Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Respect Baby's Schedule

Our discussion of holiday travel and visiting with your baby wouldn't be complete without talk about how to manage the baby's schedule. This is another key to a successful and pleasant visit with your child in tow.

In case it's not yet obvious, I believe whole-heartedly in putting your little one on a schedule and then sticking to it. Research has shown that babies derive a sense of security from being able to count on the important parts of their daily routine happening when and how they always have, including meals, snacks, naps, and bedtimes. This sense of security develops when your child's life falls into a predictable pattern. It allows for nearly all other forms of learning, because that sense of security frees up the brain for other tasks. Do your baby (and yourself!) a favor, and develop a workable daily routine so your little one knows when to expect meals and sleep times.

But even the most stable of routines may come completely apart while you are visiting if you are not very, very careful. Your visit pretty much depends on keeping your baby happy and comfortable, so you should strongly consider sticking to your usual routines even when you are away from home.

Once you've arrived at your destination and the disruption of travel is over with, let your normal rhythms re-establish themselves. Try to feed your little one at the normal time, with the usual array of foods and the usual bottles, dishes and silverware. These familiar utensils will be a source of comfort for your child in what may seem like the world gone mad. Set up the sleeping area and put your baby down for the usual nap or bedtime. You can expect some tears, since things are going to seem very strange to baby. Comfort the child, then leave again, just like you do at home. If you rock the baby to sleep now, you may find yourself facing sleep problems at home when your baby decides that rocking to sleep is THE best thing in the world. Don't set yourself up for later trouble by doing things on your visit that you don't want to continue after you go back home.

It's also easy to want to sleep in while you are visiting. After all, this *is* your vacation, too. However, if you sleep in dramatically, and allow your baby to sleep in for hours, you will find that the sleep schedule for the rest of the day is disrupted, right on through to bedtime that night. Worse, your child is likely to be cranky and out of sorts. It's best to stick to your usual wake up time and get your baby up when he or she usually rises.

Avoid the temptation to skip the naps, too. Loving grandparents and doting relatives will all want to spend as much time as possible with your baby, but you should insist that the child be given the chances for rest and quiet time that match what you do at home. Your baby will feel better, and you will too.

Make sure that your little one's meals happen on time, even if the rest of the group is eating on a different schedule. Holiday meals, in particular, are often irregular. Many families eat a late brunch, then skip to a large meal in the mid-afternoon, instead of the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule. Feed your baby on time, and then allow small amounts of appropriate snacks or foods when the big meal comes along. Or, if your child is too young to eat any of the grown-up food, simply seat the child and give him or her something to play with during the meal.

Keep the regular bedtime, too. Again, the family may try to change your mind by saying it's a special day and that they feel like they haven't had enough time with your baby yet. Be firm! Your baby's well-being depend on it. Put your child to bed when you think the time has come, and don't let even the most doting grandparents interfere with your decision. You know what is best for your baby, and it's up to you to enforce the rules and the schedule.

Your baby will feel better if you maintain your usual schedule and routines during your trip as much as possible. Put your child's needs on the top priority list, and the chances are very good that your baby will respond by showing his or her most pleasant self. Have a great trip!

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