Why Is Routine Important for Babies?

Setting Up a Schedule

For a newborn, who can't yet tell morning from evening, routines are especially helpful in establishing her circadian rhythm, an inborn biological clock that helps her distinguish night from day, says Rose Kavo, PhD, adjunct professor of child development at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

This doesn't mean you should feed your newborn by the clock or try to establish a regular bedtime; in the early months, most infants are too physically immature to follow such patterns. Feed on demand and let him sleep when he wants, but begin imposing little daily habits, such as exposing him to the light of the sun when he's awake so he can begin to differentiate day from night.

Somewhere Around 4 to 6 Weeks...

...Dr. Karp suggests introducing a nighttime routine that includes dim lighting, a bath, and some milk. Don't worry that your baby will probably wake up three hours later. "The idea is to lay a foundation so that over time, your baby will associate these cues with sleep," notes Dr. Karp.

Beginning at 3 Months or So...

...Simple rituals can be incorporated into your day, like playing with a favorite toy. At this point, you're still at the mercy of baby's random clock. To incorporate some method to the madness, jot down your baby's general eating and sleeping habits, as well as her overall moods at particular times of the day. That way, you'll know when baby is most likely to enjoy a stroll in the park and when you're better off playing at home.

At Around 7 Months...

...Taking care of your baby becomes less of a guessing game. Most are ready to be on a regular eating and sleeping schedule; the long nights of multiple wakings and feedings are mostly behind you.

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