Welcome to parenthood! This is such a wonderful time in a coParent’s life. One that shall be cherished forever.

It is very important to create a Parenting Plan for a child, from when they are born and through infancy and beyond. Here is some helpful insight on creating the plan for a child, newly born to 18 months.

INFANTS: Birth to 9 Months

This is a very busy and important time. The infant is totally dependent on the adults around them while they touch, listen, and observe the world. Things are always changing. Infants learn very quickly. They are completely dependent on their caregivers to protect them and to provide constant attention to their needs. This includes their need for love, nurturing, and attention. They form attachments by consistent, loving responses such as holding, playing, feeding, soothing, and talking. When both parents have been actively involved, the child forms an attachment to both parents.

Changes and separations from the caregiving parent will cause discomfort and distress because an infant does not have a sense of time. They have a limited ability to remember the absent parent. Infants should have frequent contact with both parents. Infants trust their regular caregivers to recognize their signals for food, comfort, and sleep and trust their caregivers to meet these needs. Infants need to feel secure with routine and familiarly. They require a predictable schedule. Their sleeping, waking, feeding schedules should be consistent. Parents need to adjust their schedules to meet the infant’s needs as this is an important time for the child to develop a sense of security, trust, and comfort with others.

If an infant’s needs are not met, parents may notice that their child cries excessively, refuses food, fails to gain weight, has difficulty sleeping, fails to interact with the environment, or shows other signs of distress in one or both households.

When Designing Your Parenting Plan for your Infant, Remember:

Frequent, repeated contact with each parent is recommended.

Contact should provide time for feeding, playing, bathing, soothing, napping, and nighttime sleeping.

Both parents must develop the required skills to be good caregivers.

If the mother is breastfeeding, allow time periods for this to occur. This includes time for pumping as well. If there is formula feeding, schedule time periods, determined by the pediatrician. Newborns are recommended to drink milk every three to four hours.

Infants should not be away from either parent for more than a few days.

Parents will need to share their experiences in a way to provide consistency and stability. They must do this in a way that does not expose the child to anger and in a way that is comforting to the infant.

BABY/OLDER INFANT: 9 to 18 Months

Older infants are beginning to explore their world. There is a great deal of rapid development. There are many motor accomplishments: sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. They are still very dependent on their caregivers and they continue to need holding, caressing, gentleness, and nurturing. While they can hold on to a memory of an adult they haven’t seen for a day or two, they still may show fear or distress at the time of the next contact and cannot tolerate long separations.

The older infant is self-centered and believes the actions and moods of others are directly related to their actions and moods. They recognize anger and harsh words. They show and express a wide range of emotions through their own gestures, actions, and expressions. They will begin to communicate with sounds, smiles and show simple emotions. They have special, familiar things that the parents ensure go with the child(ren) (toys, blankets, pacifiers).

The older infant still needs a great deal of holding, caressing, gentleness, and direct eye contact. They will now benefit greatly from repetitive play and having adults talk with them to share their language and their feelings. This is how they continue to feel safe while beginning to relate to the world around them.

A consistent routine increases their trust in others and their confidence that all of their needs will be met. They can become anxious if separated from familiar and comfortable surroundings. They will benefit from repetitive play and having adults talk to them. They will benefit from having similar routines in each household.

Your child will respond to multiple caregivers if each is sensitive to the child’s cues and follows along with the required and routine activities (sleeping patterns, eating schedule, and wakeful activities). Long separations from either parent still feel like permanent losses, and they will show feelings of helplessness, abandonment, and sadness.

Infants have emotional memories and can recognize anger and harsh words. If their needs are not met and they do not feel secure, excessive crying, irritability, withdrawal, feeding or sleeping problems may develop.

When Designing Your Parenting Plan for Your Baby (9 to 18 months), Remember:

Each parent should participate in the daily routines including feeding, bathing, putting the child down to sleep, and waking the child up from a nap. This will help the child develop a secure relationship and help both parents master the tasks of caretaking.

Separations of more than three days may interfere with the child’s sense of safety and stability. Work responsibilities must be balanced with the child’s need for regular involvement with each parent during the weekdays and shared time of weekends.

Each household should follow similar patterns and routines in child care to provide consistency.

This information is provided by Dr. Debra K. Carter. Instructions and Assessments for Selecting the Best Parenting Plan.