Help Me Sara: Do I need a routine for my baby?

By Sara Dimerman, Psychologist on March 30, 2015


Unlike learning in school with instructors and a clearly defined program, parenting is a whole different ball game. There are no diplomas to be earned prior to becoming a parent and although there are hundreds of teachers out there dishing up the latest theory and advice, it’s often overwhelming and confusing when choosing from the many resources available. For example, some experts will suggest sticking to a schedule, no matter what and others will recommend going with the fl ow by letting your baby take the lead. So, it’s no wonder your head might be spinning.

Before reading everything you can get your hands on, try to determine your (and your partner’s) personal style of parenting. While you may receive unsolicited opinions from the grandparents in your life, be true to yourself and stick with what you feel is best. The tricky part is when you’re not sure what is best. Sticking to a routine versus taking each day as it comes is an often debated issue.

Some of what will influence your decision may be related to whether the primary caregiver prefers to live by a schedule or likes more spontaneity. As you may already be aware, even if you prefer order, this often goes out the window when your child is first born. No more is there a distinction between night and day as your child wakes at erratic intervals during every 24 hour period. No more can you be sure that you’ll make it to your appointment on time thanks to a last-minute diaper or wardrobe change (maybe even your clothes!). Expecting the unexpected becomes the norm and depending on your personality, this will be harder or easier to incorporate into your daily life.

Then there’s the comparing you likely do. You may wonder how come your sister has no problem getting her baby to nap when yours just fusses? Or how come your friend always arrives at mom and baby exercise class on schedule, as if she’s had lots of time to get herself together?

Try not to compare

Every baby is different and your baby’s temperament or mood isn’t a result of your parenting. Instead of worrying about how well others seem to be managing, focus on finding ways to work with your baby.

Don't get too settled in

Why is it that as soon as you get something running like a well oiled machine, it changes? Perhaps your baby is going through a different phase as he or she moves from one developmental period to another and so, your comfortable routine – and your baby’s – changes again. This is par for the course when parenting a baby.

Learn from your baby

Even though many of us prefer routine and order so that we feel that in control over our lives, babies change all that. In some way, they teach us about patience, resilience and not being too hard on ourselves.

  • Be patient and kind to yourself.
  • If you make lists, have realistic expectations. Don’t stress about not getting everything done on the list as quickly as you once did.
  • Set goals that are manageable, such as only going to one appointment during the day instead of scheduling three back to back. Maybe set the bar a little lower in regards to what a productive day looks like. So, if you have a shower and get to the bank, that may be an accomplishment.
  • Value bonding time. Instead of feeling that you’re not good enough because you haven’t managed to do five loads of laundry, remember the wonderful moments you’ve spent holding your baby in your arms and know that a baby’s routine is as unique as your family.

Through the ages

At 6 months

Now that your baby is likely double her birth weight, she will have increased strength and is likely sleeping for longer stretches of time. This will increase your stamina and allow you to take a little more care of yourself, too. Introducing solid foods also helps lengthen sleep times.

At 12 months

You may be able to plan your schedule around your baby’s nap and eating times. Nap times will be especially good opportunities to catch up on your own sleep or find some me time. This is also the time at which many parents return to work and arrange for other people to take care of their children, so your routine, at least, will be way different.

At 18 months

Toddlers will likely be walking, running and getting into some mischief – not because they are badly behaved, but because they are curious and exploring all the time. Even though you may have some time away to do your own thing, when you’re together, your routine will likely have to be put aside as you keep a watchful eye. Set realistic expectations about what can be accomplished with a busy bee buzzing around.

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist, author and parenting expert in the Greater Toronto Area. Read more at

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2015.

By Sara Dimerman, Psychologist| March 30, 2015

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