Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to Have a Routine for Your Baby and Still Have a Life

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A huge struggle many moms who like to follow a routine or schedule with their children have is knowing how to balance that schedule with living life. You don't want to be a slave to your schedule, meaning, you don't want to put the schedule first all the time. Sometimes it is okay to deviate from that schedule. But moms are unsure how often they can deviate and what it will do to their baby if they do.

There is no one right answer to those questions, unfortunately. Babies are all individuals; they will respond differently to deviations from their norm. Here are some things to consider as you figure out what works for your family.

Understand Your Child's Limits
Some babies and children are more flexible than others. I have had a child who could not handle much disruption at all. When that child was young and napping, I was pretty much always home for his nap or putting him down for a nap wherever I was within his ten minute ideal window. If I didn't, he would just cry the whole time he was awake, so it wasn't worth it to me to be out during his nap. I preferred being home and missing the fun to being at the "fun" and holding a crying baby/toddler--because that isn't fun to me!

I also have had children who were reasonably flexible. They could miss naps or be late for naps every so often without losing it. I couldn't do it several days in a row of no naps, but I could do it even a couple of times a week without negative consequences. 


My youngest is quite flexible so far as how disruptions impact her sleep (how she handles disruptions to her normal routine impacts her emotionally is a different story). When she was a baby, I could put her down for her nap two hours early if I need to and she slept just fine (my first child to do this). I could keep her up late for bedtime while we are out doing something as a family and she was as cheerful as she always was. She could be an hour late for her nap because we are at story time and the worst she ever gets is wanting to sit in my lap the whole time (which in reality is preferable to her wanting to explore the library anyway). With her being my fourth, I have a personal parenting policy by now that I don't do more than a couple of disruptions a week and always strive to not do them back to back if possible, so I don't know how far I could push her flexibility, but she is was flexible. (Let me add here, as she came upon four years old, it became clear that while she is flexible in sleep times, she has a hard time with her daily routine and pattern being disrupted. It puts her in a grumpy place. This is something I have consciously stretched her with slowly over time and she has improved with).

With this same daughter, we knew she was flexible so we took a 10 day family vacation when she was two and she only got a nap one day of it. We could not have done that with any of our other children at two, but we knew she could handle it so we went for it.

My point here is that your child is an individual. What worked for your first won't work for your second, and what worked for your neighbor won't work for you. What types of disruptions your child can handle will be individual. As you decide how much variance you can have, you will need to consider your child as an individual. Respect the limits your child has.

Stagger Disruptions
Even if you have an super flexible child, it is wise to stagger your disruptions. Missing a nap two days in a row will mean your child is less graceful on day two. Plus you start to really build up a sleep deficit, which can lead to shortened naps (or no naps) and rough nights. So stagger those disruptions as much as you can.

Think Outside The Box
You don't have to disrupt your child's schedule every single time another family member has something going on. You can get a baby sitter, you can carpool, you can have one parent stay home...there are lots of options other than always disrupting the baby's schedule. You can read more on this in this post I wrote: Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities

You can also think outside of the box in how you work with the situation. One day, we needed to be about an hour away from home two hours into Brinley's regular nap. I saw three basic options. I could have her skip it altogether, have her take a late nap (two hours late), or have her take an early nap. I know Brinley and knew she would go to sleep if I put her down two hours early. So I did that. Sometimes we assume if something interferes with nap or bedtime, then those things are just sacrificed. With a little creativity and problem solving, we can often think of a solution to help ease the stress it will put on the baby or toddler.

Take Turns Sacrificing
It shouldn't always be the youngest who sacrifices when there is a conflict with the normal schedule and an outside activity. Sometimes a sibling sacrifices. Sometimes mom or dad does. Sometimes grandma does! Sometimes we don't do that activity at all. Sometimes we go late. Sometimes we leave early. It isn't just the baby who should sacrifice. I wrote more about this in: Baby Joins a Family {AND} Family Adds a Baby. In a family, everyone sacrifices. 

Create a Schedule That Works for Your Family as a Whole
As you create a schedule for the family members, there are certain things that are fixed that you have no control over. There are also personal quirks to consider--you can't always change a baby's wake up time or bedtime, but sometimes you can.

When my oldest was a baby, my husband didn't get home each day until after the time a child typically goes to bed. Brayden stayed up a bit later than would have been ideal for him so he could see his father each day. It was a choice between knowing his dad and going to bed at the optimal time. He survived it! When he turned a year, my husband graduated from school and got a real job and we were able to move his bedtime to a regular time. That was an example of us having our schedule serve our family rather than our family serving our schedule. Don't be afraid to set a schedule that is ideal for your family as a whole.

For similar posts on this topic, see:

1 comment:

Mike Danpe said...

Very informative article! If I may, I'd like to share that I have found my children to sleep very peacefully with the crib warmer mattress pad from http://heatingmattresstopperpad.com/ I was a bit skeptical of using a non-electric mattress warmer because I wasn't sure how well they would work but apparently both of my infants really enjoyed sleeping on the mattress pad. I would recommend the product to anyone who is trying to create or break sleeping schedules!

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