A schedule is a structure of events with a specific or pre-determined time and order in which they happen. A routine is similar in that it has a structure of events that happen in a specific order but does not have to happen at a specific time. Babies don’t do well with a schedule during the early months as they are growing and changing so quickly the timing is difficult. However, they can do well with a routine as it makes them feel safe and secure because they know what to expect.
I recommend you have routines in place with no time restrictions as all children are different and have diverse temperaments. Daytime routines for young babies should be a rhythmic cycle of Eat, Activity, Sleep and then time for You. Tracey Hogg known for writing the book “The Baby Whisperer” refers to this often in her book. At night the cycle is Eat, Sleep, You. This has worked very well for me over the many years I have worked as a postpartum doula. This rhythmic cycle generally happens repeatedly 24/7 in 2, 3 or 4-hour increments depending on the babies age.
Timing is everything, but it doesn’t have to be an exact time like a schedule. It is a routine that flows throughout the day. When you are aware of this cycle you can read your baby’s tired signs more quickly because you know what is coming next. By responding early to your baby’s needs she will welcome sleep instead of fighting it.
As a parent you quickly develop routines for your baby without being aware of it. By nursing her to sleep or rocking her every time you put her down for a nap or night time sleep. By holding her in your arms till she falls asleep and then placing her in a crib or bassinet. These actions have created a routine your baby has grown accustomed to without even realizing it. That’s why it can be hard to change it. These habits can be very difficult for baby if these routines have been in place for a few months.
Remember to gradually change these routines as baby grows older to activities that are developmentally appropriate. By changing them slowly a little bit each day your baby will be able to learn to self soothe. She can begin to learn how to go to sleep without your help and learn a new routine that works not only for you but her as well.