Routine: a sequence of actions regularly followed
I have never been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person. Never. I relish in structure. I make lists and write in a planner. I make a plan and execute it. I’m chronically early to everything, like annoyingly so. So naturally I thrive in routine, and my son is learning to do the same.
My love for routine is a little extreme. Yes, the weeks before my maternity leave was over I was writing down an hour-by-hour routine for my mom (the nanny at the time) to follow with my newborn. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this because it was uncalled for stress. But I will say that my mom followed the bigger picture routine, and it helped tremondously.
I consider myself an amateur encroaching on professional when it comes to routine. You see, I taught elementary special education, specifically working with many students on the autism spectrum. These children need routine and structure especially in the school environment. So I was perfect for the job. When I traded in my gradebook for my mom planner, I kept the routine and structure on a smaller scale. If you don’t want a daily routine, fine. Routine doesn’t have to be a big picture, hour-by-hour event.
**Large Routine** Large routine would be the daily routine. We all wake up at a certain time most days. We all go to bed at certain times (currently trying to tweak my own bedtime so I can stay awake all day without a caffiene drip), and we all do stuff in between waking up and going back to bed. Boom. Daily Routine. When I say that I live naptime to naptime, I mean it. I feel like my days have three parts: before naptime, after naptime, and after bedtime.
When my son was just 8 weeks old, we started a rough routine. It was still early, and we weren’t expecting much. Infant sleep is tough, but I started recording down his sleeps. At 8 weeks I was still letting him lead me in when he wanted to take a nap. I would start recording sleepy cues (fussiness, rubbing face, hiccups) and then follow by recording the time he went to sleep. I started to see a natural structure to these times pretty quickly. So I went with it. Did you know that a majority of babies naturally follow the same sleep cycles? By 3 months old, my son was in a full-blown daily routine and sleeping the same time every day and through the entire night. Before I make you feel too badly about your own baby not sleeping, let me say that this will probably never happen for a child of our’s again. Developing this daily routine did not hurt his chances though. I have contiuned to tweak our daily routine based on the cues that he gives me. He is now a toddler and down to one long nap a day, but he still goes to bed at 7:00 every night.
**Small Routine** Within your daily routine you can have smaller routines. These routines are just as vaulable as a daily routine. If bedtime is a rough time, introduce a routine. Our son knows what comes next in his bedtime routine. His grandparents know what his bedtime routine is and they follow it. This helps his chances of sleeping when away from his own bed, and he usually will sleep the entire night at their house.
My son had a hard time waking up in the morning and not instantly being fed. He would scream and cry until the moment he put food into his mouth. So we created a routine. He has the same breakfast every morning, but now he knows that it takes time to cook in the toaster oven. I spent a lot of time talking to him about the process his waffles were going through in the toaster oven. I let him sit a safe distance away fromt he toaster on the counter, watching the waffles cook. I taught him that the sound of the toaster oven’s timer finishing signaled the end of his routine and transition into eating his breakfast. Now he will play quietly while his breakfast cooks. Boom. Routine successful.
Tweaking routines are scary. I get it because change is difficult especially for a toddler. This is where I had to let go of my own control a little. Believe it or not, an infant or toddler helps create their own routines. You might think you are in control when you create your child’s routine, but ultimately they decide when it’s time to change something about the routine. My son’s naptime and bedtime routine always included a full bottle as the final step before sleep. His pediatrician told me that he needed to be off the bottle by 12 months of age. So imagine my stress when thinking about how much this little boy relied on his bottle to put him to sleep. I was determined to phase out the bottle entirely by 13 months. Then he had a rough illness that put him in the hospital for a week, so obviously we regressed in a lot of areas. At that moment I decided that I would rely on him to let me know when he was ready to drop the bottles. He understood his routine enough that I trusted him to give up the bottle on his own terms. Sure enough, at 15 months exactly he decided that he was over it. I noticed that he was trying to drink out of the bottle as if it was a straw. So I replaced his bedtime bottles with his toddler cups. Within a couple of days he didn’t even want those before naptime or bedtime. So for now his bedtime routine is the easiest it will ever be until he is putting himself to bed.
I hope this post helps shed some light on the benefits of routine. I hope it portrays that setting routines doesn’t have to be a drag. We still very much enjoy life, and we sometimes even break our routine (gasp!). This weekend we celebrated my birthday. Naps were skipped, bedtimes were pushed back. It was a wild time here, but just like everything these wild times must come to an end. And I can say that we are all very excited to return to our normally scheduled activities.
- My birthday: for the first time I celebrated all weekend.
- Star Wars VII: seriously no words.
- My Erin Condren Life Planner: this planner obsessed woman is happy.