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You are here: Home > Baby > Parenting

Putting Baby on a Schedule

by Katlyn Joy | September 22, 2010 12:00 AM
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Putting Baby on a Schedule

Once upon a time mothers had their newborns on strict schedules. Baby had to learn to adapt to the schedule imposed by mother. When we talk about babies being on schedule nowadays, we are talking about an entirely different process coming from an entirely different perspective. It's not about the grown-ups needs, but rather the infants' needs.

When should babies be put on a schedule?

Do babies even need a schedule? Not everyone agrees on this point, but proponents argue that a baby who is on a flexible responsive schedule will be happier and healthier.

Most people find that an ideal time to start is around three or four months of age. Newborns are still struggling to find equilibrium after having their prenatal routine disrupted by birth. If you delay putting baby on a consistent routine, you may find it takes a bit longer to get with the program but it certainly won't be impossible.

How to start and keep baby on a schedule

Start by keeping a log of baby's typical schedule. You may even find some programs online to help with keeping the log. Note when baby awakes, goes to sleep for the night, naps, eats, gets fussy and messes diapers. Over a week's time you'll observe an average time for the day's events. What you have discovered is the basic framework for your baby's schedule.

Respect and observe baby's natural rhythms. If baby is a night owl, reluctant napper or notorious snacker you probably won't be able to completely reverse what seems built-in for them. However by respecting who they are and their needs, you can adapt their schedules to work better for the family's routines. For instance if your infant is an early-riser and you or your partner works nights, you can only strive to find some common ground that works. You must likely won't be able to get your baby to sleep until noon.

Identify any problems with baby's schedule. For instance, if your nursing baby tends to nod off after breastfeeding on only one side then awakes to eat again just a hour or two later, that's not necessarily a great pattern to allow to persist. Get your baby to remain alert to finish feeding and then able to wait longer for that next nursing. Sing to him, stop and change her diaper, or have a little mini-playtime before switching sides.

Always respond to baby's needs promptly. If baby is clearly hungry, don't delay feeding just because he typically waits four hours between feedings and it's only been three. Babies have growth spurts when they will have an increased need for feedings. Respect baby's cues to be fed, held, comforted or get some shut-eye. Baby's needs always supersede the schedule.

Start at the end. To begin a schedule with baby, start with the bedtime scheduling first. From there, go on to waking times, and then the rest of the day. The bedtime schedule will help set the rest of the day.

Focus on routine. Instead of plotting a minute by minute plan for the day, focus on an order of events and a routine for the day. Have a general flow for how things take place. Maybe baby gets an after dinner bath, followed by a bedtime story and song, then is placed in the crib while soft music plays. Breakfast may not begin promptly at 7:30 but always is served by no later than 8:45.

By respecting the internal clock and personal temperament of baby, scheduling is little more than helping baby stay on track with how she or he operates best.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer, and just graduated with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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