“Children thrive on schedules”
That’s not just a statement or our opinion, it’s a fact! Children do develop better, grow better, behave better… when they know what to expect from their days, when a routine (this doesn’t mean it has to be boring!) is in place for them to follow. Additionally, once they have a set schedule, parents will be able to better plan and organize their day and will be able to get more things done for themselves.
Here are some tips on how to get your baby/child on a schedule:
- Know that each baby/child is different. There are basic principles that work with every child (ie. children thrive on schedules). However, each child is different and what might work for one, might not work for other. Parenting should be somehow customized and adapted to every child.
- Start as soon as possible. Once you get home from the hospital with your baby take the time to study his clues. At the very beginning, you’ll notice that your baby spends his day sleeping, feeding, peeing and pooping, and back again to sleeping, feeding… During the first week, you can start noticing when and how often your baby needs to be fed, needs to sleep, needs a diaper change… Once you have a rough idea, you can define a first schedule that’d work for you and your baby.
- Set a bedtime. According to most sleep experts an early bedtime is essential. Make sure you set a bedtime and stick to it. Regardless of whether your child is already sleep trained or not, is still feeding over the night or not, you should have a time in mind at which ‘night’ starts for your little one.
- Bedtime routine. We can’t emphasises how important this is. The bedtime routine can be however you want it to be, as long as it is relatively short, consistent every night, includes a wind down time and shows your child that the night is here and it’s time to sleep. Your children should understand the difference between day and night as soon as possible, and your bedtime routine is essential to achieve this.
- Be flexible. Realize that your baby will change enormously over the first months of his life, so your initial schedule will evolve into a new schedule within the first month, then again after another month and so on. This is due to several factors: (1) Babies soon begin to stay awake longer, (2) the amount of their feedings will increase, as the number of feedings decreases, (3) some feedings will be dropped, (4) sleep training will take place (sleeping through the night will come), (5) new foods will be introduced… Between 6 and 12 months it should be much more stable, and the changes to it would be minor (ie. pushing bedtime 15 minutes early).
- Be consistent. Once you decide on a schedule, or any other parenting issue, be consistent, don’t doubt yourself and keep at it.
- Keep track. You don’t need to write everything that goes on with your child, but it’d certainly will help you to take notes about feedings, sleeping patterns, bowel movements, behavior changes…
- Seek help if you need it. This issue will probably need a post on its own. Parents are not used to ask for advice or help, even when we are drowning, exhausted and at our wits ends. If you feel overwhelmed, or feel like nothing is working, seek help! Join support groups, read books, meet other parents, hire a sitter, ask a family member of friend to come help, hire a parenting coach or sleep consultant, talk to your pediatrician… Do whatever you need to do to feel that you’re in control again and that you are being the parent that you’ve always wanted to be, raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child.
The result of implementing a good schedule that works for you and your child will be a more peaceful, less chaotic and more harmonious home; where your children and you will be able to thrive as individuals and as members of a family unit.