Most adults thrive best when we know how and when our needs will be met, and what will happen next. We all like some degree of certainty in our lives. Babies are the same way. Infants and young children thrive on predictability and routine; however some may adjust easier than others because of differences in temperaments.
When should I start my baby on a routine?
It is best to respond to your infant on his schedule for the first couple of months. A newborn's needs should be met as quickly as possible so that he learns to trust his world. Follow your baby's cues and allow him to let you know his needs. Keep a journal of his feeding and sleeping times so you will be aware of the schedule he is setting for himself. You may want to talk with your child's pediatrician for his/her advice as you begin to establish routines for your baby.
How should I begin?
Most babies are ready to begin a routine by three months. Utilize the journal you have kept to build a daily schedule. Choose what is the most important part of the day for you and your family, and build from there. If it is important for you to be out of the house early, develop your routine around the morning ritual. If it is important he is in bed for the night by 8 o'clock, begin to establish a bedtime routine.
What about bedtime and naps?
Typically between 8 to 12 weeks of age, your baby's sleep patterns will become more regular. This is a good time to start putting him down for naps at the same time each day, and developing a solid bedtime ritual. Try giving a bath, reading a book, playing soft music, dimming the lights, etc. so he will realize it is time for sleep. Put him in his crib while he is drowsy, but not yet asleep, so he will learn how to soothe himself and go to sleep on his own.
What happens if we get off track?
If your baby is teething, sick or in a different environment, you may have to adjust your routine for a period of time. The good news is, it does not take long to get back to normal. Try to stick to your schedule as much as possible. Also, when he is visiting Grandma or you have a sitter, let them know your routines. Be sure he has his favorite snuggly or something that smells like you to comfort him.
Keep in mind as your baby grows his needs will change. You will need to revise your routine to accommodate his particular developmental stage. Every baby is unique so don't get discouraged if things are not perfect at first. It takes time to find out exactly what schedule works best for you and your baby.