If you have any over-bearing relatives or friends in your life, they may already be questioning your baby routines. If you don't have a good answer for them, don't worry about it. Sure, babies do thrive on routines, but there are many different types of routines that can be followed. Chances are your baby is already in somewhat of a routine, and you just didn't know it!
If your mother or mother-in-law is insisting that you put your newborn on a strict routine, you might just want to bite your tongue and let that advice go in one ear and out the other! Routine and newborn are two words that generally don't go together very well!
Remember, your newborn lived in a very secure and controlled environment when she was in your tummy! Boy did that change after she was born! She was assaulted with new sights, sounds, people, and various other experiences, and that was probably overwhelming to her! To have high expectations that she will immediately develop a routine is very unrealistic!
Types of Baby Routines
Once your baby has reached three months of age, however, she may be on somewhat of a routine. If you're not sure, keep track of when she does certain activities during the day for several days in a row. You'll probably notice a pattern. There are several routines that children and parents generally follow. Although any of these may apply to your child, keep in mind that most children probably fall into a combination of some of the following.
Hour on the Hour Routine
I call this routine hour on the hour because parents who follow it generally schedule everything they do for their baby by the clock. In other words, if they feed their baby every two hours, then his schedule may include a feeding pattern for ten, twelve, two, and four. Parents who follow this routine, typically don't like to get off-schedule. In fact, varying the schedule may bother mom or dad more than it bothers baby! It may be a little more difficult to get your child on this routine, but once he is on it, he may do quite well.
On Demand Routine
This routine basically speaks for itself. Parents who follow this routine feed their babies on demand and let their babies fall asleep whenever they like. Another term for this type of scheduling might be the laid back routine. It may not sound like a routine at all, but once you become accustomed to responding to your child in this manner, it will actually develop into a routine, albeit a rather haphazard one at times. Still, this routine can work, especially if you don't have the energy or the patience to try to train your baby to conform to a stricter schedule.
Then, there is the happy medium routine. It's a little of each of the above routines all rolled into one, and it is probably used more often. In a happy medium routine, parents don't have rigid expectations, but neither are they so laid back that their daily schedules vary from one day to the next.
Once an infant reaches three or four months, most parents begin to notice a pattern in the way baby eats and [sleeps]. When they do, they take advantage of that pattern by encouraging certain behaviors throughout the day. While you might feed your baby when she is hungry, you'll also realize that she generally becomes hungry at regular intervals. You might begin to plan her playtimes and naptimes so that they alternate throughout the day, eventually leading up to two or three naps a day and a regular bedtime schedule at night.
By the time your child becomes a toddler, he has probably established a fairly regular routine whether you helped him out or not. He has adapted his waking and eating periods to the family schedule. He may still be taking two naps during the day, or he may have whittled rest-time down to one nap a day.
If he isn't on any type of schedule by the time he is a toddler, though, you'll probably want to ease him into one, even if it isn't very conforming, to prepare him for preschool and elementary school. Once there, he won't have a choice about what kind of schedule to be on!
Finally, keep in mind that your baby's routine should make his life and yours better. It shouldn't be the cause of conflict between the two of you. If you are struggling with how to incorporate routine into your child's daily life, talk to some of your friends. Ask them what has worked best for them. Listen to the advice you like, and throw the rest of the advice out. Remember, you know what is best for your child! You don't have to take or apply unwanted advice!