How can I keep a routine going for my kid when I can’t maintain one for myself?
MOLLY: This came from a reader located in Washington D.C. She added that she is pregnant with her first child, a boy and has always been the type to change it up everyday, always striving for some sort of routine but never managing to create one that she can stick to over a period of time. “If I can’t do it for me, how will I set a good example and/or create a successful routine for my child?” She also mentioned that although she may look organized from the outside, inside she really struggles with it.
Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): Let me restate this: she’s asking if she needs to set a routine for her child and she’s quite conflicted about it because she struggles herself in following a regular routine. It may appear like she manages just fine from the outside, but as she says, she struggles on the inside about it. And now she’s about to become a mother and she wants to do things right by her child.
As far as a routine, children do love routines but it’s like everything else in that she’ll want to take it in moderation. I don’t believe in setting up a rigid schedule for newborns for eating and that kind of thing (like some baby books advocate), but she will want to have some kind of routine so that when the infant wakes, she knows what to do to take care of the baby, and the the baby learns what to expect.
MOLLY: There’s a book I read when I was pregnant that talked about scheduling your time with a newborn. It gave an acronym of EASY : Eat (feed the baby), Activiity, Sleep, and then You time (meaning the mom). I thought it was really helpful to have some sort of idea of a little structure.
The book is The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg (I recommend it).
MOM: Yes, I remember you and your sister doing that with my grandbabies, and that might be something this mom could read and find helpful.
Some routine is very helpful for a child as it is comforting to know what’s going to happen next and to have some sense of that, even as an infant. I like that sort of routine that focuses on what to do to take care of your baby when they are awake, but I’m not a fan of the idea that newborns should be put on a rigid schedule of arbitrary times for eating, waking, and sleeping. I think babies do best when they follow their own rhythms as much as possible.
The issue is more to be there for the baby so that he develops a sense of security… and a routine of some sort creates a sense of security.
Having a new child to care for may seem overwhelming when you’re pregnant and wondering what it will be like, but creating routines with your child is fairly simple when it comes to eating, playing, bathing, and sleeping. With newborns, once you take care of the basic biological needs of keeping him clean, well-fed, and happy, just remember not to overlook his psychological needs by holding him and comforting him when he cries.
MOLLY: I think routines are really good for little kids, especially at bedtime. My kids (6 and 2) really love and look forward to their bedtime routines.
MOM: I would not change up routines very much for little kids because it disrupts their world. She’ll have a happier, less anxious child if the child knows some things will always be the same. So you want to create the least amount of anxiety for the child and one way to do it is to have these patterns.
MOLLY: What could the results be if you don’t have any sort of routine in your household?
MOM: I think fear of the unknown makes children anxious because they never know what’s going to happen next, (I don’t mean an infant but even a toddler that isn’t talking will behave in a way that tells you he’s anxious.) I think it can cause anxiety and I think that people carry over the need for a routine into their adult lives. Not in a rigid sort of way, but in the way we get up in the morning and brush our teeth. That sort of routine.