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Creating and Sticking to Routines

December 6, 2023 General /Family

Creating and sticking to routines

By: Christina mcGeough, mph, rd, cdces

Just like adults, many kids thrive with structure and routines. They may not be able to clearly express how routines help them, but you can often see it in their behaviors. I have two school-age children, and on days when tv time is too long, mealtimes are too late, and bedtime regimens are unstructured, the next morning we see the impact of the chaos from the night before. The children are sleepy and irritable. Their tiredness often results in more whining on their part and more nagging on mine. As a result, we start the day in a negative funk. On days when we stick to a more defined schedule, dinner is on time, bedtime isn’t an endless battle, and mornings are so much easier. Structure and routines don’t mean things have to be exact or precise all the time, but that you and your family work together and know what is expected and when things will happen.

Routines help children learn self-control, feel a sense of security with routines, and are important to their social-emotional development. It also helps them engage in learning. Little children have short attention spans and when they lose focus or interest, it’s a sign they are done with the task. When we don’t listen to these cues, children may react with tantrums and mood swings.

I learned the importance of creating routines when my son was a toddler. He had a speech delay and transitions between tasks were difficult for him. We started using visual aids and setting timers when he was around 18 months to help him understand what would be happening next and when activities would start and stop. Even though he couldn’t communicate well verbally, he quickly started learning his morning routine: when it was time for school, mealtime, playtime, bath time and bed. Over a few months his tantrums and frustrations lessened greatly, and we learned how to better support him and anticipate his needs. It turns out his frustration was not about being rebellious; it was just his way of letting us know he was not ready to transition or he was overstimulated. As he got older and learned how to communicate more verbally, we would ask questions about his day.

Here are some things to consider when establishing routines:

As your child gets older, they may not need a daily schedule and will already know what to expect throughout the day, but this comes with time and maturity.

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: