Posted on 02 September 2011 by Birth of a Mom
With all the pressure new parents have to help their baby establish a schedule, how do you begin when physicians encourage parents to feed their newborn baby on demand for the first 6-8 weeks of life? You can set this worry aside with some balance of awareness of your baby’s cues. You can trust that you and your baby will learn much about the rhythms of life together. In the beginning, each baby’s feeding needs for growth tend to be different, but once the baby reaches about 12-13 pounds, a more regular feeding and sleeping schedule can be established.
Keeping a diary during these first months (when your baby is hungry, gets sleepy, how long they nap, how long they sleep through the night, etc.) can help you recognize a pattern in your baby’s natural rhythm and help to set a schedule and make adjustments based on their needs.
For example, if your baby is having trouble sleeping at night but takes a long nap during the day, you can ease them into waking from the nap earlier to help them sleep longer at night. Please don’t “keep them awake” to “make them sleep better at night.” This is a cultural myth that will only make positive sleep habits harder to establish. Babies grow rapidly, and sleep is an important part of growth. Consistent sleep schedules will help your baby get the most out of sleep.
A schedule can especially help parents with babies who don’t exhibit clear cues for their needs. You will more easily be able to identify why the baby is upset.
Structure will become increasingly important as your child grows older to aid them in developing healthy habits (and in keeping you sane!) Sleep and meal schedules are the most basic and important. Starting with a solid foundation there will help you ease into adding more things into the schedule as your child’s needs become more complex.
Set a bedtime routine that evokes feelings of peacefulness, and allow it to grow with your child. For example, an hour before bed, dim the lighting and put on relaxing music or read a story. Consistency at bedtime will help with sleeping through the night and rising at the same time in the morning. Don’t hesitate to put your baby to bed before they are asleep. Doing so will help them learn to fall asleep in their crib on their own (and eventually their bed). Remember “cry it out” is not recommended for any baby under six months. Waiting until exhaustion and crankiness set in can lead to a longer time falling asleep because they’re already worked up.
Setting a schedule for other activities like playtime, snack time, family meals and chores can help to extend the peace of mind in your household. Taking some of the guesswork out of the day not only helps you get things accomplished, but it provides the child a sense of security and comfort. Even though they may not always love the schedule, they need the structure of knowing what to expect and what is expected of them.
Flexibility with the schedule is important, as things aren’t always predictable. A general outline of the day will give your child the stability they need to live a happy life as a kid and develop skills they don’t even realize they are learning at the time, which will prepare them to handle responsibility later in life. With a newborn baby, parents have a profound influence on the path they help carve for the life of their child. Healthy habits like scheduling, proper nutrition and a balance of playtime and responsibilities are things you can instill from the very beginnings of life that will grow with your children and make a positive impact in their lives long after they’ve left the nest.
Tell us how scheduling has impacted your life as a parent.