CAN YOU DO IT?
But do all babies take to a routine? “A ‘run of the mill’ baby will do roughly the same thing at the same age, assuming there are no medical conditions,” says Jacqui. “Having said this, some babies are more feisty and strong willed. Parenting this type of baby or child can be a lot more challenging, but it doesn’t mean you can’t implement age appropriate boundaries. A routine is just one of many boundaries that you as a parent will be implementing.”
The issue of leaving a baby to cry is a controversial one, but, explains clinical psychologist and child neuropsychologist Joalida Smit, this does not mean a child should not be left to cry at all. “There is some evidence that shows that babies need to cry for limited periods of time because it regulates the neurological system by reducing overstimulation and anxiety. But this is within the context of a baby being held and comforted,” she says. “Crying allows babies to learn to self soothe and self regulate. You are also giving the baby a voice by acknowledging their cries and responding with soothing talk.”
Joalida says the crying it out method does work well for some babies, but others – and possibly those with sensory processing difficulties (babies who can feel quite “lost” and uncontained if left alone) – never cope well with being left alone at night. For them and other babies who are left to cry for long periods unattended too much cortisol, the stress hormone, which over time can affect their memory system relating to care, attachment and ability to respond to stress when they are older.
Eventually all babies will naturally fall into a routine of eating, sleeping and pooing, says Joalida, unless they have an illness or medical problem, such as reflux. “The difficulty with implementing routines is that they can go either way. If you have a strict routine, a baby will never learn what their own signals are. If you regulate a baby too much, then that baby will fail to develop self-regulatory strategies,” she says. Regardless of whether you fall on the baby-led side of the scale or a strict routine, Joalida feels that it is beneficial for babies to learn a sense of what their needs are, but that no matter what, their needs – whether that’s food or comfort – should always be met. YB