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Top tips for getting through the early days by Gina Ford

The Contented Baby routines are there for anyone to use as they gently guide their new babies into a healthy sleeping and feeding routine.

However, we all know that the early weeks can be hard. Nights of broken sleep are inevitable because a new baby needs to be fed little and often. Once your milk supply is established, if you are breastfeeding, your baby will still need to feed at least once in the night until he is about 12 weeks old. If you wait to wean until six months, by his fifth month he may be getting hungry and need a night feed again. You will doubtless be tired during the days and possibly anxious about your baby. You may have had a difficult labour and be physically or mentally affected by it. The arrival of a new baby always changes relationships and this too can be hard to cope with. The chances are you will never have felt as bewildered and exhausted as you do in the weeks following the birth of your baby.

My routines are based on my experience of caring for hundreds of newborn babies. I know that they work, but I also know that they are not working if the mother becomes stressed by them or feels that she or her baby is “failing” if they don’t appear to be fitting in word-for-word with my advice.
My top tips here are to help you through the routines in the first six months and to remind you of the most important aspects.

Gina's Top Tips


Only move on to the next routine in the book if your baby seems to be getting the hang of it. Your baby may need to sleep longer than average and may take a while to go longer between feeds. If you end up in the same routine for longer than my guidelines say, don’t worry about it. Take the lead from your baby and only move on when you feel you are both ready.


An important fact to remember about the routines is that I say that in the early days a baby can stay awake “up to two hours” not they should stay awake for two hours.


Don’t get tied in knots if your baby is not wide awake when the routines say. At the beginning of each routine I suggest the maximum daily sleep time for each age. Try not to exceed it over the course of the day so that he settles well at 7pm This may mean your baby sleeps slightly less than I advise in the morning, but slightly longer mid-afternoon. Keeping him awake involves stimulating him with play or music or looking at books or simple toys together. Find out what your baby likes best by experimenting with a variety of stimulus.


A sleepy feed in the middle of the night is only worth it if your baby then sleeps through until 7am. If you find he wakes up earlier after feeding like this during the night, it might be better to get up and do a full feed at 2 or 3am then both settle back to sleep until 7am.


Do not make the mistake of restricting the feed in the middle of the night, as this could result in your baby waking up twice in the night. The most important thing you are trying to achieve in the early days is to get your baby sleeping well at night. This is more likely to happen if you ensure that he feeds enough in the middle of the night to get him through to 7am. He is much more likely to naturally sleeper longer through the night following this approach, than he will if you try to push him through the night on a small feed.


If you experience any difficulties at all with breastfeeding, seek advice immediately from a breastfeeding counsellor. Too often, I have seen mothers struggle on with painful or bleeding nipples hoping it will improve by itself. Exhaustion and anxiety about feeding reduces your milk supply, which will leave your baby hungry which will mean he needs to feed more often and for longer. It is a vicious circle and swift intervention is needed if you want to keep feeding your baby yourself. Ask your midwife to refer you or contact the NCT breastfeeding information line 0870 444 8708.


Try to take care of yourself! People ask me why I include advice in my routines about eating and drinking. It’s because most new mums put themselves at the bottom of the list of priorities. It can be 4pm before some mums realise they’ve only had a cup of tea and half a piece of toast all day. Make sure you eat a good balanced diet and that you are sitting down regularly to eat – it’s no good having a banana for breakfast and a big dinner but nothing in between. Make sure you get out to see friends every couple of days or so. You can fit your outings around the routines between 2pm and 5pm. Try to arrange a drive somewhere to be at lunchtime so your baby still gets his sleep. A walk in the park is a great way of getting back into shape and the fresh air will help your baby settle well at bedtime. 4pm is a good time to go out for this. Why not arrange to meet a friend and chat and walk at the same time?

I hope this helps to answer some of the questions I’ve recently been asked. My routines are there to help you, not to stress you out and leave you feeling guilty or a failure. Hopefully, you will find plenty of support from other mothers on our website. If you follow the advice for sleeping and eating in the CLB routines, you will find you soon have a contented baby, and the memories of the exhaustion and anxieties of the early months will fade away.

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