A routine. It sounds like such a wonderful idea. Just apply this set of rules, and your baby will become happy, predictable, and sleep much more at night.
Of course you want some control back in your life. It is only natural. Every day I hear the frustration of new parents who are so tired that they would do anything to get even three or four hours of uninterrupted sleep. Having an unpredictable new baby is totally exhausting and it is almost impossible to “get anything done.” This leaves new parents feeling like failures or looking for solutions to problems that aren’t even really there. The bottom line is that new babies are NOT CAPABLE of learning routines. Lots of baby books and maternity nurses want to sell you this beautiful idea, but it is not true or even particularly kind to your baby. Your little one needs loads of reassurance and cuddles and frequent feeds day and night, until gradually they need less of them, and one day they will learn to space out their feeds a bit, until in the end they are capable of sleeping a bit longer and maybe all night. This all happens by itself, when your baby is ready. You don’t need to do anything apart from respond to your little one.
It is true that some babies start to get into some sort of rhythm to their day from about 6 weeks, and even more so from 12 weeks. Hanging in there until 12 weeks without worrying at all about a routine is a really good idea.
Yes, you can do little things to nudge your baby towards recognising day and night. Some parents try to keep night feeds a little less stimulating, in low light and with less distraction. Some try to get into a bit of a pattern of say, “bath, feed, bed” at a particular time. Many parents might try to wake their baby if they are having a long sleep (4 hours plus) in the day, with the hope that they might get more calories into their baby in daylight hours. You could try these things, but you don’t have to. There is not much evidence that a bottle of formula before bed makes a baby sleep longer. Although many parents like a partner to offer an evening bottle or expressed milk or formula so that mum can crawl into bed for a much needed rest. Whatever works for you. Let’s all try not to judge.
In the meantime, please get help. Please recognise that a new mother is designed to hang out with her baby and that it is everyone else’s job to look after them both. Being dependent is a hard thing for a modern woman to get her head around. Here is the thing. Although it feels like you are not achieving anything, you are doing the most important job in the world, 24/7. You are helping your tiny infant to adjust to the world, showing them love, nourishing them, helping their brain and body to grow, investing in one of the most important relationships in your life. Your own body is healing, slowly returning to normal and adjusting to motherhood. Will you be cross with your baby and the massive demands that they put on you? Probably. Who wouldn’t be? And when they learn to smile at about 7 weeks and beam at you when they wake for the fourth time that night, will you forgive them? Of course you will. Eventually.