For many new parents, the joy of their new baby can be tempered by a bit of a shock – babies don’t run to schedules!
In theory, you could say, why should they? They don’t yet understand the concept of parental exhaustion or make allowances for it, something that may never change in fact.
However, it’s a fact of life that having a schedule is a major boost for parents who are trying to make their lives a little bit more plannable and predictable. That’s essential if you’re to find time for yourself, each other and that tiny little thing called ‘rest’,
Where to start helping baby build a routine?
The first thing that’s needed is to recognise that your baby isn’t unusual because he or she just won’t instinctively do things when you wish they would. So, don’t expect them to always want to eat, sleep, cry or play, at roughly predictable set times. They’re going to need some help to build a schedule.
Another good foundation stone is to not compare them to a previous child of yours or someone else’s. Some children take to a schedule almost instantly but others don’t. Some may, in fact, never conform to any notion of eating or sleeping at a set time, whatever you do. Every child is different, including in what their body is demanding by way of sleep time and duration etc.
This is something you’re going to have to work at.
Finally, don’t forget that many children under the age of 4-6 months just won’t conform to any schedule – no matter how hard you work at it. They may simply be too young and will insist you continue to build your life around their times, not yours.
If so, you’ll have to adapt to that!
In spite of that, here are some great ideas you can try:
- recognise when they’re getting ready for a snooze and make sure you sing them a little lullaby. That will give them comfort and reassurance and they may learn to associate your little song with the idea of ‘snooze time’ when you put them down at other times that are more convenient for you;
- this is sometimes a little controversial but many experts suggest after a period of feed on demand, to start stretching out their feeding times by a few minutes each time. This may allow you to stretch out the intervals slightly and increasingly align their feeding schedule with your plans – on the basis that say 6am is better than 5am;
- try to make sure their bedtime routine is the same every night. Make it at the same time and using the same toys, aids and music etc.;
- feed in the same place and using the same materials where possible;
- try to encourage your baby to go back to sleep and not to start to think of say 4am as a getting up and playtime (this can take patience but you’ll get there);
- use heavy nursery curtains to try and control light entry in the room to a standard day level – even in the longest days of summer. If you don’t, your baby may well welcome the dawn in the early hours and demand to get up.
You can take some comfort from the fact that babies love routine because it makes them feel safe and secure. Although in truth they don’t always work, taking the above steps might end up making your life a lot easier.