Many new parents feel like their life is completely disorganized and out of control.
Flying by the seat of your pants is completely normal with a newborn, but after the first few weeks of muddling along, a routine can be your saving grace.
A routine helps your baby learn what to expect and when to expect it, making transitions easier to handle.
Where to Start
Most people crave routine, no matter what their age. Knowing what to expect next is reassuring and comforting. Babies are no different.
The sooner you can get them used a routine the better. The most important part of baby’s day to set is a routine for is their bedtime. This includes nighttime and nap time.
You want your baby’s sleep routine to be fairly simple. If you involve too many factors, once she gets older she will immediately notice if something is out of order and this can be tantrum-inducing.
A bedtime routine can be as simple as a bath followed by a short book, snuggles, and bed. Many parents will read the same bedtime book night after night so their baby quickly comes to associate that particular book with sleep.
It can be very helpful to do this bedtime routine not only at night but for all naps as well. As babies get older many will start to resist napping, or at least will put up a fuss about it.
If your baby knows what to expect before sleep it can help to get her settled.
Keeping the Routine for your baby
Even as children get older keeping the same routine for sleep is important. With toddler and preschoolers, they often seem to get a second wind just before bedtime.
Rather than letting them run around and get more worked up, now is the time to start your routine. A soothing bath, relaxing story time, and cuddles will help prepare their little bodies and minds for sleep.
When you’re traveling, sleep routines become especially important. If your child is already used to a particular routine it makes it easier for them to wind down and get settled for bed even with the excitement of travel.
A routine for mealtime can also be very helpful. Once your baby is eating finger foods it’s a good idea to take her to the bathroom and wash her hands before every meal.
As she gets older, and eventually is able to wash her hands by herself, you’ll find yourself reminding her a lot less than if hand washing was not part of the mealtime routine.
Clearing dishes from the table can even be included in a mealtime routine. Just give your baby something unbreakable that she can carry, either in your arms or by herself once she is walking.
As your baby gets older diaper changes can become challenging. She doesn’t want to lie still and may squirm, or even throw a tantrum to try and avoid being changed. Here is when a fun routine may help.
Try singing a fun song to your baby before you start changing her, such as, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Once she’s enjoying herself keep singing while you change her.
Distracting her and doing the same routine (you can change up the song) will help make this unpleasant task a little easier for both of you.
Routines Differ From Schedules
Many parents immediately want to put their baby on a schedule. While routines are extremely important for a baby, schedules can be difficult to stick to.
Parents need to be flexible about what their baby’s needs are and know that those needs are always changing.
This is known as baby-led schedules and while some experts believe that nothing of the sort should be left up to the baby, it can actually make life easier for everyone.
This is not to say you just let your baby stay up until she is so exhausted she can’t keep her eyes open anymore. It’s important to look for your baby’s cues to determine when it’s time to eat, sleep, cuddle, and play.
Babies Changing Needs
A baby’s sleep needs change often and quickly in the early years. A newborn will probably spend most of her time asleep.
Just three months later she is down to three naps a day and by a year may only be taking one nap a day.
If you’re finding it harder and harder to get your baby to sleep for all her naps, and she doesn’t appear tired beforehand, you may want to try adjusting her schedule.
Keep the routine the same but look for those cues, such as rubbing eyes, yawning and slowing down. Getting routines established in your home can do a lot to make the necessities of everyday life easier.
It can also be very helpful if you have more than one child. Getting everyone on the same routine gives children a sense of what to expect and one day they will be able to establish and follow their own routines.