Jan 14, 2020
Adults might associate with routines with tedious rituals like brushing your teeth before bed or hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock several times before you're ready to wake up. But as any parent of an infant can tell you, life with a baby is anything but boring. And routines can bring order to the chaos.
Routines can also give your infant a sense of security and build confidence. This can protect them in stressful situations or from big, sudden changes in their lives. At around seven months, experts say that most children begin to understand the concept of object permanence. In other words, they know that things exist even when they can't see them. When their world is somewhat predictable, infants can explore the world safely, and new situations or challenges are not quite as frightening for them.
Establishing routines will also help your baby accept the inevitable changes in her life. For instance, introducing solid food can be eased if you do it at the same time every day while your baby is in the same room in the same chair.
Life can be a scary new world for babies, and routines provide the structure that helps them make sense of this terrifying new world.
For the first few months of a baby's life, most parents, other than the lucky few, are at the mercy of their baby's whims and their own particular personal clock. Routines are still essential, but that does not mean you should enforce a strict routine on your newborn.
Routines can help your baby learn critical socialization habits. They will eventually realize there are rules they need to follow. For example, that bedtime means they have to go to sleep.
The interaction that is part of many routines also provides an opportunity to socialize your child. There is also some indication that predictable routines can help reduce problem behaviors like temper tantrums or hitting, later on. It's important to note, however, that routines that are too rigid can have the opposite effect on a child's development.
Taking the time to talk to your infant while you're bathing or feeding them is a great way to develop early communication skills. It doesn't matter that they are not quite capable yet of responding to your monologue, they're learning to communicate just by listening. Routines can also help babies recognize words and reinforce their understanding of what those words mean.
Routines can also help babies establish the Circadian rhythm that allows us to distinguish between day and night but be patient. Most newborns do not differentiate between night and day and must both sleep and feed on demand. Begin slowly by establishing little rituals like opening the curtains in the morning when she wakes up. This will start the process of helping her differentiate between day and night.
Routines help infants learn the concept of sequencing, a concept critical to learning math and other more complex subjects. With a routine they understand that bath time comes after dinner or that storytime signals the approach of bedtime.
It also teaches self-control. With routines, babies trust that the people who love them will take care of their needs.
There is a vast difference between routine and rigidity. Flexibility is an essential parenting skill as patience. There will be challenging situations and changes, and your response is a signal to your child that will predict how they will eventually respond to challenges and changes.
For the first few months of their lives, babies need to both eat and sleep on demand. Imposing a strict schedule before your baby is ready is at best counterproductive.
Routines should be calming and welcome and not a source of conflict. As your baby grows, his needs and therefore, his schedule will change too. He may need an earlier bedtime, or many need to eliminate a nap. Watch for cues Being flexible with your established routines and being open to these changes is critical for their success.
The key to establishing routines is to work to start small and work with your baby's natural rhythms. Focus on the routines that are doable and that sustainable. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
When your baby is ready for baths, set a specific time for bathing. If baths make your baby sleepy, that might be before bed. If baths tend to wake your baby up, try a morning bath instead. Keeping a particular toy, like a rubber duckie just for bath time, can help set a routine as can some after bath cuddles.
It may seem a little ridiculous to a parent to start a bedtime ritual with a baby who seems to be sleeping and waking at frequent, seemingly random intervals. However, it will eventually work. Reading a book, giving a massage or singing a song can help your baby recognize that now is the time to go to sleep.
Eating as a family is as essential for babies as it is for children. While they may not yet be ready to enjoy your dinner, they can enjoy the socialization. They'll learn language skills and also good eating habits. Family meals will help your baby feel secure, as well.
Routines can be a difficult thing, particularly for parents who eschew routines in their own lives but they are important. Start implementing small routines when it makes sense for your baby. Most experts agree that babies are most receptive to routines between two and four months of age. Get a feel for your child’s own internal rhythms by keeping track of his or her eating, sleeping and alertness times. Encourage those emerging routines.
The best advice for establishing routines with your baby? Follow your instincts. No one knows your baby better than you.