If you’re familiar with the various ideologies of parenting, you’ve likely read about and have strong opinions regarding rigid schedules for babies versus letting your baby eat and sleep at will. After the first few months, however, many parents discover that a mesh of schedules and free will can be found, and the results are quite good for both baby and parent.
Before becoming parents, it’s likely you had a routine that you were comfortable with. You probably even enjoyed it. Being removed from that routine might have caused you a great deal of stress, in fact. Consider your shower. Most adults, prior to becoming parents, wake with the alarm clock, start the coffee, hop in the shower and then get ready for the day. Almost immediately after having a baby, that routine is completely shattered.
Gone is the alarm clock and the freedom of choice in shower time and length. Some parents, mothers in particular, are lucky to even get a shower in a day, and when they do it’s at a random time – either in the company of a baby or done frantically during one of baby’s short naps. Not surprisingly, for many mothers, the desire to return things to “normal” following a baby is one of the strongest urges. Some moms are able to get back to a regular shower routine in a few days if their partner can watch the baby, while others might have to wait years until truly regular sleep patterns develop.
Babies feel the same way we do about routines. Newborns are very versatile. They sleep and eat at will and don’t follow a particular schedule unless they are put on one by a parent. After a few months, however, you’ll notice that your days and nights are starting follow similar patterns. The timing might be off considerably from one night to the next, but your baby might seem to sleep well if you bathe her, massage her and then rock her to sleep each night. If you vary the routine or ask someone else to put her bed, she might be a bit harder to put down.
Older babies truly thrive on routines. Knowing what comes next makes caring for these inquisitive and incredibly active creatures much simpler. Both you and your baby know that a nap comes after lunch. And after the nap, you’ll go outside for a walk followed by a quiet play time. Does lunch happen at the same time or the same place every day? It’s unlikely, but if you at least stay within the same parameters of the day, you’ll find things moving along more smoothly and your baby responding to various stimuli on a more consistent basis.
Very few babies and toddlers fall into a true schedule. Some babies are extremely punctual and wake up at 7 AM every morning, but many more might be up anywhere from 5am to 8am depending on any number of factors (or none at all). If you trade in rigid schedules for a more flexible routine, you can accommodate the ups and downs of the day more easily and with less stress. Naptime doesn’t have to start at noon every day. It can start anywhere around noon so long as it follows what passes for a “lunch time” every day. Dinner doesn’t have to be served at six, but putting on a Baby Einstein video might be a clue that food is coming up and give your little one a much needed break in her day.
A schedule can make you feel trapped and frustrated as you almost inevitably fall off the rigid timings on a daily basis. A routine, however, can be incredibly freeing as you know in advance how you day will likely play out, even if you can’t even guess at what you’ll be doing at what time.
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