Diary of a Night Nanny: settling baby into a routine

Georgie Bateman welcomes home the family’s latest arrival, and helps mum and baby settle into their new routine

I’m caring for Polly, who is only three days old and has just come out of hospital. I sit watching her sleep, working out what she is like. It’s important to know what ‘normal’ is for each baby I care for – it’s the benchmark from which to work out if anything is wrong.

I begin to write a sleep diary, in which I’ll note Polly’s sleep time, feed time, her normal temperature, her colour and her general behaviour. Mum Laura will add to it during the day,
and a picture will emerge of Polly’s development.

As I watch her, Polly wakes and starts to wriggle. Her peaceful face scrunches up and her feet begin to kick; she knows what she wants!

I pick her up out of her cot and creep into Laura’s room. Her husband is fast asleep on the other side of the bed and doesn’t move as I gently wake Laura and help her put Polly to her breast. Polly now knows exactly what to do, although Laura is more asleep than awake! The feed happens in the dark, but my eyes become accustomed to this very quickly. When the feed is over, I take Polly back to her nursery to sleep again until she next needs a feed, while Laura snuggles back under the duvet like a child herself.

This happens several more times during the course of the night, and in the morning Laura and I have our first proper conversation since the previous evening.

“It’s so lovely to have you here,” she tells me, “I am sleeping better just knowing that someone else is in charge, and the feeding isn’t as tiring as I thought it would be because I don’t have to keep myself awake to make sure it is happening properly. And it’s lovely to be able to fall back to sleep and let you do the winding, changing and settling – I know I’d be tempted to skip that altogether!”

Before I leave, Laura and I talk about her expectations and how my role will help her achieve them. “I really want to get Polly into a routine but I don’t want to be too dictatorial about it.” Laura tells me.

“I will work with Polly to get her into a routine that suits her,” I agree. “Babies prefer to have some sort of pattern to their lives, but it doesn’t have to be rigid. And it’s important
to adapt the routine to suit their age.”

“Lots of people have suggested demand feeding, how does that work?” Laura asks. Demand feeding is the opposite end of the scale to a rigid routine; it is where you feed the baby whenever she wants. And although I think this is a good way to start, because it gives you an idea of your baby’s requirements, I also feel that after a week or so you can begin to recognise how often your baby wants to be fed, and therefore begin to create a routine around it that suits her – and the rest of your family.

“That sounds like a good way forward,” agrees Laura. I show her the sleep diary I had begun to write last night. “We can both write in it for the next few days, and when we read back we will see a pattern emerge. It will be the basis of our routine going forwards, but we also need to be aware of how quickly it might change as Polly gets older,” I say.

Laura reads my notes with interest. I explain to her that she should also include her own feelings about things, and any queries which arise during the day so we can address them together each evening when I return.

“So I will leave it with you now,” I say, “and look forward to seeing you both tonight.”

For more details, contact Georgie Bateman at Night Nannies on 01794 301762 or georgie@nightnannies.com.

Check out the Facebook page, Night Nannies South of England, for more information.