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How much structure do babies need?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
DS is one year old, and since he was born I've been wondering: how much of a structure and routine does he or any baby really need? Are there parents out there who started out with almost no schedule and then slowly started adding more predictability to daily lives with good or bad results? I am not someone who enjoys a lot of structure in my personal life, but I want to create an environment that feels safe and secure for DS, so I'm striving for that perfect balance. What do you do that is routinized, and what activities do you vary?
post #2 of 17
I feel like once a child hits toddlerhood, a bit of routine/schedule/structure is beneficial. At that point a lot of what the child is learning about the world is boundaries, and setting boundaries makes it easier for them to learn what is ok and what is not ok in your eyes. In my eyes setting up a structure once they are in toddler-land is beneficial for them, not restrictive.

Earlier than that, there are some kids who make their own schedule pretty easily and some who don't.
post #3 of 17
I think it depends a lot on the actual family/baby. We are not a family who thrives on schedule. It's more stressful to be on a routine than to not. Our son has never done well on a schedule in terms of sleeping/waking/eating.
post #4 of 17
We did not have a routine or structure until my second started preschool (my oldest homeschools). My boys were 5.5 and 2.5 then. At that point we instituted a bedtime but we still don't have much more routine than that; we try to eat around 7 but sometimes it's 8; in the summer our dinner and bedtime are later. They have a bath or shower some nights. We read them a bedtime story about half the time. My homeschooler and I eat lunch sometime between 11am and 3pm. We drop the kindergartner at school at 8am and pick him up at 3:15. We have soccer practice 2 nights a week (which means later dinner and a DEFINITE shower) and games on Saturdays. My 8 week old comes along for the ride, does not have regular naptimes and nurses on demand. Neither of my older kids ever had a set naptime; they slept when they were tired until they outgrew naps. Often my second napped on my back in the carrier while my oldest and I were busy out in the world.
Both of my kids are healthy and happy. I really have not seen a need for a lot of structure and I have 3 kids. I value flexibility and my kids seem to enjoy it, too.
post #5 of 17
I agree with pp's, my kids didn't get on schedules until they were maybe 3-4. We are fairly big on the schedule now, but that's mainly because of school and other activities, they are so busy all the time that we need to be fairly strict about bedtimes and dinners, and other random stuff. In the summer it mostly goes out the window except for bedtime, which is later, but still enforced.

I think all a baby needs for structure is knowing his parents are there to give him what he needs, when he needs it.
post #6 of 17
I think every baby and every family is different, so you'll get lots of different answers to this question. I myself need structure in order to thrive, and I find as a parent this still holds true for me. Luckily, my baby has also (at 3.5 mo) fallen into his own loose schedule. Of course it's all flexible and there are changes every day, meaning I can't *make* him sleep at certain times, but within about 1/2 - 1 hour variation he pretty much sleeps at the same times every day. I also find that having routines is very useful to help balance his moods and help him get to sleep. In fact, without our regular sleep routine I doubt he'd ever sleep. But with the routine he can go from hyper and/or fussy to asleep in about 1/2 hour or less.

But that's just us. Every person is different with this.
post #7 of 17
I think some structure is really helpful, especially for naps. We try to follow the same progression every day and that makes a big difference for the ease of nap time. Miss it and it much, much harder for for her to go to sleep.
post #8 of 17
Nah. I kinda figure they have the rest of their lives for structure. With DD1 we didn't do regular anything until she was 5, DD2 was 2 when I started doing regular bedtime/naptime just by default of being the younger sibling. DS gets dragged along for the ride being the youngest kid, he has no structure as a result and I think he will live.
post #9 of 17
It's got to be an individual thing. The idea that human beings require some sort of daily structure in order to grow up healthy individuals is bizarre to me. I doubt our ancestors had a great deal of structure in their daily lives. The baby napped when it fell asleep on mom's back or in grandma's or big sister's arms. They moved around a lot. They ate when it was convenient and food was available. There was no schedule. They survived. Some kids like one, some don't. To say that they all need one is just nonsense, IMO. How can human beings need something they never even had an opportunity to have until the last couple centuries? If your kid enjoys routine, then they should certainly have one. If not, they aren't going to fail to learn boundaries because you didn't always do snack time after stories and nap time after snack. Just do what works for you and yours. They'll be fine.
post #10 of 17
My DS1 did amazingly better once I put him on a loose "schedule" at around 8 months old. I would love to get DS2 on a schedule also but he still seems to young to be able to figure out what his needs are. When I say loose "schedule" I am mean loose. Some days DS1 will nap at 10am other days at 1pm and some other days he wont nap at all. Some days he will go to bed at 6pm other days at 8pm but the key is reading your LO and following their cues.
post #11 of 17
My oldest does best when on a schedule. Not a strict one but at least some routine/structure around our day. I started doing a set routine when she was 1 1/2ish, right before the birth of my second and kept at it until I got pregnant this time (Im pregnant with our 3rd). Now we are totally off the schedule and it shows in her behavior. My second is much more laid back and can go either way, she does well with a schedule but she does a lot better than her sister does if I don't keep up with it. I think my second is more adjustable when it comes to that type of stuff, my first likes order and organization with everything.
post #12 of 17
No structure or routine here. DD is 14 months.

