We all feel more secure when our world is predictable and manageable, regardless of our age. Newborns are thrust into this chaotic world from the safety and comfort of the womb. They yearn for a sense of security. Toddlers are natural boundary pushers who crave order and control. Creating a schedule and daily routines can provide the security and comfort children need.
A good schedule does not need to be set in stone and should be responsive to your child. A schedule actually helps to improve your ability to read and respond to your child’s cues. It allows you to adjust to your child’s changing needs, while creating a structure that has the best possible chance of anticipating those needs.
Here are 6 benefits of creating a schedule for your child:
1) Creating a Schedule Provides Security and Predictability
Bringing consistency and order to your baby’s life is a comforting gift. Babies really thrive on routine because their minds are exposed to so much new information every day. It is reassuring for a baby to know that they can depend on certain events to have a predictable structure. When a child can count on having their needs met and having life progress in predictable ways, they feel secure and learn to trust others and the world around them.
Establishing a good bedtime routine from day one is a great way to help your baby organize days and nights and start to consolidate nighttime sleep more quickly. When the bedtime routine is done in the same order every night, your baby will begin to predict what happens next and will feel soothed. Since they will know that sleep is always the conclusion of the bedtime routine, they will do much less protesting when they are put to bed than if they had no routine at all. Check out the Bedtime Routine Secret Every Mom Must Know.
The same goes for toddlers. Toddlers see the world in black and white and love to know what is coming next and what is expected of them. Even though toddlers push boundaries, they end up feeling very insecure when the boundaries shift. They will keep pushing harder until they find where the boundaries lay. Lack of structure is likely to result in a cranky and overwhelmed child. Providing order and predictability can improve behavior, reduce tantrums, and make bedtime a much smoother process.
2) Helps Set Your Child’s Biological Clock
Creating a schedule for eating, playing, and sleeping helps regulate a child’s circadian rhythm. Since babies cannot tell time, they need us to set their internal time clocks by their daily activities. We recommend exposing your baby to sunlight during the day, especially in the morning between waking up and the first nap of the day. Bright sunlight in the morning is going to suppress their melatonin levels, which is the hormone that makes us sleepy. It also increases their cortisol levels, which is the hormone that gives us energy. Going outside and exposing them to sunlight after breakfast will help kick start their day and create that optimal circadian rhythm.
Toddlers are very active and have a high need for physical movement. We recommend somewhere between 45-90 minutes of outside time and physical play every day. This will help to get that energy out and ensure that they are going to be tired enough at bedtime. Usually the best times of day for this are mid-morning around 10 a.m. and in the mid-afternoon sometime between 3-4 p.m. Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day and 10 am and 3 pm are usually when a natural dip in energy occurs. Sunlight exposure will help them feel recharged!
3) Creating a Schedule Promotes Healthy Sleep Habits
We recommend following that eat, play, sleep schedule right from the beginning with newborns. Newborns can only handle about 45 minutes of awake time before they become overtired. These awake windows become longer as your baby gets older. Keep in mind that this is the longest amount of time your child should be awake and you can always put them down for a nap sooner or move bedtime earlier if they are showing any tired signs.
When a baby becomes overtired, it can be a bit counterintuitive as to what happens. It can look like they are getting more energetic and even a bit hyperactive, but overtiredness actually makes it more difficult to fall sleep, leading to more fragmented sleep as well. This means more nighttime wakings and shorter naps. By putting them down before they get overtired, we’re going to give them the best window of opportunity to fall asleep. Getting that timing right is so important. A consistent schedule that responds to their cues will create good sleep habits.
Sleep provides a break from stimuli and allows children to recharge. Lack of sleep has been linked to numerous problems in children such as poor attention span, inability to concentrate, reduced memory, learning issues, irritability, aggressive behavior, reduced coordination, tantrums, insomnia, and even obesity. The earlier you create good sleep habits, the better off your child will be as they grow older. Studies have shown that babies who have sleep issues typically do not learn to sleep through the night until 6 to 7 years of age! Another study of college students with sleeping problems found that the majority had experienced sleep issues starting in infancy. A child who develops good sleep habits early on is likely to maintain them for a lifetime.
4) Can Lead to Healthy Growth
Keep consistency in mind when creating a schedule. A consistent schedule sets up a pattern of optimal sleeping and eating habits that promote growth. By following that eat, play, sleep schedule, your baby will have a lot more energy to get that good full feed in after waking up. Newborns’ stomachs are tiny and can’t hold much food. If they go too long without being fed, they tend to overeat which can lead to reflux problems.
When a baby is fed properly, it will help them sleep longer and get into a deeper state of sleep. Deep sleep is critical for a healthy immune system. The body does its restorative work repairing cells during deep sleep. Babies are constantly being exposed to new germs and this deep sleep helps to prepare their bodies for the world. If your newborn is not able to go into this deep sleep state, and remains active and awake, they will burn up a lot of extra calories, which prevents healthy growth.
5) Helps Your Child Excel in School
Structure at home will help your child assimilate into the structure of the school environment. Children who lack structure at home often find it difficult to follow the teacher’s instructions and participate in classroom activities. Children with healthy sleep habits, which are best developed from a consistent schedule, can focus and learn better. Naps in particular, have been shown to regulate attention span, which is essential for learning. Kids who nap have longer attention spans are able to absorb and retain more information.
Contrary to popular belief, sleep does not become less important as children get older. A study conducted by Dr. Avi Sadeh broke fourth and sixth graders into two random groups; one group got thirty minutes more sleep a night while the other group got 30 minutes less for three nights. The children were then tested and the performance gap was vast. Sadeh found that a “loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of two years of cognitive maturation and development.” In other words, a slightly sleep deprived fourth-grader will perform at the level of a second-grader! Children’s brains are continually developing until early adulthood and most of this work is done while sleeping!
6) Creating a Schedule Allows You to Plan and Take Better Care of Yourself
If you do not have a schedule, your day and your child’s day can be quite unpredictable. Your child won’t wake, eat, play, or sleep at the same time. Consequently, their sleep quality will be poor leading to multiple night wakings and short naps. A tired baby means a tired mama! It could also make it more stressful for you to leave the house because you will not know when your baby will need to go home for a nap or to feed.
Creating a schedule that is predicable allows you to plan your day around naps. That means you can either tackle some of those chores or enjoy some much needed “me time”! Also, if you are having a tough day, knowing that naptime or bedtime is just an hour away can help you get through that next hour a lot easier. Another benefit of maintaining a schedule and establishing routines means that a grandparent or babysitter can take care of your child and easily put them down to bed. That means you can go out for a date night! Score!
We Love Schedules!
When we create a customized sleep plan for your child, we help you create a flexible and responsive schedule. We will guide you through their wakeup time, awake windows, number of naps, and bedtime based on your child’s specific sleep needs. We will also help you build a fun and enjoyable bedtime and nap time routine. This will provide your child with that much needed structure and predictability, leading to longer naps and reducing or eliminating night wakings. Once we begin sleep training, we will help you adjust and tweak this schedule every day as we communicate with you through our follow-up support. We will also arm you with all the information you need to adjust this schedule as your child gets older and their sleep needs change.
If you would like to learn more about how a customized sleep plan can help your little one learn healthy, independent sleep skills, start by scheduling your complimentary Discovery Call today!
To healthy sleep,
Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant