Getting a baby on a schedule

As we all know, humans like routine. So one of the cornerstones of parenting babies is the idea that babies need to get into a routine, and that things will go more smoothly for everyone once the routine is solid.

The problem can come in when someone tells us that we HAVE TO get our babies on a schedule from the get-go or the entire world will crumble apart. Let's look at what's wrong with that idea:

1. Schedule vs. routine. Routine is awesome. Wake up around the same time, eat around the same time, see the same people, do the same things around the same time. It gives us a structure, and lets us trust that things are going well so we can be free to think and work and grow within the structure. Schedule, though, indicates that we're on the minute, and if we get behind we're somehow doing something wrong. Is it semantics? Maybe. But one indicates that time is working for you, and the other inducates that you're trying to keep up with time.

2. Anyone who has a baby who's 6 months or older knows that babies in the first 12 weeks are a total crapshoot. Everything is so radicaly different from day to day, or certainly week to week, that trying to impose some external structure on a baby is difficult at best and extremely stressful (for you or the baby or both) at worst.

3. If a baby is healthy and his or her needs for food and comfort and touch are met, the baby's system will regulate and the baby will fall into a routine. Whether you impose it or not. (The issue then becomes manipulating the baby's routine so it intersects more closely with the routine you want the baby to have.) Some babies fall into a routine early (around 8-12 weeks) but some don't really until 4-5 months.

4. Don't believe the hype. All of the "you must impose a schedule as soon as possible" sounds to me a lot like just another way to make us feel bad about ourselves if we're not doing the exact right things at the exact right times.

5. Like everything else about parenting, routines are a collaborative effort between you and your child. Not something either of you imposes on the other, unless you want to get into a bad control game.

So, those of you who have infants, have your babies settled into a reliable routine yet?

Those of you who have older kids, do you remember when your babies settled into routines? How much of that was you, and how much of that was the baby, and how much was collaborative?

My younger one settled into a routine really early. He liked a 7:30 bedtime from a few weeks old, and even though the daytime stuff took a few months to stabilize, that bedtime stuck for years. My older one seemed more chaotic to me, but that was probably because he was my first and it took me longer to recognize patterns, and to realize that I wasn't doing anything wrong.

How did it go for you?