What's the difference and why do we support a routine rather than a schedule?
We know there are a range of sleep support programs available out there and something that we are often asked is......is your program going to give me a routine I must follow? When we delve in further what we understand is that people really want to know if we are going to give them a time-based schedule for what each day looks like.
Now let's be honest here. Some of you reading this love schedules and some of you loathe them right? Some of us find such calm in knowing what is going to happen exactly at what time and how long this will happen for and what then happens next and so on. While we absolutely believe in routines that are predictable and consistent and that babies and children benefit from certain time-based elements of a routine we do not believe that life with children, especially young babies, can be defined by a daily schedule that's the same each day. It can be confronting for some of us to let go of this idea especially when we first become parents.
Yes eventually you will find some clear time-based patterns with your child. However, we find that if people are told that their child must wake at 7am and then have the feed at 7:30am and then be back in bed at 10am and the whole day is mapped out in this way....well it's not very personalised is it? It doesn't account for the normal variations that occur in how long they sleep, what their day looks like, what happened the night or day before and so on. It doesn't account for a child not actually being hungry at that time. It doesn't account for a short nap that occurred or an early rising and so on. While it can be comforting for some people to be told exactly what steps to follow, we find that parents who are given knowledge and enabled to find their confidence with their days not only get results with sleep now but their education and understanding moves forwards with them as their children grow.
So what kind of routines do we believe are positive and in fact critical?
1. Bedtime Routine
We suggest starting this quite young and that it should be no more than 20-30 minutes from the start of the routine until the child is in bed. We encourage the same routine every bedtime and make sure it's a process of wind-down so no playtime included in the middle of the routine.
2. Nap Routine
Similar to bedtime you want a routine that's the same for each day nap. 5-10 minutes depending on the age of child. If you're out and about for a nap you can still include elements of your routine into the nap such as having their lovey with them, using same key phrases that it's nap time and so forth.
3. Awake Times
Our focus is on respecting the time your child is awake between naps. How long they sleep is up to them and where they are up to with sleep but we find it extremely important to honour their awake times. We have previously posted about Awake Times a few times but just comment below if you want this information.
This is more relevant to younger babies who are waking for feeds but there is some relevance to any child. We encourage you to have two very clear period blocks in your day. Example, 2 x 12 hour blocks. Block 1 is Day and Block 2 is Night. Daytime means feeds are in the light, you have a period of 'Play' or engagement after the feed and then it's sleep time based on the Awake Times. Nighttime means feeds are in the dim light, limited engagement and then back to bed. You essentially treat any wake-ups in the Night block as night time which includes early wakings. You keep them in their darkened room with limited engagement.
So we hope this helps you see the value of routines and to recognise that having a daily schedule with everything mapped out on a time-basis can actually create undue stress and sometimes even a sense of failure. Eventually babies will fall into clearer time-based patterns but until then, go for routine.