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Getting On Schedule

Those moms in the park, not to mention your mother-in-law, insist your baby needs a schedule, and the "right" one at that. But rest assured that there is no such thing. The key is simply predictability. Babies are generally happier when their needs are being met regularly and consistently. Here's how to fall into a routine that works for you and your baby:

Follow her lead. Dinnertime is at 6:30, but it's only 5:00 and she's hungry. Go ahead and feed her. You also don't have to force her to eat more when she's not hungry. If she's tired, let her sleep a little longer or go to bed earlier. Don't put watching the clock before the needs of her growing body.

Keep it flexible. There is no proof that eating at noon is better than eating at 1:00 or that going to bed at 7:30 makes for a more rested baby. If you tend to stay up late, it's fine for your baby to have a later bedtime. Just be sure to put her down around the same time each night and follow your normal bedtime ritual. But...

Beware of night owls. No tot should be regularly staying up to watch the late show. A baby's circadian rhythms  -- the instinct to sleep when it's dark and be awake when it's light  -- typically kick in within a few months of birth.

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