Does my baby need a routine?

Some babies are predictably unpredictable! Others seem to gravitate towards a fairly predictable daily rhythm. If your baby seems to want a feed or a nap at different times each day, or if she seems unaffected about where she sleeps or feeds, why on earth would you want to change that?

Some people argue that babies need consistency and that they will feel safe and secure if they have a daily routine. But psychological security comes from the bond between you and your baby and from the quality of care and the interactions between you and her. Emotional security is not influenced by what time of the day she eats and sleeps. Persistently being left to wait for feeds when she is hungry is also not beneficial for emotional security. If you change your baby’s child-minder or if you leave your baby for a week to go on holiday, this will have an impact on her psyche. If you let her sleep and feed according to her own flexible needs and requirements, she’ll discover the joy and security of having someone in her life who really knows and understands who she is.

Loads of ‘experts’ and well-meaning folk will tell you that it is the right thing for your baby to be in a routine. I am fully aware of this and I have read the books and listened to the opinions of the routine-pushers. But my clinical experience as a psychologist specializing in children and infants, my academic research whilst writing Babies in Mind, our work at the Babies in Mind service and my own personal experience as a mother have all led me to the conclusion that babies do not necessarily need a routine.

The British psychoanalyst and parent-infant expert, Joan Raphael-Leff has written extensively about the different styles of parenting. Parents who adhere to a strict routine often fall into the regulator camp (as opposed to the facilitator camp). There are costs and benefits to both camps, and somewhere in the middle ground (perhaps leaning a bit towards the facilitator camp), is probably in the best interests of the baby. Read here for more about this.

Adopting a strict routine does suit many parents though, and if it seems to suits your baby and it feels right for you, then go ahead with a clear conscience. But if you have been trying, unsuccessfully, for ages to get your baby into a routine because that’s what people say you should be doing, please let go and trust that your baby will show you what she needs. As long as she is feeding every few hours (between two and four in the early weeks) you are doing your bit. Visit our website for more about babies, and ‘like’ us on Facebook or sign up for our e-mail newsletter.

Please share with us your experiences with routine? Has it worked for you and your baby?





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