Resistant, rigid, or really essential – dispelling the myths around routines
There are certain words that are divisive – especially in the parenting community… ‘Routine’ is one of them.
For some, it brings to mind the comfort of the day unfolding as planned, whereas for others it’s an anxiety-inducing statement of oppression. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, today I’m tackling the positives of a routine, from both your – and your baby’s – point of view.
Firstly, the misconceptions around routines
Most of the thinking around routines refers to parent-led structures or attempts to impose a shape to the day.
Some of the opponents of this approach cite that a parent-led routine is strict and mean, especially as a baby can’t tell the time. While this final point is true, that doesn’t mean that your baby isn’t still driven by natural and optimal biological rhythms that a routine can support.
Still others believe that a parent-led routine is not good for a child, or is designed to be all to the benefit of the parent, as opposed to the child – which is simply not true!
Benefits for your baby
The reality is that babies thrive on consistency and structure. This is true of all babies, although the degree to which this is the case will depend on your baby’s individual temperament.
From a very young age, babies learn to recognise cues. When a sequence of events is predictable (i.e. dinner time is followed by a bath, then we read some stories and get into bed), this helps them to feel secure.
In the same way that they will often insist you continue reading the same bedtime story night after night, as they enjoy the comfort that comes from knowing what is going to happen, so it goes with our routines.
This security provides the base from which they feel safe to explore the world, learn, and discover.
An age-appropriate routine works with your baby’s circadian rhythm – and it can also work to reduce crying. Your baby will no longer need to yell or grizzle to communicate that they are hungry or tired; you will, instead, be able to pre-empt their needs.
The same works when it’s time to hand over the care of your baby to someone else – whether the daycare teacher or a grandparent.
Although you’ve left being their primary carer in the immediate term, nothing else changes for them and they don’t have the worry about whether this new carer will correctly interpret their ‘hungry cry’. In this way, a routine reduces stress for your baby.
Benefits for you
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of a routine is that it can also reduce stress for you. When you bring your first baby home, you have that disorienting time of not knowing which way is up.
After those heady newborn days, some sort of routine starts providing a shape to the day. It’s the backbone of a structure that enables you to plan things. You’ll know your baby’s needs are being met and you can avoid any of the major drama that results when they’re not.
Consider too when you add additional children into your family; you’re busy with stuff to do, so a routine helps you organise the days so that everyone’s needs are met.
Clock-watching might have received a bit of a bad rap, but it’s easier than exclusively baby-watching and trying to read their cues. We’re busy and doing things – not solely studying our babies all day – so it’s a guide to ensuring their needs are met and our job is easier.
Our small humans don’t come with an instruction manual, so an age-appropriate routine or guide helps us to establish a baseline. This can help you to recognise when your child might be ready to drop a nap, or help you troubleshoot when they are upset.
A good routine also gives us a goal to get back to – and when travel or illness disrupts things for a few days, we know how to steer the ship back on course quickly and easily.
That’s one of my favourite aspects of a good routine – when it’s well-established, it’s very hard to break.
Today’s routines are based on a time when we have access to so much knowledge.
The International Sleep Foundation have done exhaustive research around recommended sleep hours and this information is made available to us.
That’s really empowering when we’ve lost so much of the ‘village’ that we used to have around us when raising children.
So, what exactly Is the best approach?
Where you fall on the routine continuum will depend on both your parenting style and your child’s (or children’s) temperament. If the idea of a routine is making you anxious or tense, then it pays to back off a bit and relax a bit more.
On the other hand, if you’ve adopted a relatively laissez faire approach and your child is often fussy, consider whether they might benefit from a little more structure or predictability.
In some cases, you might choose to follow a set idea fairly well to the minute, or you might just use it roughly as a guide and instead work on creating a few rituals as a part of your day – giving a predictable order to the sequence of events around nap-times or bedtime, for example.
Experiment with what is right for you and your family.
A friendly reminder: your kids are not robots
This should go without saying, but it’s often something we talk to parents about – no matter where they fall on the routine loving or loathing continuum.
Life is messy and can be unpredictable; not only is every day a little different, so are our child’s needs.
Even the best age-appropriate routine has room for a little flexibility. Your baby’s daily sleep needs will fluctuate – for example, if they’ve had a busy or full-on couple of days, they might need a bit more.
Equally, their metabolism follows a three day cycle, which can impact their feeding, as well as throwing bowel movements into the mix.
Your children are little humans – just like you and I – so allow for a little bit of movement and don’t fear: they’re not broken if that usual two hour nap runs shorter one day!
If you're ready to get started on your babies routine, try our online sleep program.
- Age appropriate routines to support your child's circadian rythym
- Cat napping solutions
- Night sleep plans
- Self settling strategies for all types of parents
- No cry it our solutions
- Solids advice and guidance
- Early wake up solutions
- Understand your baby or toddlers sleep needs and gain confidence with knowledge.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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