Question: Hello, My 3 and a half month old and me have been trying to get into a routine, but it is rather difficult since I live in Portugal and our family and friends have been coming to visit us since her birth. This and the fact that I need to do a lot of bureaucratic work which I can't time mean that we are finding it difficult to stick to a routine. I would like her to start napping in her cot, so when we are at home, I try to get her to sleep in it. She doesn't seem to agree and ends up crying. I have tried putting her in a sling and then lowering her into the cot, but she usually wakes up. I have tried going in to comfort her, but not lift her. This doesn't work. I have tried sending her dad when he's here. That doesn't work. I have tried a pacifier and this sometimes works, but it falls out and wakes her up. I often end up putting her to my breast which I know is not right since she's not really hungry. In the evening, she usually goes down after a bath at around 7pm and then sleeps until around 3 am and wakes up hungry. Then she'll go back to sleep and often not wake again until between 5 and 7 am. She's quite happy to sleep in her cot at night. In July, we're going to England where my husband works for one month at a summer school. We'll all be staying in one room with my little one sleeping in a travel tent (too heavy to carry a cot on the plane). My questions: Is it that important for her to learn to nap in her cot? Should she already have routines in place? How can I help her when we go to the UK this summer and when we get back?
I know how important routines are for babies. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Beth,
Yes routines can be important for babies, especially because they make it easier, also physically, for a baby to settle for sleep and to stay asleep for a regular amount of time.
But with any routine for baby, it is important that it also works for you. With your work at irregular times, I agree that it can be very difficult to find a daily schedule that works. Your goal will then be to find a way around it, and to get as close to a regular schedule as possible.
With family visiting however, I do think that if they care they probably won't mind to respect your daughter's schedule. Simply explain to them that you are trying to establish some regularity to help her sleep, something you both need, ...
Anyway, nights seem to be quite good for her age, so that is really great and something to keep sticking to.
About naps, first of all, don't worry too much. It is quite typical not to have them quite regular before the age of 6 months anyway. But it is good to consistently try for naps at regular times, and yes, to keep encouraging her to sleep in her cot then too. But you can be flexible as well. The Baby Sling Trick is a great way to work towards this. The sling is great for the trick, but you can also do it with the stroller, car seat, ... If you cannot go for the walks at very regular times (because of your work), just go when you can and as close to regular times as possible.
"Should she have routines already in place?" Again, don't worry, and don't hurry: do start working on some regularity as above. But you won't be able to force anything anyway, so it's best not to stress about it. Just work on it, and see how far you get. Then once you go to the UK, just continue but also allow some flexibility, the move will require that.
At the same time, when moving (both ways) what will help you most of all is to mimic her sleep environment as much as possible. No problem if she's in the travel tent and not her usual cot, but do take the musical mobile she's used to, or any other toy or decoration she has at home and put it in her sight.
If you don't have anything right that near her cot right now, it is a good idea to introduce that now. Also use the same sheets, blanket, sleeping bag, PJ's, ... why not even take the sheets/PJ/... from the last day at home straight on the plane without washing (some smells to help make her feel at home).
In short: when moving, try to introduce as little changes as possible.