Updated: Dec 28, 2020
One of the main worries about putting a routine in place to help baby's sleep is that it will stop parents from being able to live a full life with plenty of social engagements. Other concerns that come up with putting a baby into a routine are:
How to still do school/childcare runs during the day with older siblings?
Parents or carers getting enough time with the baby after work before a 6.30pm or 7pm bedtime
If there is a point if nursery or another childcare provider are doing a slightly different routine?
All of the evidence shows us that babies (and adults) thrive on routine and order, and there are lots of reasons why it can help both you and your baby to have much more happy days and to see improvements with your baby's sleep. Most people naturally feel more relaxed when they wake, eat and sleep at the same times each day. Consistent routines help the body establish natural sleeping and eating patterns. What times babies eat and how much they nap during the daytime affects their sleep at night and having a solid routine means avoiding needing to worry about whether the baby might be getting into an over-tired state. It can also eliminate the potential for a "danger nap", a late afternoon nap which then results in the baby not being tired enough at bedtime, or in some cases, wide awake for durations during the night if they have had too much daytime sleep.
Often a baby's daytime routine can be adapted to fit in with siblings' school runs by having the baby take one of their naps in a pram, buggy or car. There are ways to create a less distracting and more consistent environment for this to encourage sleep at the right times, for example:
Using the same sleeping bag when napping in the pram (as the cot) and dressing them in comfortable clothing
Using a car seat canopy/sun shade if naps are taking place in the car
Putting the buggy into a horizontal position (only when naps are to take place) which can act as a sleep cue to your baby, and using a blanket or foot muff to make the buggy as cosy as possible
Using a buggy or pram shade and pulling it down once baby starts to become sleepy to stop them from becoming distracted, fighting sleep and potentially missing a nap
If your baby is doing a slightly different routine when at nursery or another childcare provider but it is within 30 mins - 1 hour of the routine you follow, don't worry. Babies adapt easily and as long as it generally follows the same pattern (i.e. babies still have the same amount of milk feeds, meals and aren't missing a nap) then it should not affect sleep dramatically.
Our recommended routine does adapt with the age of the baby but one thing that is consistent is "anchoring" the day; starting and finishing the day at the same time each day so that the baby's day is 12 hours long and their sleeping time is 12 hours. With regards to being able to spend sufficient time with baby after parents finish work, this is up to the individual family and seeing what bedtime works so that quality time and restorative rest for baby can both take place.