There is a constant debate surrounding the concept of creating a schedule for babies (which I swear by, having done it easily, twice, without ever using the sleep training or cry it out methods). Some parents are scared to schedule their babies because they feel their needs are not being met; while some parents might not go about it in a healthy manner, it’s perfectly easy to schedule a child without ever once failing to meet needs or resorting to neglect.
According to Dr. Laura Markham, even babies need structure and routine. Babies and kids who live with structure are happier, better behaved and more open than children who do not live with routine. Why? Because babies are often afraid of the unknown and they respond better to a routine that’s comforting and familiar.
Let Your Baby Lead
Whether you know it or not, your baby probably already has a schedule of her own. She probably likes to wake up, do this, do that, do this, do that and so on throughout the day. All you have to do is let her lead and start working your schedule from there. You can use her existing routine to schedule her real routine.
Say your baby likes to go to bed at 1 am and wake up at 11 am and you’d like her to go to bed and wake up a little earlier. Start slowly. Start the bedtime routine a little earlier each night, by 10 to 15 minutes. Then wake her up 10 to 15 minutes earlier each morning. After a few weeks, her internal clock and schedule will adjust. She’s not losing any sleep or gaining any sleep, but now she’s sleeping on a schedule that’s much more appropriate for everyone. You can do the same with naps and feeding simply by adjusting the times you do things by a few minutes at a time everyday for a few weeks.
Babies love routine. If you make something a routine, chances are good he or she will begin to understand what happens and when it happens. For example, a bedtime routine helps your child learn that it’s almost time for bed. You can start with a feeding or a bath or simple things like brushing teeth and using baby lotion with dim lights to help your child understand that these things mean bedtime. Before too long, he or she will expect to go to bed after these things are finished and it becomes habit.
The misconception held by many is that kids should dictate your routine. This is simply not true. Kids need structure, rules and parents who create the schedule. The earlier they realize this the better off everyone in your house will be. You don’t have to let your kids cry, neglect their needs or force them to do anything. You are the guide by which they learn. If you want them to learn something, you simply have to teach them.
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