I was once asked to come up with a ‘mom-mantra’ that would describe me as a mother. My answer was ‘schedules save lives’. There is nothing else I believe more when it comes to being a parent.
I do not think I could count on two hands how many times my husband and I have left a get-together early, or completely turned down an invite to something because it did not fit around our sons’ schedule. Do you want to know how many times I regret making that decision?
We started a loose schedule with our son when he was a couple months old. It wasn’t as much as timing but the order that we did things that we wanted to get him used to. Bath time always came after dinner. After the bath, it was lotion, pajamas, read a book while drinking milk then off to bed. Our son was sleeping in his own room in his crib at a month old and was sleeping through the night at three months old. I think I can attribute this to his schedule and that we were sticklers for sticking to it.
The thing about children, particularly babies, is that they have this crazy accurate internal clock that they know to the second. If you put them to bed an hour later thinking ‘oh, one more drink won’t be too bad, the baby will sleep in tomorrow since bedtime is later’… NOPE! Your beautiful sweet baby is still going to wake up at zero dark hundred the next morning and you’re going to instantly regret that extra drink. Apparently sleeping–in isn’t a thing you enjoy until you are older. Man, kids miss out on so much!
Tip #1: Develop a Schedule and Routine as Soon as Possible
This is the advice I give all my friends who are new moms. I don’t sugarcoat it and straight up tell them that schedules save lives and building a routine is key. Babies and kids crave it. They catch on so quickly that the sooner you start to introduce one the easier it is going to be. It doesn’t matter what your routine includes, just make sure you do it in the same order every night.
Tip #2: Make Sure Babysitters (and grandparents!) Follow the Schedule
Yes, spending time with grandpa and grandma can be fun for your little one, and so can having a babysitter. But you want to know what isn’t fun? Regressing on your nightly routine because it wasn’t followed. And guess who gets to deal with the meltdown that will ensue when you try to get them back on that routine? You! Anytime your child stays with someone else other than you, make it clear that the routine needs to be followed.
Tip #3: Don’t Worry About What Other People Think
My husband and I have received so many eye rolls and comments from friends and acquaintances when we would explain that we couldn’t be out past six or seven (depending on what stage of life our son was in) because that is when our night time routine started. The majority of the people that we received this reaction from didn’t (or still don’t) have small children. It is so easy to stand there and try to convince friends to stay and push the schedule a little but they are not the ones that have to deal with whatever meltdown happens because of it.
Don’t make decisions based on what other people think or want you to do. This should be advice you follow everyday, but it is so much more important when it comes to your family. Do what works for you and don’t worry about what other people think when you are choosing to parent in your own way.
Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Adapt to a New Schedule
As our son has grown our schedule has changed. Our son wouldn’t sit still for us to make it through a whole book at night from thirteen to eighteen months, so I cut that out of our bedtime routine and we had playtime instead. We recently started reading books again because he now sits through from start to finish and I’m not left reading to myself in an empty room because he decided to go be adventurous.
Our schedule also changes with the seasons. During the winter our son’s bedtime is between seven and seven thirty. During the summer, shooting for that bedtime is nearly impossible because there is still almost two hours of light left, so we pushed it to eight-thirty.
With summer season ending my husband and I find ourselves in our own routine hell. We went on vacation quite a bit over the past two months and with that our son got used to sleeping in the same room and bed as us. It’s been difficult to get him back sleeping on his own again. Either myself or my husband has been sleeping on the floor in his room for a few weeks now. So keep in mind that only because your child is older their routine can still be thrown off easily.