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Establishing a Schedule for Baby

putting sleeping baby into crib

PhotoAlto/ Matton

Today, experts tend to be more flexible. They now agree that your little one needs to know that you-or another primary caregiver- will be there for him every minute, in order to feel assured that he is loved and cared for. Trying to get your baby to sleep through the night by letting him "cry it out" or adhering to a regular meal schedule may actually leave him with a feeling of abandonment at this stage of his life.

Still, the fuzzy outlines of a predictable routine may be emerging all on their own in your baby's day, and there are some simple things that you can do to help the process move gently along with only a minimum amount of difficulty. For example:

  • Don't change your baby's diaper during nighttime feedings unless he has had a bowel movement, since the commotion may arouse him more than you would wish. You should also keep the lights low and refrain from playing with and talking to your baby. If the room is cool, keep your baby wrapped in a blanket, since lower temperatures can have a waking effect. Simply put, the less disruptive the feedings, the easier it will be for your infant to fall back to sleep.
  • Feed your baby more frequently during the day. If she isn't getting enough to eat at these meals, your little one may need to eat during the night to make up for it, and this keeps you both up.
  • Consider waking your baby for one last feeding before you turn in for the night. Temporarily rousing your child may actually result in a longer uninterrupted stretch of sleep for all of you.

Getting a good night's sleep takes on new importance if you're a mother who has decided to return to work this month. In addition to getting enough rest to keep up your strength through this challenging transitional period, you'll need to confront other important issues such as conflicting feelings, finding and adjusting to the childcare provider whom you hire, and, if you've been nursing, weaning or else learning how to express your breast milk.

If you're returning to work soon, chances are you've found someone to watch your baby by now-a relative or friend, a quality daycare center, or someone you've hired to babysit in your own home.

If you haven't started your search yet, you should. Daycare centers book up the fastest and are usually the least expensive option. Before considering a daycare center or a family daycare facility, make certain it is licensed and has experienced staff members who have had both medical evaluations and background checks. There should be at least one staffer for every three infants under the age of 6 months, and careful attention should be paid to safety, nutrition, and cleanliness. Equally important, make sure that the atmosphere is loving and that adequate stimulation is provided in the form of talking, singing, and playing.

Most parents who can afford it prefer an in-home sitter at this early age. Though it's generally more expensive, one-on-one care is probably the best choice for children under 1 year, who thrive on individual attention. (Children over 1 year, by contrast, benefit from group-play environments like those in daycare centers.) In addition, if someone comes to your home, you won't have to feed, dress, and transport your baby to a sitter first thing in the morning, nor will your child be at risk of picking up germs spread by other kids. Many in-home sitters also do light marketing, cleaning, and cooking-a big plus if you're busy at the office all day. Come to an agreement right away with the person you hire concerning what you expect her to do, and put her job description down in writing.

To start your caregiver search, ask your pediatrician and other parents for referrals; check bulletin boards at your local hospital, YMCA, church, or synagogue; read the positions-wanted section of your local newspaper; or look into a babysitting service or nanny placement agency as a source of childcare in these early years.

Before hiring an in-home caregiver, thoroughly interview the candidate, asking about her last job and why she left it, why she wants this particular job, what previous experience she has in the field, how she would spend a typical day with your baby, what kind of transportation she uses and whether she has a driver's license, how her health is, and whether she smokes. Pay careful attention to the candidate's appearance, punctuality, and temperament.

When you're close to making up your mind, ask for references and make sure to check them out. It's also a good idea to observe the sitter with your baby and insist on a "trial period" of employment to see how things go.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.