In the world of baby care, your days can feel quite repetitive. Creating a predictable routine for baby may not seem necessary, especially to an infant. You could get by with following your baby’s cues and making intuitive guesses at their needs as you go about your day together. But babies, toddlers and children all thrive on predictable routines so it is something to consider! Adding a rhythm to your day is calming and helps your baby in regulating their needs. Establishing a routine that works for your baby means they will be more content – and that might just save your sanity!
Routine With Your Newborn
As unpredictable as newborns may seem, they live within their own cyclical rhythm of sleeping, eating, awake time and pooping. Of course, crying is thrown in there quite a bit too. You can use the natural pattern you observe as you get to know your baby and turn it into a comfortable routine. After your baby wakes from a nap, you can have a little bit of play time together, get a fresh diaper, eat, then wind back down for another nap. Follow their cues, but then keep your routine consistent within their needs.
Routine Versus Schedule
A routine differs from a schedule in that you don’t have a certain time, or certain amount of time, to do anything. Whether your baby eats for ten minutes or thirty minutes, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that every time after baby finishes eating, you have play time (or nap time, or read a book, etc.). The repetition will help structure your day which can help you feel more productive. The predictability will become what your baby expects. It will become easier to settle into that pattern as it becomes normal to them.
Benefits for Baby
As you become consistent with your daily routines, your baby gains a sense of comfort and emotional stability. When you follow through, your baby learns to trust you as their caregiver. You meet their needs and you do the things they come to expect.
Imagine if your friend came over every morning with breakfast for you. How wonderful! You would look forward to that moment and would know at approximately what time of day she would arrive. It would be both comforting and rewarding. Now, imagine she just stopped over unannounced at 4pm, then didn’t come for a couple of days, then came over at 6am. Unpredictability is confusing and frustrating. An organized day helps create an organized brain!
Benefits for Parents
Transitioning from one activity to the next is less of a struggle when your baby (toddler, or child) knows what will happen next. If you start routines at a young age, such as washing hands before eating, is so ingrained into the child that you might not even have to remind them to do it. Routines become lifelong habits! Comfortable routines create happier, more responsible children. It goes without saying that happier and more responsible children make a parents life easier!
Long Term Benefits
Babies quickly become toddlers, and with that growth comes a host of parenting challenges. Toddlers are famous for their “power struggles”. They refuse to do the things you want them to do and they insist on doing things you don’t want them to do! Maintaining solid, consistent routines benefits both the child and the parents. The child knows that after bath time, they brush their teeth and climb in bed. You aren’t springing anything on them. So although they may show resistance as part of their natural development, they do know what comes next. Getting them back on track is easier when they know what to expect.
Remember, a routine is comforting. It is predictable and safe and healthy. It helps the baby regulate their sleeping and eating patterns, learn to trust you and also themselves. They are more agreeable as they go with the flow of your day. Establish a routine as early as possible and allow it to change as your baby’s needs change so you can have a happier baby and be a happier parent!