Q: I really don't know what to do. I've heard that there are babies that are naturally good sleepers, not needing any help whatsoever to aid them in falling asleep. When my baby was a newborn, he slept amazingly, but as he's gotten older I see that he is fighting sleep more and more for bedtime. His naps are decent, but very sporadic. Is there any advice you can give me on why to implement a routine and what the benefits are of having one?

-Tired Tammy, Georgia

Hi Tammy,

There are actually very few babies who are not prone to sleep problems. While some parents are just lucky and their babies regulate themselves into a tolerable schedule (which may later deteriorate), babies thrive on a schedule. A schedule is a healthy way for babies to have their needs met before they start getting cranky. It is certainly not constructive to wait until they are inconsolable to realize that they are exhausted. A baby on a routine is happier, healthier and thriving because he knows what to expect and his mother knows what he needs - when he needs it.

The goal of a routine is not to send your baby to 'boot camp' and keep you both enslaved to a strictly regimented schedule around the clock. Rather, a schedule can be your best friend, helping you to predict what your baby will need ahead of time so that you can start doing the things that are needed to be done. Believe it or not, a flexible schedule will help you to tune in to your baby's needs and foster a loving, symbiotic bond between the two of you.

The goal is to have a general outline of each day, with flexibility (not being specific to the exact 'minute' as to when a child should fall asleep). Predictability is healthy for both parent and child, as both understand what to expect and how to prevent problems before they even arise.

Q: I've read everywhere that tummy time is crucial for my baby's physical development. I find, however, that every time I put her on her stomach to play she cries and protests. She sleeps on her back and seems to be very happy remaining there while awake also. Is it really so crucial that I give her tummy time and why is it beneficial?

A: There is an age old debate about which way is truly the best for a baby to sleep: on her tummy or on her back. Most recent health guidelines, however, go by the popular motto: Back to sleep — tummy to play. Whichever decision you make in regards to sleep should always be approved by your healthcare professional to make sure there are no health risks involved.

Awake time, however, is another story. Experts agree that while your baby is awake, it is critical to have tummy time in order to help develop her core muscles and foster proper motor skills.

Don't feel disheartened however, if your baby seems to really dislike being on her stomach. I would suggest first trying to put her on her stomach for short intervals sporadically throughout the day. Start at a few minutes each session and gradually try to increase it so that she can become accustomed to being on her stomach. You still want to honor your baby's cries though, and if see that it really upsets her, just continue to do it for short periods…she will gradually get used to it. The five tips below are found on the Pathways Awareness website, that promotes healthy development and helps educate parents on how to achieve it:

Tummy to Tummy~

Lie down on the floor or a bed, flat or propped up on pillows. Place baby on your chest or tummy, so that you're face-to-face. Always hold firmly for safety.

Eye-Level Smile~

Get down level with your baby to encourage eye contact. Roll up and place a blanket under the chest and upper arms for added support.

Lap Soothe~

Place your baby face-down across your lap to burp or soothe him. A hand on your baby's bottom will help steady and calm.

Tummy-Down Carry~

Slide one hand under the tummy and between the legs when carrying baby tummy down. Nestle the baby close to your body.

Tummy Minute~

Place your baby on her tummy for one or two minutes every time you change her.

Start a few minutes at a time and try to work up to an hour a day in shorter intervals

by the end of three months.

Don't get discouraged every bit of tummy time makes a difference!

Q: I've been pretty good about keeping my four month old on a routine. His naps are fairly consistent and his nights aren't bad at all. My days are usually fairly predictable and he seems happy and content. When life get busy, however, he turns into a monster of a baby wailing incessantly, not settling to sleep, and just extremely irritable and inconsolable. Why does this happen?

-Monster's Mommy, Israel

Dear Monster's Mommy (and I'm sure he's the most precious little monster you've ever seen!)

Just like adults, babies have different personalities and personal preferences. Some babies may be more sensitive to change while others go with the flow no matter what. When push comes to shove, though, the majority of babies are extremely sensitive to changes specifically in routine. Whether it's an over stimulating day, a visit from a friend or relative, or even just bouncing around on various errands; it affects your baby's predictable, normal routine. Sleep is a twenty-four-hour cycle that includes naps during the day, sleep at night, or anything sleep related that occurs. Therefore, when a baby doesn't get the proper amount of sleep during the day, his night sleep is directly affected. That doesn't mean, however, that if you have a bad day you're doomed for the inevitable night. Just keep in mind that all sleep is related and is a continuous, rolling cycle of day effecting night which effects the following day and so on.

You do, however, have errands to run, people to visit and well, life to take care of! Having your baby on a consistent routine doesn't mean that you must be homebound for the next few years of your life. One of the advantages of having your baby on a routine is the factor of predictability. Therefore, if you know when your baby will be taking a nap, you can try to schedule your day around that. If you do have things to do that disrupt your baby's sleep time it's ok. Things will inevitably happen that will affect his naps and in turn your baby's night sleep. When things like this happen once in a while just take extra care to make sure that the next day or so your baby does get his needed naps and sleep. This will prevent the vicious cycle of an overtired baby being exhausted and sleep deprived, leading to more exhaustion and more sleep deprivation!