Maternity Leave Routine for Mama + Baby

new mom's example of the routine she established with her newborn during maternity leave.
The first 3-5 weeks with Taylor were an oxytocin-laced, exhausting haze. Normally one who loves routines and schedules, I had none. I was nursing and changing diapers around the clock, often didn’t even know what day or time it was, was recovering physically/emotionally in big ways, and certainly didn’t have time to even think about a routine or what that might include.

IMG_2451
Solo coffee run w/ 2 week old = I’m a bad @$$.

The first few weeks with a newborn are pretty much survival mode – you just do whatever you have to do to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat and sleep, and that you are getting some amount of food/sleep in yourself. If that means spending way too much money on takeout every night, co-sleeping when you intended to use a bassinet, not leaving the house ever, feeding every 45 min because that’s what baby needs, etc., well, so be it! – whatever works for you and your sweet baby, right? Not to mention, many newborns [mine included] pretty much sleep ALL day long, so trying to complete some sort of activity or outing during their über limited wake time seems ridiculous. Thinking back, it was pretty amusing how accomplishing the simplest things made me feel SUPER proud of myself in those first few weeks – like the first time I left the house with Taylor without my hubby for a coffee run and neither of us was in tears the entire 45 minutes.

It took about a month for me to emerge from the haze and get into a groove with Taylor [and AJ], but I love what we have going on now. We have been loosely following an Eat, Play/Activity, Sleep routine that shows up in a lot of popular baby-management books such as Baby Whisperer and BabyWise. I say loosely because, as much as I want to help Taylor develop a predictable routine and give our days some structure, I am actually on HER schedule and sometimes she has needs that don’t line up perfectly with my plan [duh]. For example, when she goes through a growth spurt, or has a short feed upon waking up, I know I may need to break the routine and feed her again before she goes to sleep so that she doesn’t get hungry and wake up from the nap prematurely. Overall though, non-militantly following an Eat, Play Sleep routine has worked well for us and I imagine it will be even more useful as she gets a bit older.

Obviously, the strategy that works for us certainly won’t work with every baby + mama for any number of reasons, but I do think establishing a routine when you feel ready is really helpful. The whole point of this post is to share an outline of one of our days to give you some ideas for the of the sort of routine you could establish early on in your maternity leave, with one baby [you supermoms with more than one simply amaze me – how do you do it?!].

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 2.11.10 PM
{Credit: Precious Little Sleep}

Before getting to that, I have to say that I made a lot of mistakes didn’t know a lot of things that were impacting our ability to get into a routine in those first few weeks – particularly related to sleep. I’ve since spent a lot of nursing sessions reading up on helpful baby sleep stuff and pinning articles to my Baby Sleep Pinterest Board. The HANDS-DOWN BEST baby sleep resource I have found is the Precious Little Sleep Blog, Podcast and Facebook group. I would seriously like to bear hug the author. Her 0-3 Months Newborn Baby Sleep Survival Guide has been invaluable for me; when I read through one of the posts in the series which included the chart, “Baby Sleep: How Much, When, How Long,” I realized just how short a newborn’s wake time actually is. I was actually keeping her awake too long, which was leading to a lot of unnecessary fussiness – the poor thing just wanted to sleep. Live and learn! I have used that chart, in addition to getting to know Taylor’s cues, to structure and adjust her Eat, Play, Sleep schedule according to her wake times.

Now, on to a typical day-in-the-life of Taylor [11 weeks] + Ashley, Maternity Leave style!

7:30AM – EAT, PLAY

When I notice Taylor is awake on the monitor I usually turn on her beloved projection mobile, which I can do from my iPhone [soooo 2016.]. This buys me about 15 minutes to wake up myself somewhat, and it absolutely delights her to watch those little woodland creatures floating around up there. One of my favorite parts of the day is saying good morning to her.

IMG_2445
T lovin’ her “Woodland Animal” friends.

Next, I change her out of her overnight diaper [I just use a diaper one size larger than she wears in the day] then feed her, unless her last feeding was more than two hours prior to waking [at this point she typically eats once during the night between 3:30 and 5:00 AM]. I watch the Today Show/news during her feeding and think about the day ahead. Once she is done with her breakfast, she sits in a bouncy chair [or her Daddy spends time with her if he is available!] while I grab coffee and something quick to eat -narrating my actions to her all the while. Following our breakfasts we lay on the bed in her room and read a book or two and “chat” – which is adorable.

