When I was pregnant, deciding on whether or not we were going to have a schedule/routine for Davis was one of our biggest decisions. What would the benefits be? Are there any? Is it even worth it? And of course, will it even work? I have to say, that if we did not have a schedule/routine for Davis, I think I may be a mad woman. So many people let the baby decide when he's hungry, when he wants to sleep, when he wants to play. That's wonderful if that works for you, but I don't want to let my baby dictate my life. I was on babycenter.com recently and had a post up asking a question about a four hour schedule. Everyone that I spoke to had similar schedules and agreed they work best to help the child learn and grow. Except for one not so nice lady telling me she lets her child do whatever they like and I was such an awful person for doing this. She obviously wasn't the brightest person ever, seeing as how she couldn't even spell and her 6 month old baby still wakes up 3 different times during the night. So, I decided to write a post as to why I have a schedule, and some of my opinions about it.
Having a regular schedule can be stressful for you and I, but having one for baby provides framework that orders your young child's world. Children thrive on sameness and repetition. This helps them to learn and feel more self confident in their environment. Babies, especially, need routine as far as sleeping, eating, and even activities that lead up to those. "Knowing what is expected cuts down on parenting struggles," says Jodi Mindell, child psychologist and author. Schedules and routines give you control over the situation, which also reduces anxiety because both you and your baby will come to know what to expect next. When it comes to implementing a routine into your life, flexibility plays a vital role. Routines also help babies learn to self-settle and how to be great sleepers. It also helps children deal with separation from their parents and allows them to feel secure and safe. (For example: Davis was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks...on and off for a while....having being used to his sleep schedule. He has now been sleeping 12 hours straight through the night for a few months.)
Routines also help parents know what is wrong with their baby. It helps them to differentiate the different types of cries and what the baby is needing at the time. After you fall into a routine, you will be able to learn the hunger, sleepy, or bored cries. (Davis does this one quite well!) Right around nap time for Davis, he is ready to go down and wants to be put in his bed. If he is kept up too long, he will let us know...for sure. But we also have to be flexible with the schedule as far as getting out of the house and doing things. If we are planning on going to be at someones house for dinner that cuts into his sleep, we are those parents that will bring his pack and play and set it up in a guest bedroom. Otherwise, the night just is not fun at all. He is really good at being able to sleep in new places and will just fall right to sleep.
An infant's brain grows faster during the first year of life than at any other time. By the age of one, their brain will more closely resemble an adult brain. The foundation for healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development is laid during this time period. Acclimating your infant to a routine has many benefits in these areas of development. By responding to hunger and the need for physical activity, you are providing for healthy physical development. Being attentive to their needs allows them to develop strong bonds and teaches them to trust their caregivers, thus increasing emotional development. Since the most effective learning comes with repetition, intellectual development is strongly supported by a structured routine. The repetition of the routine is what the baby remembers, thereby nurturing memory skills.
We absolutely love having a schedule/routine for Davis and so far it has worked wonderfully for us. No, we are not "programming our child" or strict and freak out if something goes wrong. Having this routine also leaves Michael and I with much needed time to ourselves everyday. As soon as Davis is in bed, it's "our time." Whether it's a late dinner or watching a movie, it has really helped us out a ton to relax and unwind.