently mastered) have given some mad core strength.
Exercise. I was able to resume normal physical activity after six weeks, thankfully. As soon as my OB/GYN gave me the “ok” I was working out at home 4-6 times a week. At first it was hard to fit in even fifteen minutes, but I would put Leo on the floor next to me while I did Yoga or strength training. It was a great way to make sure he was working on his gross motor skills everyday either by doing tummy time and/or by playing on his activity mat. I would stop when he needed to be held or wanted a different toy or got hungry and needed to nurse. Then I would just pick back up where I left off. Now I can do my entire workout without stopping while Leo plays on the floor and gets his exercise. It may look different, but he’s working out his muscles just like I’m working out mine. And I believe that I am leading by example by showing him, even at this young age, that daily exercise should be part of one’s daily routine.
Family Dinners. My husband and I have always sat down at the table for dinner. We eat, talk about our day, gossip about our neighbors, or daydream about our future. It’s a time for us to reconnect after spending the day in our separate (work) worlds. Now that we have a son, it’s even more important for us to keep family dinners a part of our daily routine. Although Leo is not eating solid foods yet, he is definitely a part of our family dinners. At first we would put him in his Fisher Price Rock ‘N Play Sleeper and pull it up next to the dinner table. Now we either put him in his Skip Hop Activity Center or we take turns holding him in our laps. We include him the conversation, even if my husband is just venting about work. Soon enough, he’ll be in his high chair eating beside us. And before we know it, he’ll be sharing about his day too.
Bedtime. Even though a newborn’s sleep pattern can be quite erratic, establishing a bedtime early on can benefit you and them. Leo never took naps consistently until he was about four months old, but one thing that was consistent was his bedtime. Everyday for the first few months Leo was in his crib by 8 p.m.. Now that he’s more active and has scheduled nap-times, he goes to bed at 7:30. Bedtime is more or less a breeze because we have a bedtime routine, which has been consistently the same since he was about a week old. My husband calls it the four B’s – bath, bottle, book, and ballad. We start our bedtime routine 45 minutes to an hour before Leo’s actual bedtime. I give him a bath in his Primo EuroBath tub. I put lotion on his body, coconut oil on his hair, I help him brush his gums with his Baby Banana Infant Toothbrush, and then put on his pajamas. My husband then gives him a bottle of expressed breast milk (we started giving him a bottle once a day around 4 weeks old so my husband would get to feed him too), which usually gives me just enough time to get some laundry started, put his toys away, and straighten up the house. I then read him a book and sing him two songs – “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon. Finally, I put him in his crib, turn on his white noise machine, say “good night” and “I love you” and close the door. Every night it’s the same thing. Every now and then we might be out late, in which case we may skip the bath, but it’s rare. And because Leo knows what to expect, he doesn’t fuss too much – he may roll around in his crib for a few minutes, but he eventually goes to sleep. Now if only nap time was so easy, but I’ll save that topic for another post.
Children thrive when their environment is consistent and predictable. I believe tummy time and a solid, consistent bedtime routine benefit any baby, even at one-week-old. I strongly suggest you incorporate any other activities that are important to you and your family into your baby’s daily routine as early as you can, especially if it’s something you want to continue doing easily as your child gets older. Babies are very adaptable. If you have the patience to introduce a few things at a time at their pace, these activities will soon be just another part of your baby’s day – just like eating, sleeping, and pooping.