As a sleep and parenting consultant, I frequently see children whose sleep and behaviour are affected by a lack of predictability in their daily activities. Babies and children thrive on predictability and often feel on edge when they are in an environment that is constantly changing. When they know what sequence of events comes next, it makes them feel safe and secure. This safety and security tends to result in better sleeping, eating, and behavioural habits.
Fear #1: I’ll never have brunch again (aka becoming a slave to the routine).
It’s very common for parents to worry about becoming a slave to their little one’s routine. As a Sleep and Parenting Consultant, I stress that when a good routine is in place, the predictability of this routine can actually make it easier to set plans with other people. For example, once you’ve established a routine, you’ll be able to predict when your child will be napping or having lunch. This will make it easier to plan activities, including that brunch with friends.
Fear #2: I’ll never be able to recover if we change the routine (yes, you really can have it all).
Consistency and flexibility – did you know that you can have both? The goal of a routine is not to operate your household like a military operation. Instead, establishing a consistent flow to the activities that occur throughout the day. In other words, it is important to have a consistent sequence of daily events but not to be stuck on exact timing. Maybe in your home, breakfast is between 7am and 8am, followed by getting dressed, then playing. Establishing a consistent sequence of events will allow you to have flexibility within a window of time, , while maintaining a consistent flow to your daily activities. The added benefit of this approach is that it will allow you to easily recover if there’s a bump in the road – whether it is planned or accidental. Baby skipped a nap? It will be easy to recover tomorrow. You’re on vacation and planning a few later than normal nights? Again, you’ll find it easier to recover from if you have been using a routine.
Fear #3: It’s too early (or too late) for me to establish a routine.
It is never too early to begin establishing a routine with children. In fact, babies that are born and go to a NICU are on a routine because they are fed every three hours. You can actually start a routine at any age, even if you feel it might be too late. When establishing a routine, it is important to look at what you're struggling with (maybe it is naps, sleep, eating, or just getting out of the house) and then to spend some time looking at what you think a daily routine should look like for your family in terms of timing. Once you’ve done this, you can then lay out a plan that you and your family can start to work towards.
When establishing a routine for your family, keep in mind that it can take a few days to get a good routine going and that it can be difficult in the beginning. Remember to continue working towards it anyway because you will soon see the benefits. And most importantly, so will your child.
For routines tailored for ages newborn to three years, read our eGuide Solids and Routine for the First Three Years.