Even the most spontaneous among us enjoy the comfortable confines of having a routine. The same is true for your baby (though she may not realize it yet). Consider the things she needs in order to be healthy. She needs food, baths, sleep, play, and plenty of affection. Juggling those things can be challenging without establishing a schedule. An added bonus for moms and dads who create a consistent routine for their little one's activities is that they'll make their own lives much easier in the process.
Below, we'll offer a series of tips you can use to create and maintain a schedule for your infant's bedtime, meals, and play. We'll explain how to identify clues that will help you meet her needs while adjusting to her internal clock. Lastly, you'll learn what to expect as your little one grows.
Establish A Sleep Routine Early
The best place to start scheduling your infant's activities is with her bedtime. If you can help her learn to fall asleep at a certain time each evening, the rest of the day will conform to that pattern.
Start as early as possible using a few helpful prompts that prepare your little one for sleep. For example, give her a warm bath and put her pajamas on an hour before putting her to bed. Read to her to help her fall asleep. After a few months, try putting her to bed while she's still awake. That way, she can learn to fall asleep by herself.
Identifying Clues From Your Little One
You'll eventually notice that your infant gives you small clues regarding her needs. For example, she'll yawn when she's sleepy or become fussy when she's hungry or worn out. Over time, you'll start to notice patterns. Use these hints to modify your baby's schedule to accommodate her needs. For example, if she starts yawning thirty minutes before her bedtime each night, start putting her to bed a half-hour earlier. If she consistently shows signs of being hungry an hour before her scheduled feeding, change her schedule.
There's no reason to force your little one to conform to a routine you and your partner created. Be flexible and willing to make changes.
Sacrifice For The Schedule (In The Beginning)
During the first few weeks, it's important to avoid activities that force you to stray from your baby's routine. While you should remain open to making changes according to her cues, avoid going on vacations, taking her on outings, or anything else that might disrupt her schedule. Let her be the driving force behind any changes in naptimes, feedings, or play. Otherwise, try to stick to the routine.
Adapting To Your Baby's Development
Year-to-year changes in an adult's life are barely noticeable. Babies, on the other hand, grow quickly and achieve major milestones along the way. By the end of your little one's first twelve months, she might be able to stand and walk. She might start crawling nearly as quickly as you walk. There's also a good chance she'll start straying from her normal schedule. Her naptimes may become shorter and less frequent. She may start getting hungry earlier and more often.
Continue to watch for clues. You may need to adjust your baby's schedule to meet her new tendencies. On the other hand, her straying may be temporary; she may return to her normal routine within a few weeks. Again, be flexible and willing to make changes.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that caring for a baby requires the ability to adapt. Babies enjoy stability and consistency. However, their needs can change - often unpredictably. For example, your little one may suddenly want to skip her morning nap. Or, she may become uncharacteristically hungry in the late afternoon. She might want more playtime than is usual. Adjust her schedule as she grows and allow her to develop at her own pace.
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By Elizabeth L Perkins