Lately the little guy has been waking up at a different time, bright eyed and ready to go. The old sleep routine was: 8-2 (feed), then 2-5 (feed), then 5-6:30 or 7 until he was awake, and then feed at 8 and the day is going. But now he is skipping that last sleep. So, that means some adjustments for both me and my wife, and it challenges the routines we thought we had for him.
According to a lot of sources, it is super important to keep some sort of routines for your baby. These routines help them feel a sense of being grounded and know what to expect, and will give the parents a little predictability (read more about it at babycenter). I also listened to a podcast about “temper tantrums” (SUPER interesting, from Stuff You Should Know), and while temper tantrums are unavoidable (because there is a part of the brain that helps you realize when you are being unreasonable that does not even start developing until you are 4 years old), if you have routines, they will be less often and less severe.
I think if you are a person trying to follow some routines with your baby, above all, you want to remember to listen to their needs and pay attention to what they are telling you. Make the routines around the little one’s needs while at the same time not stopping your flow of life because of the routine (ex, if you feed at 10:00 in the morning and you are asked to meet someone for a coffee at 10:00, still feed them at that time, or maybe try a 9:45 feeding). And the routines should be flexible, because as we all know, life is not a square box. Some people make such rigid routines that if the little one does not have things exactly the same every day they freak out. And on the other side of the coin, some people have such a lack of routines that their little one is also freaking out (apparently those freak outs are because they have a primal worry: no routine = not knowing if the next meal is coming). Why not find somewhere in the middle, right?
The challenge that I have found, especially now, is that the routines we have with the little guy are constantly needing to be revised. So if he is up and going 5 now, and he eats every 3 hours, followed by a 30-45 minute nap, then that means that the times of day have shifted from when he was up and going at 7:00. I should note that it does not matter if we put him to bed at 7 or 10, he will still wake up at 5:00.
So the way I am answering the question of “how do you keep routines when the baby is changing?” is this: it is not the actual time of day that needs to be routine, but what you do with the blocks of time from nap-to-nap, and at bedtime. So, if we have a routine of going for a walk in the morning, and I used to do that at around 8:30, after he was up for 1,5-2 hours, now that walk happens at 6:30-7:00. The time does not matter, it’s the routine of “morning = walk”. Or more importantly is bedtime – it’s not really 7:30 that must be bedtime, but instead, it’s “at bedtime we do X, Y, and Z.”
This approach should allow us to have the flexibility to adapt when he grows out of the times we were using, while still keeping a routine for the little guy. Of course in a perfect world, he would stick to the times that we like to have, and we will still push for some kind of regularity, but I guess above all, it’s all about flexibility.