Schedules v Routines for newborns

Schedules are pretty controversial for newborn babies. And I agree, if we are talking about a rigid schedule that a parent sat down and created (or paid a stranger to create!) that may or may not work out for the baby.

The problem with schedules is that a newborn has no idea what schedule was created, and newborns are not all the same. They’re different, with different temperaments, different needs, and and different personalities.

It is very true that having a rhythm and routine to yours days makes things easier for families. It’s true that babies who know what to expect can sometimes be happier, calmer babies.

Too many rigid schedules are like the one illustrated here. Feedings spaced equally apart, play scheduled for specific times, and neat, evenly spaced naps of equal length.

Babies don’t always sleep or eat in evenly spaced increments. In fact, it’s far more common for babies to have longer naps and shorter naps. Some babies will want to sleep right after feeding, and trying to make them play when they’re tired and primed for sleep is going to frustrate everyone and might make going to sleep harder!

So my advice is to scrap the schedule and instead think of it as finding a routine, together with your baby.

Here’s an example from my own life. When I had my third baby, my second was just starting kindergarten. My oldest and second had both taken long morning naps as babies, so I opted to put my second daughter into afternoon kindergarten. This way I would have quality alone time with my second in the morning, and could run errands in the afternoon with only one child in tow! It was going to work out perfectly.

Well….babies have their own ideas. This baby did NOT want to take morning naps. She wanted to take a longer nap in the afternoons! After a few weeks of trying to do things my way, I finally admitted that we would all be happier if our routine was different than I had envisioned.

Once we settled into the new routine, everything was simpler. Well, maybe not trips to the grocery store with two kids instead of one, but it definitely was smoother to have a routine that took the baby’s needs into account.

It wasn’t 100% baby led, either. I think my youngest would have preferred to go down for her nap about an hour earlier than she did, but I couldn’t change the kindergarten start time, and there were times when I had to wake the baby to go pick up the kindergartner. But I made some shifts, baby made some shifts, and we were all happier.

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