Fine-tuning and tweaking
As your baby grows, her needs will change. She'll go from nursing every three hours to eating three square meals a day; constant sleep will turn into several daily naps and then only one afternoon nap a day. Each small shift may require a revision of your routine. For instance, one less nap during the day may mean your baby will need to go to bed at 6:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
If the family's traveling, or if the baby is teething or otherwise experiencing some change, she's likely to shift off schedule. A bout with a cold can throw off bedtime and naps, and you may have to start all over with the routine when your baby is well again. Fortunately, it only takes a few days to get back on track.
Of course, there are times when the schedule has to be firm. If you're a working mom, unless you have in-home child care, your child will have to adjust to a routine that allows you to get out of the house on time. Even so, you can be flexible about how the morning flows before you go. That may mean getting everyone up a little earlier to give yourself some wiggle room. It may mean your baby goes to daycare in pajamas with her breakfast in a thermos.
You'll need to take that morning schedule into account in the evening, too. "If you're getting your baby up early in the morning, she may be ready to go down for the night by six thirty or so," says Dr. Brown. That doesn't leave you much time for anything but a quick dinner and a bath between the time you pick her up and when she goes to bed. "If your child is wiped out at the end of the day, don't keep her up just because you want to see her," she advises. "She's going to be a lot happier if you put her down."