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Do Babies Need Schedules?

Your baby may be only a few weeks old, but we bet at least one person has already asked if you've got him on a schedule. That's what good mothers are supposed to do, right? Yeah right. Next time someone asks, you can tell them why a schedule is that last thing you're worrying about right now.

Your babe's too busy to watch the clock. During the first six weeks of life, babies have a lot to deal with. "Newborns simply need to get acclimated to their new world  -- the temperature, the regulation of light and dark, and eating," says Daniela Montalto, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist at New York University's Child Study Center. You may normally live a very organized and structured life, but little ones just aren't ready for that yet.

Plus, you're confident she'll settle into her own routine  -- eventually. By the time your baby is a couple of months old (or so), you'll likely notice she's developed her own pattern  -- wake up, eat, play, poop, eat, nap  -- and repeat. But during these early sleep-deprived months, it can be hard to remember what happens from one day to the next, which is why Montalto suggests keeping a log. "By jotting down when your baby sleeps, eats, seems most alert and most fussy, you'll better be able to anticipate when you'll get a chunk of time to catch a nap or take a shower." (You can download and print one at [XREF "http://parenting.com/babytalk" "parenting.com/babytalk"]; click on "baby tracker.")

And if she doesn't, you'll help her find one  -- eventually. "Babies grow into needing the comfort of having certain things happen in certain ways," says Montalto. But if her natural patterns are inconsistent or don't quite mesh with your needs, you can slowly begin to create a new routine that works for both of you starting around 3 or 4 months. Say you'd like to feed her early in the morning before work, but she tends to be a late snoozer. You can either add in a feeding that wasn't there (waking her up if necessary) or you can try putting her down a little earlier each night until she'll be up when you are. The point is that you can organize your day any way you want. It's the routine that helps babies feel their needs are being met  -- not living by the clock.

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