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We have a one month old now and I'm just wondering how important it is that his routine is settled/repeatable at this stage.

For the most part his routine is Eat-Poop-Sleep repeat, about 7 times a day as he sleeps slightly longer at night. During the day he'll sleep in a downstairs cot, and at night, in a moses basket in our room.

However every now and again, mammy will have to run an errand, go to the shops, or attend a class during the day, and so his sleep/feed cycle might be slightly off as he's asleep in the car seat or in a travel cot on wheels.

I've noticed on the days where he's been out and about, he's far more unsettled at night-time and seems to witch far more, and be less likely to settle between 8pm and midnight. [DISCLAIMER] totally non-scientific observation, just seems to be the case.

So how important is a settled/repeatable routine for a baby that young. Is it even perceptable to them at that age ?

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If you are asking, "Is a disrupted sleep schedule harmful to my 1 month old?", the answer is no. Sleep is important to newborns, and they will sleep when it's necessary.

Babies in utero are attuned to a mother's circadian rhythms, due in part to maternal hormones (cortisol and melatonin both pass through the placenta), maternal activity and other factors.[1] However, this circadian rhythym matching the mother's is broken at birth, leading to a light-independant sleep cycle (to the frustration of countless new parents). It takes months for the infant to develop a melatonin- and cortisol-based circadian rhythm. Babies do this at different rates, which is why there is no single expected pattern of sleep for infants.[2]The lack of settling that you think you might be seeing may be due to some amount of extra fatigue or some amount of stimulation being processed in his early sleep (Infants spend more time in initial REM sleep than adults.)[2] As long as the infant is getting enough sleep (which is important in brain development), he will be fine.[3]

What is more important than exactly where and when he sleeps is that he feeds when he is hungry. In a large European cohort study, following newborns fed on demand vs. those fed on a schedule (at 4 weeks of age) through to the age of 14, and controlling for a wide range of confounders, it was found that schedule-fed babies performed around 17% of a standard deviation below demand-fed babies in standardized tests at all ages (5, 7, 11 and 14 years), and 4 points lower in IQ tests at age 8 years. Doesn't sound like much, but the conclusions was that feeding infants to a schedule is associated with higher levels of maternal wellbeing, but with poorer cognitive and academic outcomes for children.[4] (This is further supported here.)

So, do what you need to (and want to) do. Babies will sleep adaptively (of course, you might not want to push this too far.) But consider feeding whenever the baby is hungry. If you're breastfeeding, this is very easy to do today.

[1] Development of fetal and neonatal sleep and circadian rhythms Mirmiran M, Maas YG, Ariagno RL, Sleep Med Rev. 2003 Aug;7(4):321-34.
[2] Sleep in brain development Peirano P, Algarin, C R., Sleep Med Rev. 2003 Aug;7(4):321-34.
[3] The hippocampo-neocortical dialogue Buzsáki G., Cereb Cortex. 1996 Mar-Apr;6(2):81-92. [4] Infant feeding: the effects of scheduled vs. on-demand feeding on mothers’ wellbeing and children’s cognitive development Iacovou M, Sevilla A, Eur J Public Health (2012)

  • Thanks @anon. On the feeding side, he's being breast fed and always fed on demand. (As soon as he wakes/cries etc... mum is available). cheers for the info – Eoin Campbell Sep 10 '14 at 13:45
  • @EoinCampbell How's the mum? – deworde Sep 10 '14 at 13:51
  • Doing great. Seems to be handling the feed-on-demand very well. he's sleeps quite well at night... 2 x 3+ hours between midnight and 7am so she's only having to get up once, and can then catch up on sleep during the day while he sleeps – Eoin Campbell Sep 10 '14 at 13:54
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    @Eoin: Just remember rule #1 for being with a newborn: When your child sleeps, you sleep, too. (Because when your child does not sleep, you won't sleep either.) To some lesser extend, this is true for a 1 month old, too. :) – sbi Sep 10 '14 at 22:22
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First and foremost: Children are the product of what they themselves bring to the table and what the environment does to them. The former is important, because essentially it says: Every single child is different. What works with one child might fail with the next one. Keep this in mind and remember that you will have to find out for yourself. _For each of your children.:

That said, in my experience repeated routines make it much easier for parents. Within a few months, the child will develop a certain rhythm that you can (somewhat) depend on. It is a very good thing when you "know" that your child will fall asleep about an hour after breakfast and sleep about until 11:30am. This gives a world back some of the sanity you took for granted before you became a parent.

On the other hand, repeated routines make your child (and yourselves) inflexible. That is, it will be hard to go visiting someone (or even just have someone visiting), because the child will be overexcited by the changed routine/environment, spoiling the visit. If you find yourself trying to function like a clockwork, you might raise a child that only "functions" in a clockwork-like environment. Most parents, however, want their children to be able to stay over at the grandparents', to be able to stay up a bit longer when they're at their best friend's birthday part, to sleep half an hour longer the next morning, to move their cycle to a later schedule during a vacation, and move it back afterwards. A child that has been put to bed at 7pm for 27 months in a row will usually react badly to any such events.

What the balance is depends on your child and on its parents. How much can this child take? How much energy do you as a parent have to deal with a tired child? Are you someone who, when you collapse beside your child at 10:30, regrets the whole idea of going to that birthday party or will you inwardly smile and consider the nice evening well worth the trouble? The more you can do the latter, the easier it will be for the child. ("A child won't feel well if its parents don't.") So here's my rule of thumb:

Do as much routine as you find necessary for the child's and your own wellbeing. Do as little routine as the child and you can deal with.

If in doubt, err to the side of less routine. Your child can deal with it (our ancestors didn't roam the African Savannah with a clock in their hands and had different excitements every day), and you will likely appreciate the resulting higher flexibility later.

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