Baby Schedule vs. Routine: Which is Better?

0-6 Months

When you have a baby, you probably hear a lot about how important it is to get her on a schedule or routine. Although the words “schedule” and “routine” are used interchangeably, they are different. A schedule means you do the same thing, at the same time, every day. Expecting babies to eat and nap at the exact same time every day is unrealistic and will likely end up stressing you out more than it’s worth. With a routine, you do things in a predictable order, but there’s flexibility. Routines respect the fact that life happens!

General newborn routines

Although you can get into a routine with a newborn, it’s going to be tough in the beginning. Newborns are just getting used to being out of the womb, where life was warm and happy, and now they’re dealing with people and places and everything else! But, after the first couple of weeks, you’ll get to know whether your baby likes to eat/play/sleep/repeat or play/eat/sleep/repeat. And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, this routine will change as she gets older and her sleeping and eating patterns shift.

Many newborns also have a “fussy period” of the day. Some parents call this “the witching hour”—others just call it a normal Tuesday! This time also becomes predictable, but just for about the first three months. Then things change again!

Bedtime routines

If bedtime is all over the place in your house, you’re not alone. Sometimes stuff happens, like you get home from work late or the baby falls asleep in the car, meaning bedtime isn’t going to happen at the “normal” time. That’s OK! It’s not so much the timing that matters, but the series of events that leads up to the big show … bedtime! Those events may look something like this: eat, bath, story, bed. Whatever the case, a bedtime routine lets baby know what to expect next and promotes healthy sleep habits.

What if your routine gets interrupted?

If your routine gets interrupted, know it’s not the end of the world! The key is to not panic, and try to get back to normal as soon as you can. When your routine gets interrupted your baby will probably take note and may respond by not sleeping well or being a little (or more) fussy.

Since all babies are different, some will be fine with the little changes, and others will struggle (sorry, Mom and Dad!). Don’t be caught off guard. Be patient and know things should resolve themselves quickly.