Consistent routines and structure can benefit everyone in your family and are important for children at any age. Why are routines beneficial for babies and children?
Routines help children feel safe, stable and less stressed.
Children are faced with continual changes in their lives. As they grow up their bodies change constantly. Few of these changes are within their control. Routines reduce anxiety and give children security. A predictable family life can help children cope as they go through development changes.
When children know what to expect they experience a sense of control and satisfaction as tasks are completed. They have fair warning for transitions and don’t feel they are being pushed around or that parents are being arbitrary.
Routines that are built around spending time together foster a sense of belonging and strengthen family relationships. Reading a story together before bed or sharing regular family meals can be a special time for you and your child.
Routines help develop life skills and build healthy habits.
Everyday routines are great learning opportunities for young children. By establishing these habits early they learn the importance of managing their time, manners and personal hygiene. From washing hands before eating, to brushing teeth before bed, routines create constructive habits. This helps children have more self-discipline, responsibility and independence as they grow up.
Observe your baby’s cues and notice any patterns or routines that emerge.
In the first few weeks you and your baby are just getting to know each other. Don’t stress about schedules or routines right away. Let your baby show you what her needs are. As things progress you will most likely notice your baby get into her own routine or a schedule of sorts. Over time most babies settle into a fairly predictable pattern.
For example, after my son was born I noticed a pretty regular schedule emerging around week two or three. I would breastfeed him and he would then fall asleep for about 3 hours. He would wake up again and we would change, feed and be up for about an hour. Then he would fall asleep for another 3 hour nap. This recurred over the course of a few days and I realized we had a pretty regular schedule forming. I was able to plan my day around his schedule and that made life a little more predictable.
Strengthen your baby’s natural routine by structuring your day around her needs.
Once you’ve started to notice a pattern of eating and sleeping you can help to support this schedule. Make sure conditions are conducive for her nap at the time she usually naps. If you are out and about, make sure you are able to stop and feed your baby at the times that you normally would do so. By responding to her natural schedule you can develop a routine that works for her and the whole family. By meeting her needs you will foster a content and happy baby and family.
Keep in mind your baby is growing and maturing, so routines will change too.
A newborn’s daily routine will not look the same today as in a few weeks or months. As they grow they will stay awake longer and reduce the number of daily naps. Be flexible and adjust your expectations to align with their developmental advances.
Sticking to routines now, will make simple adjustments easier for them later. Obviously, there’s no need to consider time to brush your baby’s teeth when they are a few weeks old, but adding this task to your established morning routine will be easy when the time comes. Maintaining consistent routines helps to prepare children for bigger changes they will face in life; potty training, parents going back to work and even starting school.
Your routines may not look like your friend’s or your family member’s, and that’s okay.
Each family will establish a routine that fits them best. Some parents may prefer to bathe their baby in the morning followed by breakfast, playtime, and learning activities.
Another family may decide to do bath time before bed to help to soothe their baby to sleep. This could be followed by reading a bedtime story, singing a lullaby, and tucking your baby into their bed. This night time routine worked really well with my son. Having this routine established was helpful when I eventually had to return to work. You will know once you find what works best for you and your family.
Your baby will sometimes have a one-off day that differs from the routine.
Sometimes, your baby will change the day up for whatever reason. For example she could take a longer than usual nap, have an extra feed or just be out of sorts that day. Perhaps she is going through a growth spurt, has a new tooth coming in, or is coming down with a cold. Or maybe she is just having a one-off day without any noticeable explanation. Having consistent routines can help you identify changes in your baby and therefore address these situations as they come up.
Sometimes life gets in the way and it’s hard to stay on schedule.
Lastly, we know that holidays, travel, plans with friends, and the needs of other children in your family will all play a part in daily life with your baby. An occasional change up shouldn’t cause too much disruption to your baby’s routine. Just pick up as usual when it is possible. Remember that all parents encounter these challenges and you are not alone.
And let’s face it, there is no greater change we go through in life than when we add a new baby to the family. Bringing your baby home will require major adjustments to your life and daily routines. Make sure to squeeze in your own self-care needs and get support when you need it. We hope you have success creating a routine that works for your child and family that will help develop healthy habits to grow with them.