Julie from Everyday Mommy is brave enough to take on the subject of "Putting Baby on a Schedule", and she's asking some other blog moms to weigh in. Since I'm so honored that she asked me specifically, I'll venture into these choppy waters myself.
I am, by nature, a scheduler. When my first baby was born almost nine years ago, I totally bought into one parenting "program" in particular that advocated rather rigid structures for babies. I spent the first three months of my son's life in tears, utterly frustrated that he just wouldn't nurse exactly the way I wanted him to, when I wanted him to, etc. To be perfectly frank, I missed out on some sweet times because I felt so "guilted" into making sure his little day ran like a clock.
By the second baby, I was considerably more laid back about things, but I still held The Perfect Schedule as some sort of ideal that we might reach if we moved toward it gradually. Meal times and naptimes were at precisely the same time each day, and this was do-able--with two little ones at home, we could be the master of our own timetables.
But later, as baby number three, and even moreso baby number four joined our family ranks, schedules flew quickly out the window. We ARE at the mercy of others now--we have school plays and Cub Scouts and swim lessons and soccer practice and a generally busy life on the go. Sometimes, naptime happens in the car. Sometimes meal time is an hour late and in the McDonald's parking lot. And guess what? No one has died from it. In fact, I find that my youngest two kids are a little more adaptable than the older two, and I can't help but wonder if this is a function of our more free-wheeling way of doing things.
Of course, it is always nice to have a general idea of what's coming next. When possible, we stick to a skeleton of a schedule for the littler ones around here. Waking up and bedtime are at generally the same time each day, and I try to make sure that 4-5 days a week naptime is quiet and at home. (For all things sleep-related, our family has sworn by the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber). But if the regular naps can't quite happen, I've learned that the world will, in fact, continue spinning. And if the affected child is a little extra grumpy for a day or two...well, it will pass, and we'll all learn patience in the meantime.
*IF YOU ONLY READ ONE PORTION OF THIS POST, MAKE IT THIS NEXT PART*
You may see a variety of things on my blog, but you will never hear me say that ONE parenting method is the ONLY way. (And honestly, I'd be extremely leery of anyone who claimed otherwise). Always, always, consideration must be given to the individual personalities of both baby and parent. For some families, tight schedules seem to be an important part of maintaining family peace. For others, the complete absence of structure is their natural rhythm. For most families, like mine, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is perfectly adequate. As long as needs are being met, children are being loved and taught, and marriages are being respected, I salute any family that is doing its best.