Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series of pieces inspired by a celebration of Latino heritage and smart nutrition, brought to you by Beech-Nut/Goya.
When you get down to the basics, caring for an infant boils down to four fundamental needs—food, sleep, play and love. The hard part comes in knowing when, how often, and how much of these four things are needed. It is also important to know how each of these components affects the other.
While I was never a timer junkie, where you time everything and wait for the next scheduled event to happen, I found that having some sort of routine with each of my three kids helped a lot. So if you are having trouble getting your infant on a proper meal schedule, you might need to look at his schedule as a whole. With that in mind, here are some tactics that can help you get your infant on a good schedule and in turn getting him into the perfect feeding rhythm.
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ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
We have all more than likely heard the benefits of having your infant on a schedule. If the word schedule seems too strict, let’s just call it a routine. You know how people are always saying, “There is no manual for parenting.” Well in a way, by creating a schedule, you can write your own manual of sorts.
When you have a routine, you are doing the same things at relatively the same time each day. For instance, you wake your baby at the same time every day, lay him down for naps at the same time each day, and have the same nighttime routine so that he starts to learn the difference between night and day. Schedule regular feedings around these activities (the exact amount of feedings will vary by your child’s age). Your baby’s body will also become in tune with his schedule and you as a parent will more adequately be able to anticipate his needs.
Even though they are not able to communicate this, babies like predictability. They like to know that certain things will happen at certain times each day. Developing a routine comforts them, and helps them feel secure as they try to make sense of their world.
TAKE CUES FROM YOUR INFANT
Some parents like really strict schedules (parent-led), some take their cues from their child (baby-led). I think it’s best to do a combination. You likely have your own schedule, as well as other family members’ schedules to think about as well, so it ultimately has to be a schedule that works for everyone. But, it is also important to take your cues from your baby. Take time to get to know your baby’s temperament, what works, what doesn’t, etc. By doing this, you may even learn to anticipate his needs. For example, you may start noticing your baby smacking his lips when hunger is approaching, and can feed him before he gets fussy.
The same goes for sleep. Watch for your baby’s signs of fatigue and get him to sleep before he becomes overtired. As adults, we hear all the time how important sleep is. The same holds true for babies. Developing good sleep habits early on is essential to a baby’s wellbeing.
BE WILLING TO ADAPT
Just about the time you have the previous steps down pat, vacation, teething, illness, or a growth spurt will strike and the established schedule will go out the window. If this happens, be patient. Remain diligent in an effort to stay on a schedule, but keep in mind that the schedule may need some tweaking from time to time as your baby grows.
Having a schedule not only helps Mom and Dad, it is also an important part of proper development for your child. You will not believe how much each component of a schedule affects every other aspect of your baby’s day until you establish one yourself and see firsthand the benefits. And everyone involved is much happier when they are not sleep-deprived or hungry!