Having a routine versus having a life

Baby in cot with mother by her side
Baby in cot with mother by her side 

There are a million books available outlining a gazillion different routines that promise you happy babies, sleeping babies, or settled babies. These routines vary from military precision that structures your day to within an inch of its life to general cycles that allow everyone to know what’s coming next.

Whilst comfort can be found in routine, the restriction of scheduling does not work for everyone.

Mother of two, Allison Hallworth, has one such household that moves outside the constraints of an agenda.

 “From the very beginning, when we went to trivia nights at the pub, we just put her capsule under the table and let her sleep.  If I had plans she went into the capsule or the pram and off we went. If sometimes she didn't want to sleep, we rolled with it.  If she was asleep and I needed to go out, I just moved her from cot to capsule.”

This flexibility allowed Allison to live her life in a fluid fashion and not be tied to the house for naps or live her life by the clock.

“Our children are part of our family and our family does stuff.  We visit, we travel, we dine, we schlep.  It's worked for us.”

If your children are easy going, this may work beautifully for you, but not all children are comfortable with relaxed routines. Carolyn Ozkoseoglu feels her 6 month-old son thrives on a strict routine.

“We quickly realised that he is a baby who is sensitive to being tired so we started to get serious about napping and ensuring he was getting the sleep he needed. Naps became the priority and we live and die by the bedtime routine.”

Carolyn feels adherence to routine saves their sanity, however, it does affect her freedom and it has not gone unnoticed by friends and family.

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“I've had comments like 'You're too rigid and structured' or 'just relax, he’s fine', I think, yes, he looks fine now, but in approximately 10 minutes this kid is going to transform from Mr. Smiles to Mr. Grouch. It's OK for them because they're not getting up to him overnight or having to settle an overtired baby. I like structure in my life and having a routine is a way that I feel confident and happy.”

Routine can not only help parents feel happy but also be a source of comfort for kids, according to principal child psychologist from the Quirky Kid Clinic in Sydney, Kimberley O’Brien.

"In my opinion, babies thrive on the predictability of routines. Knowing what is about to happen reduces anxiety for people of all ages. Choosing to opt out of routines can be empowering for parents and school aged children in the short-term, but from a psychological perspective adhering to a routine or ritual typically elicits a sense of familiarity and comfort".

Routine is a hot topic that Genevieve Titov is very familiar with as director of Sleep Angels, a specialized practice that teaches babies and toddlers to sleep. She believes whether you strive for it or not, every child naturally falls into a rhythm.

“I speak to parents all the time who are despairing because their baby won't fit into the routine they'd like them to. Just as adults are all different in how structured we like to be, so too are babies and children. Everybody has a routine, whether its super structured or more relaxed. Some people know exactly what their routine is, others say they wouldn't have a clue, they just go with the flow but there would be a pattern. My bottom line is, strict routines work really well for some families and not for others. If you're happy doing what you're doing - great! If you're not, then change is needed.”

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