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Both Sides: Parent Guided Routines

Jamie and Krista agree on many things, but sometimes they have different opinions on parenting. This is the first post in a two-part series on routine vs on demand. Be sure to check out  Krista’s side, “Led By Baby”.

Before I had my first child, I remember feeling overwhelmed in anticipation because I had little to no experience with babies (by my own choice). I think I limited my interaction with infants because I didn’t know how to make them happy or how to figure out what they needed. Thankfully, someone pointed me in the direction of a book I mention frequently, Secrets of the Baby Whisper by Tracy Hogg. Although I like several things in her book, it was not the book but the concept of parent guided or guided routine that really struck a chord with me.

I know several of you may be cringing at the idea of putting your baby on a schedule or a routine, but for our family it made sense at the time and still does today. One of our major roles as parents is that of teacher and guide. Parents who go this route are not trying to control their children, but are guiding them. The way humans learn is by doing something over and over, which is what a structured routine reinforces.

All babies have a routine. The difference is whether that routine is guided by the parent or the baby.

A parent guided routine is not a schedule, but rather a routine that at first repeats roughly around every three hours. Basically the way it works is that as soon as your baby wakes up in the morning, you feed (Eat), then have some activity together (Activity), and then naptime or bedtime (Sleep). For our boys I used a three hour routine and went with their cues as to night feedings and morning wake up, and then gradually shifted to a four hour routine sometime after four months.

A parent guided routine as opposed to baby guided (on-demand) may be a great choice for new parents, parents of multiples, parents with additional children, mothers who are going back to work or have very demanding schedules.

Why Parent Guided Routines Worked for Us:

  • Children and infants thrive on routine. They know what comes next, and after a couple days in the routine they will begin to anticipate it. My 4 month old twins happily anticipate feedings and naps when the time comes. I can’t tell you how much it pleases me to see my little one close his eyes to nap because he’s ready for it, so peacefully.
  • Parent Guided Routines enable you to learn how to read your child for clues as to what they need, and make it easier to determine what the issue might be. I always nurse the babies before church in the morning, so I know that if they are fussy in the church nursery it is not because they are hungry but more likely because they are beginning to tire or something else is wrong.
  • I love nursing my babies and feel it is a great time of bonding, however I am not a human pacifier and I know the best thing for our baby and family is to guide them to better sleep using of other soothing techniques (swaddling, pacifiers, some parents find white noise helpful).
  • Other people (fathers/grandparents/childcare providers) are more empowered to assist in the baby care process. It is much easier to communicate the needs of the children when the routine is guided by mom and dad. You can also communicate their eating and sleeping patterns a little more easily to health care providers when necessary.
  • It is easier to make plans outside of the home because you generally know what your babies needs are for that day (other than the random).
  • Helps establish better sleeping skills because babies learn how to self soothe faster (depending on if or how you chose to sleep train). Good sleep is essential for the health of your baby and child.
  • Help you learn how to read your child for clues as to what your child needs. Babies cry for a variety of reasons, hunger, fatigue, and over stimulation to name a few. It can be every tempting in a moment of frustration to shove a bottle in their mouth hoping for a quick fix, but it is not very considerate to the child. When you are using a routine, you will know where to start looking for solutions to their discomfort based on where they are in the cycle.

What Parent Guided Routines are Not:

  • A parent who chooses to guide their child’s routine rather than allow the baby to dictate it are not under the assumption that their child is selfish or somehow imposing on their schedule. We chose to guide our children from early on because we know that routine and boundaries help children feel safe and secure.
  • An easy way out. It takes a lot of work to do parent guided routines. Helping your child settle for a nap or bed at night is hard work and there is no way around it. And in the beginning you will lose sleep; there is no way around it. But as your child grows it will get easier. If you do not want to commit to making time in your day for naps and bedtimes, then parent guided routines are probably not for you.
  • A schedule ruled by the clock. You can and should adjust to your child’s needs if you see fit. Sometimes babies will need a little extra snuggles or to eat a little more than usual.
  • Parent Guided Routines will not drive a wedge between you and your child emotionally. You will still be able to bond with them and hold them.

There are many more positive rewards to guiding your child through their daily routine. Like I said before, all babies have a daily routine. The difference is whether that routine is guided by the parent or the baby. Parent guided routines have worked best in our house; however I acknowledge that it won’t work well for everyone. I encourage you to make the best decision for your family.

If you are interested in learning more about Parent Directed Routines check out these books @

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About Jamie

Jamie is a creative-techie mom, raising three boys under three (twins!) with her husband in Pennsylvania. Jamie now writes at The Red Robinson,


  1. Krista actually suggested this book to me when I was struggling with a lot of mommy confusion and pressure from other well intentioned (sort of know it all) parents. I was uncomfortable with baby wise bc of the crying part, but I LOVED the baby whisperer ideas. With this book, and some fabulous advice from a wonderful friend (you are mommy, and YOU know your child…listen to your instincts!) I quickly regathered my confidence and enjoyed every second of Jacks first year. 🙂

  2. With my first I was more of an on-demand parent, because I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I also didn’t work outside of the home and didn’t have any other kids to tend to, so I devoted most of my time to her. With my twins I changed things and started them out with a parent guided routine. It worked out much better. My boys were sleeping through the night by 2 months old, and my daughter was still getting up at night at age 3! What a difference that routine made for us!

  3. I like most of Baby Whisperer’s stuff, but I’ve had mixed results with PU/PD and the whole shush pat stuff. She’s a little off with breastfeeding stuff too. However their approach is much gentler that Baby Wise. I know some people like that, but I agree, it’s too harsh.

  4. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jamie! I used Baby Wise principles with Nataleigh and was really confused at first with the book. It did seem harsh but I found a great blog by a lady who does BW ( and became part of their google group and that really helped. I think the way the Ezzo’s wrote the book comes across harsh but in reality it’s not. I love the Baby Whisperer and have used both that and Baby Wise with Mia. I like the way Baby Whisperer is written (a very gentle approach). Mia self soothes herself to sleep and is almost sleeping through the night. If Mia starts to fuss when I lay her down I just shhh and pat her tummy and say it’s ok you’re only taking a nap and happy nappy. She calms right down. I love being on a routine because it makes it very easy to know what their need is and it gives me time to myself and time in the evenings with my husband. Also, knowing that my babies are getting the sleep they need is so important to me because it’s healthy. This is just what works for us and I respect how others choose to parent.