The Role of the Infant Caregiver
Infancy is a time where needs are immediate but the communication skills needed to express those needs are lacking. Our role as infant caregivers revolves around recognizing and responding to these needs. While there will always be some guesswork, creating and maintaining a daily routine for babies is an excellent way to make meeting their needs simpler.
An infant's brain grows faster during the first year of life than at any other time. By the age of one, their brain will more closely resemble an adult brain. The foundation for healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development is laid during this time period. Acclimating your infant to a routine has many benefits in these areas of development. By responding to hunger and the need for physical activity, you are providing for healthy physical development. Being attentive to their needs allows them to develop strong bonds and teaches them to trust their caregivers, thus increasing emotional development. Since the most effective learning comes with repetition, intellectual development is strongly supported by a structured routine. The repetition of the routine is what the baby remembers, thereby nurturing memory skills.
It is important to understand that providing structure is much different than trying to stick to a schedule. A schedule is dictated by a clock and it is unrealistic to expect an infant to follow a clock. A structured routine is centered around activities. Having an infant eat, engage in a type of learning or stimulating activity, bathe, read a book, or listen to music, and then sleep is a routine that lets the infant know what is coming next while still allowing for the flexibility that is necessary in caring for babies this young.
Humans are hardwired to need a fair amount of certainty in their lives. Babies are no different. Infants will thrive when they are able to predict when and how their needs are going to be met. A consistent routine shows them this. The baby will feel secure with the caregiver if he or she knows what to expect, as routine demonstrates that their caregivers will be there for them, and trust grows. If you find that a routine has been broken one day, then return to it the next. It will reassure the baby that everything is all right in her world. This is a wonderful beginning to a lifetime of learning - all created by establishing a simple daily routine.