Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

Getting your child on a schedule – and why schedules are not boring!

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Schedules and routines are NOT boring. They are developmentally important for children.

As a pediatrician, I always stress the importance of some resemblance of schedules for my patients.

As a mom, I have seen firsthand the benefits of having Ryaan on a schedule.

Children THRIVE on schedules and routine. They thrive on expectation. Routines help infants and toddlers feel safe and secure in their environment. It makes their environment more predictable, which they developmentally need.

Routines also help with EVERYTHING a baby/toddler goes through.

A routine can mean better sleep.

A routine can mean better eating at meal times and less picky eating/grazing.

A routine can mean less meltdowns.

Understand that a schedule alone will not make the toddler years a breeze, but it will help!

The fundamental for establishing a schedule is SLEEP. And healthy sleep patterns start with a schedule.

Sleep is vital for human beings and understanding infant and toddler and sleep, wake windows, and sleepy cues, can really help in establishing a routine for a child.

However, night sleep is important to be established first

You cannot expect a reliable daytime schedule if night time is not established. Think about us as adults. Night sleep is fundamental to our daytime routine.

A bedtime between 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm is a great bedtime for the first five years of life.

You can look at wake windows if you need to troubleshoot, but remember every kid is very different

So when is the right time to establish a routine

Sleep can be erratic in the first twelve weeks. Around 6 weeks to 3 months, you can likely see some lengthening for night sleep.

Even though sleep is not established early, you can incorporate a bedtime routine and small pre-nap routine early to prime the body for sleep.

Note that sleep can become even more reliable after 7 months when naps become consolidated (longer naps than 30 minutes).

Establishing a routine by one year of age can optimize toddler sleep, behavior, and development.

Other things to consider when establishing schedules/routines

Remember to follow sleep cues (especially in the first four months).

  • Watch for eye-rubbing, yawning, or staring.
  • The goal is to provide repetitive practice of putting baby down in the crib or bassinet when they are showing signs of sleepiness.
  • You will need to be patient. They will not always immediately fall asleep. Wait as long as you feel comfortable (as you know your baby’s temperament). But, do wait. Give them a chance to settle.

Plan activities during wake times

  • Developmentally appropriate activities are great for when baby is awake to work their brain and/or muscles and get them nice and tired for sleep.
  • Babies also enjoy the routine of a daily schedule.
  • A daytime routine can also make a bedtime routine smoother.
  • Get outside in nature/sunlight during the day if weather permits.

Be flexible

  • Understand that schedules are not meant to be rigid for kids. Sometimes you will get stuck in traffic, sometimes your child won’t follow what you want them to do, or sometimes a nap will be shorter than you expected.
  • A flexible schedule means understanding what is happening in the order of your child’s day. Try to stick to it as reasonably possible, and if it doesn’t every day…that is okay!
  • Understand changes such as dropping naps or modifying aspects of a schedule can take two weeks to see a new schedule become established.

Create a schedule that works for your family

We all have different needs. Our kids have different needs. Therefore, the schedule we have for Ryaan will not work for every child. Also remember that sometimes, you may break the schedule rules for special events or vacations and that is NORMAL!

After four months and until 5 years of age, do focus on a bedtime between 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. It’s important for a child’s natural rhythm and sleep habits.

If you are having trouble with creating a schedule or trouble with sleep, speak to your pediatrician.

Additional tips I want you to keep in mind when wanting to get your child on schedules/routines

  1. Do not fix what is not broken. If your child is doing well and YOU are happy, no need to fix anything.
  2. Use charts with a grain of salt. Huge ranges exists because some kids will not do things by the book. I find charts/graphs can add to more anxiety so you will see large ranges on mine.
  3. Always establish nighttime sleep first.
  4. If you are having issues with schedules especially after 7 months, always look at wake windows (time awake between sleep). This is your key in troubleshooting schedules.
  5. Ryaan’s schedule is special to Ryaan. You could have a child who is on a slightly or completely different schedule at his age.

Take a look at this instagram post where I also include an example of a baby schedule and where I also discuss an important reminder of practicing “The Pause”!

P.S. – Do you have a more specific question on schedules or routines? Don’t forget you can call it in to Monday Mornings with Dr. Mona at 954 526 2641 and leave a message for it to be answered on the podcast!

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.