Children tend to thrive on routine and consistent schedules. Mealtimes, nap times, and bedtimes staying consistent provides them a sense of security and wellbeing. Babies are no different. Once you get your infant settled in the home, beginning and maintaining a schedule is good for the whole household.
The most important factor in maintaining a consistent schedule is making sure that everyone in the house is on board. If one parent keeps a strict routine and the other just goes with the flow, consistency is out the window. But after everyone agrees on the importance of a schedule, how can you maintain one more easily? Here are three ways to keep your baby on a schedule as you navigate parenthood.
Call In The Troops
Most of the time, the success or failure of keeping a baby on a schedule boils down to consistency. And while it’s common to see parents out and about on errands with their babies, those activities can disrupt established schedules. Is it possible for a baby to take their normal nap while in a stroller or car seat? It is absolutely possible, but the child may not get the quality of sleep that he or she would at home.
So what if you want to keep your baby on a tight schedule but have a dental appointment during naptime? In those instances, it might be time to call in friends and family for a favor.
Most of the time after you have a baby, people enthusiastically volunteer to watch your child if the need arises. After all, most people jump at the chance to get some baby snuggles in. If you have an extensive support system of willing helpers, take them up on their offers to help.
You can even use technology to help make the process easier. By using a meeting scheduler, you can connect with your helpers’ calendars and find available times. Need to be at the dentist at 2:00 p.m.? Look instantly to see who in your support circle is available during that time and book a slot on their calendar.
Adjust Your Bedtime Routine
Before you have children, your evenings might vary a great deal from one day to the next. You might sometimes settle in for a nice evening in front of the TV or decide to go out and socialize instead. Once a baby arrives, your evening routine is going to revolve around getting and keeping your child on a sleep schedule.
That’s not to say that having a baby means you can never leave your house after 5:00 p.m. again. What it does mean is that you need to make sure that even if your routine varies nightly, your baby’s doesn’t.
Try to figure out what times meals, baths, and other tasks need to occur to hit your baby’s target bedtime. Even if one parent is unavailable to do those tasks because of other commitments another caregiver needs to fulfill those responsibilities. Pushing bedtimes to take part in after-work activities or taking your baby on evening social outings should only be done if necessary. Hitting those predetermined evening tasks on time is best practice for providing your baby a consistent and secure schedule.
Keep Track of Time
The first week or two that a baby comes home, naps can be all over the place. During their first month, babies usually sleep around 16 hours a day. However, it quickly starts to become possible to observe and guide a nap routine. Some parents put their babies in bed at certain times of the day, on a 2-3-4 schedule, or by the two-hour rule.
For the sake of this example, we’ll go with the two-hour rule. The two-hour rule operates by the principle that an infant should never be awake for a period greater than two hours. After more than two hours of wakefulness the infant can sometimes become overtired and unable to sleep. Even if the baby appears perfectly alert, parents can usually put their child to bed at the two-hour mark successfully.
Problems arise when the day gets away from you. It’s easy to do, especially if you’re home on leave from work. If your baby is awake, you might be out running errands with them or getting work done around the house. Two hours can fly by before you know it. Time can even pass unnoticed if you have created your nap schedule around specific times of the day.
The obvious thing to do is to just keep an eye on the clock. Simple, right? Unfortunately sleep deprivation with a new baby can make the obvious not such a simple thing anymore. Even though it might feel like a silly necessity, setting timers might be the way to go.
If someone else is watching the baby while you’re otherwise occupied, try to ensure they adhere to the same method you do. They might not be as foggy-headed and exhausted as you are, but you might suggest they still set timers for themselves.
Make a Plan, But Change As Needed
No schedule is absolutely perfect, and timelines will have to be adjusted as your baby enters different stages of development. However, having a solid foundation in place gives you a place to start. Giving your baby the security of a routine is a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it for everyone.