All 4 of my babies were on a predictable and easy schedule one week home from the hospital–NOT. Our first babies were twins and I stumbled around for 3 months trying to figure out what to do with them all day and night long.
There are too many opinions on the subject of baby schedules. Many experts are either at one end of the spectrum or the other–prescribing a strict schedule or none at all. I prefer a daily routine which marries the two quite nicely. The routine our babies followed is still in place now that we have school-aged children down to a toddler.
A routine is nothing more than predictable events of the day in the same order and relatively at the same time of day.
What’s the point in having a routine? For starters, children need to know what to expect. Babies and toddlers do not have a concept of time, but they do know (if you have a routine) that when they wake up they eat. They know that after they play for a while, they take a nap. Their bodies actually depend on this predictability. In time, you will learn to depend on your routine too. There is a natural rhythm that begins to develop when a little one knows what to expect. You’ll find there are less battles to fight in a day (i.e.. naps and tantrums).
Below is a sample routine you can use to structure your day. The main parts of the routine are sleep, eat, play. Keep these in order as best you can. The number of naps your baby or toddler takes in a day is up to you and your baby, but if you have a child age 4 or younger, he should have at least one nap.
- wake up cuddle (unless your baby is screaming for food:)
- nap (for age 0 to about about 18 months) OR errands (if no nap)
- play (optional nap, for the newborns)
- play (optional nap for newborns)
- play/family time
- bath (you may feel that bathing every other day is sufficient)
- feeding for infants or milk for toddlers
- read books/sing
Note: Don’t miss out on the sweet moments of bedtime. If you make this a nightly routine, it will last well into later childhood. Some of the most precious conversations and teaching moments have occurred at bedtime in our home. I wouldn’t trade that last hour for any other during the day.
Want to know the secret to making a routine work in your home? Don’t leave anything out. Don’t skip breakfast. Don’t skip a snack, unless baby refuses to eat. Don’t even think about skipping a nap–that’s a big one. It’s tempting, I know. You don’t need to put a time next to each event and be ruled by the clock. Just let the structure of the day be your guide and roughly think of times associated with each event. The results will speak for themselves though. Hold off on evaluating your progress on the first couple of days. Challenge yourself to stick to a routine for one week and then evaluate.
If you have specific questions, let me know by leaving a comment below or send me a note via the contact page.