The first few days after you give birth, you move around in a bit of a haze. You might wonder to yourself if life will ever feel normal again. Trust me, it will take some time, but things will settle down and you will find yourself and your new young one settling into a routine.
Sometimes with infants the word routine is seen as dirty, because nowadays things like feeding on demand, and letting them sleep when they want are deemed to be the way to go. However, having a routine for you and your little one isn’t all bad. First of all your baby will probably settle into a routine anyway. It might not be perfect, for instance she might not always go down for a nap at 9 am exactly, but she’ll probably settle down somewhere between 8 am and 10 am.
Also having a routine will make everyone's life easier. Here are 9 reasons why that is, plus a few tips on how to make the best routines.
10 Helps Them Feel Safe
The first reason that it's important for you to have a routine is that it helps your baby feel safe. Jacqueline Burt Wang points out that as adults we like when something is consistent when everything else around us is changing and when we're constantly learning new things. Our children are the same way, and for them everything is always changing. They are always learning new things like how to hold their heads up or pull themselves up into a standing position.
Over at Aha! Parenting the writers point out that this is partially because the biggest fear humans have is the fear of the unknown. Since their skills and their bodies are constantly changing, their lives are constantly filled with unknowns. So having a routine that stays consistent will help them recognize that somethings will stay the same and the patterns will be known to them. This will help them feel safer and more confident when it comes to learning new things and exploring their world.
9 Learn Self Care and Routine Activities
Helping your son or daughter feel more confident when it comes to exploring and learning is important, because there's so much for them to learn. For instance, some of the things routines teach them are how to brush their teeth or wash their faces. As the writer's at Aha! Parenting point out, getting into this practice while they're still young will set them up to be better at chores and tasks like getting their homework done when they're older.
8 Helps them Distinguish Day and Night
Another thing that a schedule will help your baby learn is the difference between daytime and nighttime. Just to be clear you should not force your child onto a schedule. That won’t work out, you’ll just end up feeling even more exhausted and frustrated, and your child will be hungry and cranky because babies need to eat in the middle of the night since their stomachs are so small.
Instead of trying to force your baby onto a schedule, use routines to guide him and teach him that he's supposed to be awake during the day and sleep during the night. You can do this by being more excited and energetic when your baby is awake during the day, and then keep the lights dim, be quieter and more subdued when they wake up in the middle of the night—because that’s really difficult to do when you’re struggling to stay awake yourself.
7 Helps Them Know What’s Coming Next
Routines also help your baby learn what comes next. This can be as simple as learning that her onesie needs to go on before her pants. Or, it can be more complicated, like learning that bedtime comes after bath time and story time.
This is how routines help children learn how to do things for themselves, and once they are older and able to do things for themselves they will do that. Kids love to be in charge of themselves—just ask my tot who likes to pick out his own clothes for the day and pajamas for the night. As an added bonus, by letting your children take control over their actions, their sense of self-confidence will grow and they will be willing to try more things.
6 Look Forward to Favorite Activities
Have you ever blown raspberries on your baby’s belly? After a few times, she’ll start to giggle before your mouth even reaches her tummy. Or take my son for instance, whenever he hears the trunk pop he gets all excited because it means we’re picking up his father from work. Creating routines works like that.
After a while of doing things consistently she’ll not only learn that her socks go on before her shoes, she will also learn that when her shoes and socks go on after her nap it's because she's going to the park. Like how she giggles in anticipation of the raspberries on her belly, she'll learn to get excited because she's about to head to the park, and she will look forward to it.
5 Goodbye Power Struggles
By setting up routines early on, you are also eliminating power struggles later on when your children are old enough to show you attitude. By creating the schedule that you follow consistently, your children learn that you aren’t bossing them around pointlessly. They will realize that they have to put their shoes on at this time of the morning because this is when they go to daycare. Or they will learn that bedtime happens at 7:30, so this is when they have to start putting their toys away to get ready for it.
The reason schedules and routines help get rid of fights over "why do I have to do this now?" is because of the built-in transitions it creates. These transitions help your child know what's coming next so they can get excited about whether it's something they love, or so they can prepare for it if it's something less exciting.
Another reason routines help eliminate power struggles around bedtime is that they help your child calm down. By setting up a relaxing bedtime routine your child will be calmer and more ready to sleep by the time they are crawling into the covers. As parents know, children who sleep well at night are happier the next day, and not dealing with an overtired and cranky child will help you feel happier too.
4 Helps You Stand Strong
Since you won't constantly be fighting with your children to get dressed or go to bed, you will also have more energy when your children do fight back against the routine. You will also know what your rules are and have the map you need to stand firm on your expectations that bedtime is at 7 pm or that TV time is between 4 and 5. This will help you to avoid having your life look like the nights at the Bear house in The Berenstain Bears ‘ Bedtime Battle.
3 Helps You Plan Your Day
This one seems like a given: having a routine will help you better plan your day. But it can’t be overstated. Having a consistent routine will help you figure out what times of the day you can go to friends for playdates without having a screaming, and overtired infant in your arms. You’ll also be able to figure out when you should start making meals or getting the bottle ready for lunches, suppers and snacks before your bundle of joy starts crying and screaming.
2 Time to Connect
One specific part of your day that routines can help you plan is the time you connect with your children. As parents you’re probably aware that life can get pretty busy. Unfortunately that often means you don’t always have the time or energy to spend hours playing peek-a-boo, building block towers, or going to the park, which means you're not able to spend as much time connecting with your child as you want. Schedules can help you with that. When you're setting up the different daily routines and the daily schedule you can make sure you build in time to bond with your baby. For example, you can make sure that you have a playtime with your child when you get home from work, or you can give your baby a massage while they're getting ready for bed.
1 Tips To Make Routines Work
- First of all, don’t force them on your child. I know, this seems rather counterintuitive: how can you get your child onto a schedule if you don’t try to get them on a schedule? But forcing your child onto a schedule that won’t work for that child is simply going to drive you crazy and cause all sorts of problems. Instead you need to work with your baby. He will eventually start to show you the outlines of a schedule. For instance, he’ll likely want to nap around the same time every day and he’ll likely want to eat around the same time. So you can arrange for those times to be naptime and snack time or lunchtime. You can start doing this around three months, because that’s about when he’ll be ready to start going on a schedule.
- Secondly, you'll want to plan for interruptions. Life isn’t perfect. You cannot plan for everything and sometimes your routines are going to change. For instance, you might be going on vacation, and that’s just going to screw everything up.
- Thirdly, you need to be flexible with your schedule. Sometimes you’re going to try something and it’s not working, so you’ll need to change it. For example, if you find that your daughter is super cranky around bedtime and it’s taking forever to get her to settle down, perhaps it’s because she’s too tired. In this case you’ll need to try putting her down for bed earlier in the future. Also, remember that as your child grows, the routine needs to grow with her. She will eventually drop one of her naps. Or if she’s like my son, she’ll drop both of them and then pick one up again a few months later.
- Lastly, you will have to expect some power struggles between you and your child as they grow older. I know I said that creating a routine will help eliminate power struggles, but it won’t get rid of them all. Sometimes your toddler is going to try and stretch the rules to see how long they can stay up, because he is curious about whether or not that rule is a firm rule or something that can bend. One way to deal with this when it happens is to let them win part of the battle. For instance, you could try to let them choose their pajamas for bed, or pick what shoes they want to wear to go out. Be warned this could lead to some interesting shoe choices—my son likes to wear my bright green crocks, but he can’t really walk in them. So I bring along a better pair for when he’s tired of tripping. Another thing you could try is to change the routine to make it more interesting and exciting again. Perhaps you could sing different silly songs as you pick up toys.