It just never suited us. We have a vague plan as to how the day is going to go, and she sleeps and eats around that. She's always been a very flexible baby, but then so are we. We've always been the sort of people who wake up on a Saturday and say, what shall we do today? And the day unfolds from there!

I'm finding now she's more communicative, she's taking control a little more. She just learnt to sign 'Food' and is now leading the way on what time we eat breakfast/lunch/snacks...which is lovely!
post #13 of 17
For us, we definitely need some structure.

But it really depends on the age. Obviously a five-week-old is not going to have a rigid schedule that will last for months and months. What works one week will not work next week, etc...

But yeah, once you get to a year old, my daughter had a "routine" down, dictated if anything by meals. It's not good at that point I think to skip meals, because it can lead to blood sugar dips and make for a fussy toddler... she has eaten 5-6 small meals a day, at regular intervals, since she was about 12 months (now 17 months). That doesn't mean it has to be exact down to the minute every day, but, you know, regularly spaced. And because we had a routine in terms of eating, and she wakes up/naps/goes to sleep at a regular time, activities kind of fit in around that schedule. We tend to stay in and do cleaning and playing in the morning, go out in the afternoon after naps, etc.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plummeting View Post
It's got to be an individual thing. The idea that human beings require some sort of daily structure in order to grow up healthy individuals is bizarre to me. I doubt our ancestors had a great deal of structure in their daily lives. The baby napped when it fell asleep on mom's back or in grandma's or big sister's arms. They moved around a lot. They ate when it was convenient and food was available. There was no schedule. They survived. Some kids like one, some don't. To say that they all need one is just nonsense, IMO. How can human beings need something they never even had an opportunity to have until the last couple centuries? If your kid enjoys routine, then they should certainly have one. If not, they aren't going to fail to learn boundaries because you didn't always do snack time after stories and nap time after snack. Just do what works for you and yours. They'll be fine.
Well, it's not prehistoric times anymore, is it? We live in a society that has a great deal of structure, and IMO, it's best for babies and children to be introduced to that structure early on.

That said, babies aren't going to follow rigid schedules, nor should they. My 3 month old has a very easygoing schedule, designed around his naps. He gets up at about 6 and goes to bed at 8. Eats about every two hours with naps at 8, 11 and 3 ish.
post #15 of 17
All kids/ families are different, yes. However both of mine have done very well on a schedule/routine. Not set in stone, but definitely there.
DD naps around noon, DS naps about 2 hrs after getting up, is up for another 2, then goes down again. Sometimes this coincides with DD's, sometimes not. Bedtiem is at 7pm.

If I were trying a routine for the first time, I would definitely commit to doing it for at least a month before making any judgements. It takes time to get into the groove.

A routine gives the day a sense of rhythm. After all we all have routine in our lives - what time we get up, eat, when we shower etc. I think it's natural to begin incorporating that.

I personally believe that routines and rituals give kids a sense of security in knowing what to expect next. This is especially so once toddlerdom hits, IME as transitions can bstart to become trickier.

We did a bedtime routine from when DS was 10 days old. With DD (the first child) it was 6 weeks. It saved our lives.

Although it might seem rigid, in a funny way it gives you SO much more freedom. I 99.999999% KNOW that my kids will be asleep by 7-7.15pm so if I need to schedule an appointment to pop out (leaving kids with DH) I can do it with certainty. If we used a babysitter I would know what time to book them so the kids were already asleep.
post #16 of 17
Our family has a loose routine...

Get up (when you want unless we need to be somewhere) breakfast, tidy up, lunch, supper, quiet play... then sleep...

I have never had nap times or scheduled times to eat.. we eat when we are hungry, sleep when tired... Babies just follow our routine and sleep when they want/need to... easy, no fuss, no worries...

I honestly coud never have a schedule in my house, it is too restrictive and doesn't allow kids to get comfortable with change or different situations... We like having a bit of impulse in our lives and the kids have no trouble adapting...
post #17 of 17

what we do

Our only set in stone routine with our 7 month old is in the evenings. She can predict that she will probably bet set at the table in her high chair with a teething biscuit or something to occupy her hands with while she watches us eat dinner. Then she either has a bath with mommy or a shower with daddy, PJs, a random book and then the same exact book that we read every night (night night pookie) then nursing then sleep. I've wanted to have a routine in our daily lives but I've found it nearly impossible. Some days it is a play date in the morning other days it is breastfeeding support group in the afternoons and some days it is just go shopping or just chill around the house. As she gets more into eating solids I will probably make breakfast and 'teeth' brushing more of a morning routine thing. I WISH i could have a nap schedule but it is constantly shifting and she is always fighting naps so i honestly don't even know what is going on with her naps half the time. We used to mostly just to rocking and nursing in a dark room for her nap routine but lately the only thing that works is the stroller.
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