New moms spend a lot of time reading baby and parenting books of all kinds, and in almost every one you will find something about creating a routine for your baby. Many moms wonder why while others wonder how. The more you read, talk to other moms, and research, the more confused you may become. A routine is definitely an important part of parenting a young one, however everyone has different ideas of what a routine is, and that is completely acceptable. As you decide how to settle your little one into a routine, keep these things in mind to keep the smiles coming and the tears to a minimum.
Why Have a Routine?
Many moms probably wonder why a routine is necessary at all; why not just take it a day at a time? The truth is that finding a balance between a set routine and working around the tasks of each day is really the best for everyone. A schedule definitely helps babies and toddlers to have a sense of security and lets them know what to expect. Babies are uneasy and confused anyways, so some semblance of "normalcy" is definitely good for them.
For toddlers, having a routine lets them know what is expected at certain times each day which also helps you when disciplining or implementing a system of rewards and consequences. Settling into a natural rhythm is good for you and your little one; it helps to minimize chaos and give life a sense of order. Having a routine allows babies to feel secure and moms to stay sane!
Consistency Is Key
When you decide to put a routine into place, your baby may not know what to think at first, especially if the routine is totally new. Once youíve decided on something that works, the key is to stick with it. Make sure that the routine is something that you can stick to the majority of the time so that you are not constantly changing it; this will only confuse your baby and frustrate you.
While your baby may not full understand a sudden change (i.e. maybe your new schedule has moved bath time from mornings to evenings), pretty soon it will become normal and expected. If you are trying to settle a toddler into a new routine, you might be met with some resistance, but just stick with it. Be consistent and patient, and soon your routine will become totally natural and require very little or no effort to maintain.
While schedules are definitely helpful and even necessary, itís still important to remember that life is not something you can predict. There will be things that come up unexpectedly or long term changes that completely throw off your schedule. Donít get frustrated or give up on the idea of a routine all together, simply make the necessary adjustments and patiently settle your child into it.
Every parent knows that babies and toddlers also have their "off" days when they are just cranky or fussy for seemingly no reason. On these days, sticking to your routine will probably not be your first priority, and that is completely fine. Take cues from your baby and try to stick with the routine as much as possible, but do what you need to do to keep baby happy.
By the same token, babies are always subject to change. They may want to eat more often one day than another or they may take longer naps today than they did yesterday. Trying to force them to eat or nap at certain times will only result in frustration and tears; yours and theirs. Create a routine that can be easily altered and allows room for changes. Your child is going to change rapidly and you and your routine need to be able to conform to those changes while still maintaining structure and avoiding confusion.
Do What Works for YOU
Just because your favorite parenting book gives you a layout of the "perfect routine," or your best friend seems to have her children scheduled to the minute, does not mean that those routines will work for you. Itís good to get general ideas and find out what has worked for other people, but in the end your routine will be (and should be) your very own. Finding what works for you and your children is the first step in setting up a winning routine.
Work around your schedule, your childrenís needs, their personalities, your needs, and anything else that you think could get in the way of your routine. Plan something that works best for you; even if that puts bath time right in the middle of the day and story time happens after nap time; who cares? The "perfect routine" is the one that works for you; the one that allows you to maintain control while still enjoying every single moment with your children.