WHY CONSISTENCY = HAPPIER BABIES
Consistency is super important when parenting, as I realize being a new dad and learning along the way. Our daughter goes to bed every night between 7 and 7:30 p.m. and sleeps usually till about 5:30 or 6 a.m. the following morning followed by a sunrise nursing session.
Consistency helps babies develop trust and healthy routines. We try to be out the door for our morning walk with the dogs by 7 and back home 20 minutes later for actual breakfast, at least round one, by 7:30 a.m., followed by play and activities, perhaps some additional snacking off our plates an hour or two later, and then her morning nap by 9:30 or 10.
She can sleep 2.5 to 3 hours and then is eating lunch, her appetite perhaps whetted by some more nursing, around noon. On weekdays, my wife tries to get her out of the house to run errands, go for walks and play. The weekends we’ll go for a hike, perhaps a play day at the beach or we’ll go to the zoo for a few hours.
Consistency isn’t always easy to obtain, but we’re getting better with more time and experience under our belt. Generally speaking, Ariabella is ready for nap No. 2 by about 3:30 or 4 p.m, whether we are at home or out about town. This second one, however, only lasts about 45 minutes, and then it’s time for some more play, another walk in the sunshine and any other errands we need to perform.
A couple of hours later, she’s ready for dinner, a bath, teeth brushing, pajamas, a couple of books and, finally, her crib.
Except when none or maybe even just one of these things doesn’t happen. Then all bets are off.
Kids being kids, and busy parents being busy parents, it’s can be difficult to make consistency a priority and keep schedules like the letter of the law. This can be especially true when my wife has freelance projects, or Mommy-and-Me class or needs to go to the store. So often, the daily schedule can morph into more of a general target. As long as Ariabella is getting her four to five main meals a day and about 3-4 hours of napping, we are winning.
But other times, we’re not so lucky. Ariabella and toddlers like her thrive in predictable environments, and even the smallest aberration can throw them completely out of whack. We’ve found that when this happens, something small like a mid-morning appointment (and no sitter option) can result in a long, uncomfortable drive that begets a delayed nap and the crankiness that comes with it. This interval can grow to three or four hours, and by then we are in full melt-down mode.
It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, everything else can fall like dominos. Her lunch schedule is obliterated. She becomes so overly tired and angry that she’s kicking and screaming at the supermarket or throwing a tantrum at the mall. Her afternoon nap becomes the first one of the day and she’s so tired that she can sleep straight till dinnertime. Except by then her body thinks it’s noon.
Believe me, it’s not a pretty sight.
On days like these, it’s not unheard of for her to be still playing (or crying) in her crib till almost 10 p.m. Well, one might reason, at least she can sleep in tomorrow. Ha! It’s true, at least in our experience, that the later a baby falls asleep the earlier she rises. Gotta love those 4 a.m. wakeup calls when it seems you just barely got to bed yourself at midnight.
The moral of the story is to develop consistency as a plan and try to stick to it as much as possible. Just like many of us adults need schedules for work or relationships, consistency helps babies thrive with set timetables. And the same is true for kids as they grow.