There are two types of parents out there: parents with a strict routine and sleep schedule and parents who let their baby go with the flow and sleep whenever/wherever they pass out. Although it may be easier just letting your baby nap in the car, in the restaurant or at the ball-game, experts now say routine is key.
When your little bundle of joy first pops out of the oven, the term 'routine' is basically non-existent in your now hectic life. In fact, life is so nuts that getting on any sort of schedule any time in the near future seems impossible. Although it may seem pointless, doing a few simple things from the get-go can make establishing a routine all the easier down the road.
One of the first challenges of infancy is regulating your baby's circadian rhythm. Most babies (conveniently) come out with their days and nights mixed up because, in utero, mom tends to be moving during the day (lulling the baby to sleep) and is still at night (waking the baby up). Having a routine of keeping things bright during the day and dark in the evening/night can help your baby make the switch that much sooner.
Once days and nights are settled, then comes establishing a routine for baths, feeds, naps and bedtime. Doing these things at the same time every day (aside from feeds early on- feeding on demand is best) lets your baby develop a sense of predictability ("it's bathtime, bedtime is soon"). This allows them to feel more safe and secure knowing how they will be cared for next.
In an interview with Romper, Maureen Healy, emotional coach and author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, says that "children that have a regular schedule or routine when growing up feel comforted and safer in the world. Highly sensitive children feel things more deeply and oftentimes react quickly, so a routine helps them even more so... certain routines, schedules, or regularity for a child helps ease his or her stress of 'what's going to happen next?'"
Even as adults, we like the sense of knowing what's coming next. Although we like a little switch in routine every now and then to keep things interesting, it's nice having a set schedule that we can depend on. Since babies don't have calendars to keep track of their busy days, teaching them actions that signal being fed, being changed, being put to sleep, etc. can make them more relaxed and easy-going.
As important as routines are, as your child gets a bit older, be sure to sway from the routine occasionally so your child is adaptable. Breaking routine too often, however, can be catastrophic. Finding a balance is key to any aspect of parenting.