Do routines work for babies?
You probably got a ton of advice when you were pregnant. Some might have told you that getting your baby on a “schedule” is a lifesaver, while others might have advised to let your baby lead the way on everything from when to sleep to when to feed.
So, in today’s post, I’m breaking it all down for you. Keep reading to learn the difference between routines and schedules as well as how routines change as your child gets older.
Routines vs. Schedules
It might seem insignificant, but to me, there’s a BIG difference between routines and schedules.
Schedules are ruled by the clock; if you keep your baby on a schedule, you feed, play, and nap at the same time each day.
A schedule might look like this:
- 7 a.m. – Wake and feed
- 7:30-9:30 a.m. – Play
- 9:30 – 9:45 – Begin nap time routine
- 9:45 – Lay baby down in crib for first nap
- 11:15 – Wake and Feed
Rinse and repeat.
Schedules are more strict and offer less flexibility.
However, routines offer more flexibility. Instead of sticking to a clock, you’re following the same pattern each day.
A routine might look like this:
I recommend parents follow a routine as opposed to a schedule. Keep reading to learn why.
In my opinion, routines are very effective for children of all ages.
Routines offer stability, predictability, and security–things all children crave from the day they’re born.
Routines also give you the opportunity to observe and follow your baby’s sleep cues whereas following the clock can lead to stress and anxiety.
For example, what happens when your child takes a little longer to nurse than usual? What happens if they wake up early from their nap or if they skip a nap all together?
Will you keep them up (even though they’re showing signs of sleepiness) just to get them to the designated nap time?
Routines offer the same structure as a schedule without the pressure to meet a deadline.
(Note: as your child grows, you’ll likely find their routine will firm up and shift into more of a time-based schedule where meals, naps, and playtimes occur around the same time each day. That said, I still advise parents to lean into flexibility as opposed to rigid schedules.)
Finally, get this: a 2016 study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found that “individuals who grow up with predictable, daily routines are less likely to have time management or attention problems as adults.”
So now that you’re convinced routines are a good idea, how should you implement one for your baby? Let’s get into it!
Routines for Newborns and Infants
I usually recommend my clients follow the eat, play, sleep routine.
Follow this routine from the time your child wakes up until it’s time for bed again!
As soon as your baby wakes for the day or from a nap, feed them THEN change their diaper.
After your baby eats, it’s time to play! You can practice tummy time, spend some time outside, or read to your baby.
The duration of the play time will depend on your baby’s age. Here’s a good break down of average awake times:
0-3 months: 45-75 minutes
3-6 months: 75 – 135 minutes
6-9 months: 105 –180 minutes
9-12 months: 180-240 minutes
After play comes sleep! Follow your baby’s sleep cues (decreased activity, rubbing eyes, fusiness) and lay them down for a nap before they’re over-tired.
Once they’re up from their nap (or nighttime sleep) it’s time to start the routine again!
Note that at nighttime, you’ll want to eliminate the “play” portion of this routine.
So, when your child wakes in the middle of the night, you’ll simply feed them, change their diaper if necessary, and place them back in their crib to sleep.
The beauty of the eat, play, sleep routine is that you can start it on the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. And you can implement this routine well into your child’s toddler years.
- Routines offer stability, predictability, and security–things all children crave from the day they’re born.
- Schedules are more rigid and are ruled by the clock.
- I recommend my clients follow the eat, play, sleep routine.
- You can start the eat, play, sleep routine the day you bring your baby home from the hospital and implement it well into your child’s toddler years.
Did you know I offer a Newborn Package for parents preparing to welcome a new baby?
It includes a 30+ page guided workbook, a 45-minute consultation, and 15% off a gold, silver or bronze sleep package.
For more information and purchase the package, click here!