Does the thought of having a routine frighten you or calm you? Are you a go with the flow family following baby’s cues 100% of the time or strict follow the clock family? I am definitely the latter, always have been… I firmly believe routine is KING! Why? Babies thrive off a routine.
Now my children are older (4 and 6 years) we can be much more flexible with meals and bedtimes.
But what difference does it really make not having a routine in place?
I am going to explain this in today's blog post. Keep reading…you may be surprised what you find out…
There is a big debate with two sides of the fence here where some families are all the way following baby’s cues and let them eat and sleep as and when they signal for it and then on the other side of the fence we have clock driven families with meal and nap times set.
Certainly in the first few months of infancy there is no routine and every day will be different. By the time your baby gets to around 5-6 months you may start to see a pattern to your days. Baby starts napping around the same times perhaps and feeding patterns emerge. Many parent’s however still find each day is different and days may become a hot mess of confusion of feedings and random napping.
Having a routine in place may seem to restricting for you and boring. You may like to have more flexibility with your day which allows you to plan last minute outings and appointments.
I know many parents find that having a routine in place can make them feel stressed and overwhelmed, "what if baby does not fall asleep at said time for nap? What if they wake early or want to eat slightly later"?
This can often make parents feel anxious and they are failing. However having a routine does not mean you have to follow it to the second, you can be flexible.
When I work closely with families often there is no routine in place and this can be one of the reasons their baby is not sleeping well day or night. The days may just need some gentle tweaking here and there. Baby may not be getting the sleep they ideally need to thrive biologically. Once they get into a rhythm we see baby suddenly sleeping more, calmer and not so fussy. Sleep training methods may not be needed as much. I see parents understand their baby’s cues more and know what they need rather than contemplating are they hungry or tired or indeed bored!
I would never say a routine needs to be followed to the absolute T, overlooking a cry from your baby is neither responsive nor loving. This is why adopting a flexible routine is important.
What I will say though is having a routine in place can be immensely favourable to your child’s circadian rhythm, the internal body clock. Your child’s moods and appetite will become regulated. Early rising at 5am can be avoided and you may find your child easier to read.
A routine will enable your child to take great naps and keep overtiredness at bay.
Other Benefits of a Routine?
Predictability. You can book in those play classes, know when the best time is for that coffee date with a friend and a walk around the park will be, you will feel more in control and know what to expect each day…and night!
You will also find it easy to know when and how to drop a nap.
The Flexible Routine
Have you seen routines online? Perhaps you have seen one of my suggested schedules? And that is just what they are…suggested. Because no one size fits all. All children are different and some like to have a long morning nap and other like a short morning nap. They need to be flexible because days do go pear shaped, you may have an outing or an appointment to get to in the middle of nap time and that is OKAY!
Deviating off the clock is fine. Weekends happen as do holidays and I would always say have fun, relax but try get back on to your routine after 2 days or so that circadian rhythm will just get all confused again and you may have an overtired baby suddenly waking at 5am…
Not a Routine Family?
Not having a routine to your days may mean baby wakes more in the night for feeding and this creates a vicious cycle of what is called reverse cycling. This in turn creates a sleepier and irritable child during the day and of course letting baby sleep more in the day means more awake at night…
Then of course what is if baby suddenly falls asleep and you have to go on that school run and need to wake your baby up?
Day care may also report your child has lower patience and concentration which will have an impact on learning skills.
Dropping naps can be hard especially if naps are different in length and times each day.
What I will say is for those of you who are still not convinced and it works well for you to go with the flow day – watch for your baby’s awake windows! Keeping your baby up longer than their age and stage of development can handle will affect night sleep and development.
Find out more about awake windows for different ages in my blog HERE
Peaceful Nights to You all,
Your Paediatric Sleep consultant