IMG_2444
Baby Bjorn Bouncer on loan from my BFF.

9:00AM [or as soon as she shows her “I’m sleepy” cues] – SLEEP

At 11 weeks old, Taylor is usually awake an hour and a half – give or take 30 minutes so, we get ready and go for a walk through the park to downtown where I [more often than I should] grab a decaf Americano at Starbucks and she takes a snooze. One of her daily naps is in her stroller for the duration of a 2-4 mile walk, usually in the morning. Yes, I have read this is not as restorative as a stationary nap in a bassinet or crib, but Taylor is getting in her sleep and I’m getting in my cardio – win, win!

If she is still sleeping when we get back to the house I start some laundry, tidy up the house and/or myself, scroll through social media or work on blog stuff.

IMG_2450
Must be nice to be so stinkin’ cute!

11:00AM – EAT, PLAY

After Taylor wakes up from what is usually a fairly long nap, she eats her second breakfast. While she eats I think, pray, brainstorm, watch TV, read Pinterest articles, etc. I change her diaper after she eats and put her in an outfit for the day which is inevitably more stylish than my own. And, yes I usually keep her in her Wondersuit most of the morning because they are so darn comfy and cute.

Next, Taylor has playtime under her play mat – this includes a few minutes of “tummy time” which is as much as she will tolerate at this point. But, we’re working on it!

She loves this play mat!

12:15PM – SLEEP

Taylor starts acting sleepy [yawning and looking off into the distance] so I take her to her room, turn on her white noise machine, swaddle her in her Halo sleepsack swaddle and bounce her on the yoga ball until she nods off, then transfer her into her DockATot in the crib. I think I will eventually [4+ months] use some type of sleep training to help her learn to self-soothe, but for now I’m doing whatever works to help her get all the sleep she needs.

3:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Yes, she does take one really long nap most days – hence, how I’ve had time to develop this blog; the girl likes her sleep! When she wakes up, she eats again and then I change her diaper. We’ll usually spend some time on the floor working on motor skills – I like to go through the daily suggestions on the Baby Sparks app. At this time I’ll usually take her out for a Target, Whole Foods or other errand run.

4:00PM – SLEEP

Taylor almost always falls asleep in her carseat during our errand-ing. If we haven’t run an errand I’ll do our quick nap routine of sound machine/swaddle/bounce/put down in crib or swing and she’ll take her nap at home. This is when I’ll usually sneak in a quick workout in the house or outside in our garage gym [watching the monitor, of course!].

5:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Time to eat and have her diaper changed again! She tends to cluster feed/tank up between 5:00 and 7:00, and sometimes even grabs a cat-nap, so I just follow her cues and feed/put her down for sleep on demand between now and her bedtime. AJ is typically done with work by now, so Taylor gets to spend special time with daddy [lucky baby!]. If I didn’t workout earlier, and it’s a day I’ve planned to, I’ll get that in while they have their time together.  Oh, and if it’s a bath day (read about our bath time routine/essentials in this post), this would also be the time we give her one. I tried giving her a bath as part of her nighttime routine a couple times, but she gets so pumped up in there it didn’t  seem like a  very good “wind down” activity for her.

7:00PM – SLEEP

You can read about Taylor’s bedtime routine in this post. Establishing a night time routine early on is so important to a good night’s sleep for you and your little one.

I know that our current routines and rhythms will change once my maternity leave ends at the end of July, so I’m soaking up our sweet days together – the ones when we do a whole lot, and especially the ones where we do a whole lot of nothing but be together.

UPDATE [August 2017]: After going back to work for a year (which ended up being A LOT harder on my heart than I anticipated), we decided as a family that I would stay at home with Taylor. This was a BIG decision for me (read about that HERE), but I’m glad I made a leap of faith. We moved cities and changed up our whole lifestyle, but the time I now have with Taylor is worth all that change. If you want to follow along with my journey from career mom to stay/work at home mom start with THIS POST.

IMG_2258
Precious time with T.

What kind of routines and schedules do you use with your littles?  I’m curious to hear about your experiences with Babywise, Baby Whisperer, or other methodologies. What has and hasn’t worked for you? 

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in: