Many new parents think that an infant's job is simply to eat, sleep and cry. However, as time goes by, you're likely to realize that an infant can be far more complex than that! This might lead to a number of stressful, sleepless nights adjusting to your little one's whims and moods.
However, despite the fact that you may not be able to communicate with your little one verbally just yet, there are still ways in which you can create a schedule for him. Another benefit of this is that it becomes much easier to train him into a schedule once he's a toddler. This is definitely something you'll want to do as parents who have gone through at least one of those terrible twos will attest to.
Creating a schedule for your little one is super easy, and we've listed down some of the best tips you won't want to forget!
15 Your Baby's Clock
Whether it's obvious to you or not, your baby has his own internal clock. It may not necessarily follow our normal cycle of day or night, but it's definitely there. Mostly, it relies on stimuli such as hunger and defecation.
The first thing you will need to do is to get to know your baby's internal clock. You'll find that he gets hungry roughly every two to three hours, perhaps. Or that he will usually poop twice a day, in the morning and in the middle of the night. Use this pattern as your basis for creating your baby's schedule and transition it into one that is easier for the whole family.
14 Starlight, Star bright
Even as an infant, your baby will still be quite responsive to external stimuli. In fact, most human beings are in a process called the circadian rhythm. He's likely to be more awake and alert in a bright environment. On the other hand, he's going to feel drowsier when it's darker.
Use this to your advantage. Make sure your baby's environment is dim well before you intend to put him to bed. Conversely, brighten things up when it's time for him to rise and shine.
Another method of adjusting your baby's schedule is through the use of location. Newborns probably won't respond to this as much, but older babies will pay attention. Your baby's nursery, for instance, will primarily be involved in sleep. When he recognizes this environment, therefore, he will know that it's almost time to go to bed. On the other hand, when you take him out to the sunnier and more vibrant living room to play or out for his morning walk, he's going to be more alert.
It may take some time for your baby to recognize location cues, so don't worry if he doesn't get it right away.
12 Busy at Daytime
When you need your little one to be awake, make sure to give him plenty of things to do. Now is the time that you want to bring out the toys, the playmates and the cameras! Make sure to start activity at particular times in the day and taper them off as you come closer to naptime or bedtime.
This way, you're acclimating him to get used to being more alert at certain times in the day. Slowly, his body clock is going to adjust so that he becomes more active at these times even when you're not initiating play.
11 Take Your Time for Night Calls
When your baby needs something during the day, it won't hurt to attend to him right away. When you come closer to nighttime, however, take time before you attend to his cries.
You'll find that, occasionally, he's going to go back to sleep on his own. If he keeps on crying, go ahead and check on him to see what he needs. He will soon associate night as a time when it may take a while before he gets attention, as opposed to the quick responses of daytime. He's therefore more likely to sleep longer at this time.
10 Limit Visitors at Night
When he's going to have playmates over or you want to introduce him to new people, make sure it's during the daytime. Babies tend to be particularly fascinated with people who look and smell new. They're therefore less likely to sleep right away when they've got a brand new interesting person to look at!
You therefore want to set a curfew for your child's visitors. If you've got any late night calls, keep your little one in the dim nursery so he can sleep in peace.
9 To Bed
Some parents might be tempted to wait until the little one is super tired before putting him to bed. This is advantageous because he's most likely so exhausted that he's going to sleep immediately. However, as you might already know, babies tend to get really cranky the longer they stay up. This might make him take longer to get to sleep.
One solution is to take him to bed before he actually feels tired. It helps if you can recognize the cues that he's slowly losing energy. Take him to bed ahead of time and he'll go to sleep much quicker, as well as be in a better, happier mood when he wakes up!
8 Adjust Schedules
Infant schedules can be particularly tough because the sooner you get used to a new rhythm, changes are sure to happen. In particular, your little one is going to be awake for longer as he gets older.
Because of this, you must take into account the increasing amount of wake hours and the decreasing number of naps as you go along. Make sure that the transition is smooth and gradual. You may want to use your baby's own internal clock and cues to determine when it's time to increase wake time.
7 Create Rituals
One thing that can help you establish a schedule, both in infancy and as your child grows up, is to establish rituals for him. These are events that serve as cues for your child to recognize what time of the day it is.
At bedtime, for instance, you might want to sing him a song or read a book. Soon, he will recognize that when these events happen, it's almost bedtime. When he wakes early in the morning, have breakfast ready so that he's got something to look forward to.
6 Be Consistent
As much as possible, try to stick to the schedule you've established. This is easier said than done, considering the many changes that might happen in your everyday life. But, for the sake of your child's security and development, it's best if you try to maintain your child's routine even when you yourself don't quite feel like it.
This is not to say that there won't be any room for flexibility, as we'll discuss more a bit later. However, at least for most days in the year, try to stick with what you've got. If you do this, you'll find that your baby adjusts much easier to your own rhythms.
5 Follow Your Instinct
Initially, it may be a bit confusing when you're establishing your baby's schedule or adjusting it as needed. However, one of the best things you can do is simply follow your instinct. You probably know your baby more than you're aware of. Without knowing it, you're actually responding to his internal rhythms and cues. Call it parental instinct, but it's one of your best tools in determining your baby's schedule or when you need a change.
4 Set Up Reminders
If you need to leave your little one with a babysitter or a friend or relative, make sure that the schedule you've established is still followed. To help out with this, set up little reminders that certain parts of the routine are followed.
You can, for instance, post a calendar of your baby's current sleep-wake schedule as well as any of his going-to-sleep or waking-up rituals. This allows for consistency and will make things much easier for your babysitter to manage as well!
3 Keep a Diary
One other thing you can do is to keep a diary of your baby's routine. Whether this is a physical notebook or a calendar app, it's handy to know how your baby is following the schedule. This will also allow you to track any changes in his schedule. When he begins teething, for instance, he might wake more in the middle of the night. You can then adjust his schedule just a little bit to accommodate to the extra awake time, or provide him with some sort of relief so that he still sticks to the plan.
2 Use an App
Once you've got your baby's everyday diary established, one useful thing you can do is to plot out the times in a spreadsheet or an app. While the diary itself will alert you of any changes, a spreadsheet or an app will allow you to determine trends. This is especially useful when your baby is transitioning from being mostly asleep to being mostly awake.
This is most helpful if you can plot your baby's schedule on a graph, allowing you to visualize the general direction of his internal clock.
1 Be Flexible
Finally, don't wear yourself out trying to rigidly follow the schedule. There will be some days where you'll be off by thirty minutes or so. There will also be other days where a visiting relative or a family vacation can throw your baby's routine off schedule. This is perfectly fine for as long as you resume the routine once the event is over.
Remember, setting up a schedule is for the benefit of both you and your baby. As long as you're both happy and well with the arrangements that you've made, feel free to carry on!