We love them to the moon and back, these teeny versions of ourselves. We have high hopes for them, want the very best for them in every possible way. But did you know that one of the simplest and best things we can do for our babies is to get them in a routine? It's true: Routines are excellent for babies. And “routines” doesn't have to mean militant, by-the-clock structures. Routines can be however strict or loose you and your baby would like them to be. You make the rules according to your and her personalities. However you choose to lay out your pattern, routines will provide you a wealth of benefits. Here's why:
1. Routines allow babies to feel safe/build a sense of security. When a baby fusses to let you know she's hungry, yawns to tell you she's sleepy, or seems agitated because she's bored, she's communicating to you her needs. When you meet those needs you are showing your baby love, and when those needs are met on a predictable timeframe, that love shows up over and over again and baby feels safe and well cared for. She feels secure.
2. Routines allow you to bond with your baby. According to Karen Ruskin, Psy. D, author of The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices, routines “help forge parent-child bonds.” As baby learns to rely on you and the routine of eating, sleeping, or feeding, he becomes bonded to you. You are his caretaker and you're doing your job. You will feel more bonded to your baby as well, as you meet those needs of his.
3. Routines allow babies to thrive. Babies who are secure in what's coming, who know their tiny needs will be met when they express them, who are free to rely on their caregivers without anxiety have all the permission in the world to go about their business of being babies: to play, explore, and learn. Conversely, babies who aren't getting their needs met experience stress. Stress means they are spending their energy trying to get those needs met instead of playing and learning. If you want your baby to thrive, adding or sticking to a routine, even a loose one, allows baby to relax and thrive.
4. Routines reduce or eliminate power struggles. Baby wakes at 6 a.m., has his feeding, plays for awhile. You wake up with baby, feed him, shower and get ready for the day while he plays. You are not competing with him for your own time because you both have developed a pattern (routine) of what happens when. You both enjoy more freedom and peace when there are no power struggles about who gets to do what when.
5. Routines provide comfort. According to Zerotothree.org, babies are comforted by the steady rhythms of routine. Think of your adulting: coffee in the morning, shower, newspaper with breakfast. There's a reason we grown-ups do the same things in the same order every day: it provides us with a steady stream of small comforting boosts. Our little ones function the same way. When a baby takes a bath, followed by jammies and a story or snuggle, she feels that same comfort you do. Routines are extremely soothing.
6. Routines simplify everyone's life. If baby's bedtime is streamlined so both you and your little gem know exactly what happens every night at 7pm (bathtime, lotion, jammies, and a lullabye before tucking her in at night), you will find your evenings less franctic, more predictable, and more enjoyable. Routines distill down what actually needs to be done from all the myriad possibilities. Having a simple schedule is enjoyable.
Routines may feel confining or uncomfortable at the start, but once you've established a set pattern (or allowed one to emerge, for those less structured mamas!), you will find yourself relaxing into your motherhood and enjoying your baby more.