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Why Little Ones Need Routines

Life with a baby can be unpredictable  -- but it doesn't have to be total chaos. Luckily for you, having a regular routine is as good for a baby as it is for Mom.

You don't need to put your little one on a rigid schedule, says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Trying to stick to a minute-by-minute timetable will only stress out both of you. Plus, it'll be more difficult to adapt when your baby's sick or something disrupts your day. Instead, just aim for him to eat, nap, and play in the same order most days. It'll help him make sense of the world and feel safe in it.

By the time your baby's ready for a routine (around 3 months), you'll probably know when he tends to get sleepy, hungry, and energetic. Build your routine around these. If he's typically upbeat after lunch, for instance, run errands then.

Leave room for spontaneous kinds of fun, too; a little variety will keep the day interesting for him and you.

Your baby's daily routine can extend into the night: The sooner you start a bedtime ritual (a bath, a story, a massage, and then a good-night kiss, for instance), the sooner you'll all get more sleep!