When I first bought my sweet baby home from the hospital the word “routine” didn’t exist in my house. As new parents, my husband and I were in a daze of sleepless nights, diaper changes, feeding and rocking a crying baby.
Honestly, at times it was difficult to tell when one day finished at the next day started.
Sound familiar? If you’re a new parent, it probably sounds exactly like what you’re currently going through.
I knew that I wanted to get the baby on some sort of a schedule as soon as I reasonably could. Obviously, everything doesn’t always go to plan when you have a tiny human to look after, but after some trial and error, I was able to successfully get our little guy on a pretty solid schedule.
This has been a godsend for me – instead of struggling to keep up with my daily tasks, I’ve now got a pretty good handle on things. And with a husband that works 12 hour days and frequently works away, this is essential!
As for nighttime sleeping, he’s been sleeping through the night since he was 12 weeks old. If you’re struggling with getting your child to sleep, then you’ll want to check out this post.
So, how do you get your baby on a schedule?
I started to try and implement a pretty loose schedule for my son when he was around 3 months old.
But here’s the facts on that – 3 months old is way too young to have a set schedule.
What I mean by that is that at 12 weeks of age, it’s impossible for you to implement a set-in-stone schedule. If your 12-week-old is hungry at 10am and he usually feeds at 10:30am, you can’t put his feed off for another half hour because that’s what you’ve got written in your schedule.
When baby wants to eat, baby needs to eat.
Having said that, I truly believe that you can start implementing guidelines and helping your baby start getting used to a loose schedule. In fact, I think this is essential – it provides baby with a sense of security and comfort, knowing what will come next.
As baby gets older, you’ll find that sticking to a schedule will become easier and your baby will actually start to come to expect certain things to happen at certain times of the day.
For example, baby will soon start to learn that a warm bath, a story and then a dimly lit feeding session mean that it’s time for bed.
Here are some tips for establishing a schedule for your baby:
Help them to learn the difference between night and day
This is something my son’s pediatrician pointed out to me, and I kind of had a “duh” moment. Why hadn’t I already thought of that?
When a baby first arrives in the world, they don’t know the difference between night and day. When they were in the womb, it was always exactly the same – dark and warm. Now, suddenly it’s bright then dark, cold then hot, etc.
So it’s your job to help your child differentiate between night and day, and what those both mean. When it’s daytime, keep the house bright, play music, talk, do housework etc.
Then at night, do the opposite. Turn off the lights, keep everything dark and quiet. This way baby will learn that nighttime is for quietness and sleeping.
Establish a bedtime routine
Establishing a routine in the evenings is probably the easiest way to start getting your baby on a schedule. Every night, do the same thing. This might include a warm bath, then getting into pajamas, reading a book then having a nighttime feed before putting baby in his Baby Merlin sleepsuit. Eventually, your baby will start to realize that all of these things mean it’s time for bed.
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Stick to your schedule
I understand that this isn’t always possible 100% of the time, but I believe part of the reason why we were able to establish a schedule for our son was because we stuck to the schedule as much as we could.
It might be tempting to stray from the schedule a few nights a week to go out for dinner or to a friends house, etc., but by sticking to the schedule as much as possible, we were able to get a good routine going. Yes, it might suck having to forgo evening events but just know that it’s not forever, and it’s worth it when baby is happy and well rested.
Watch for cues
I soon realized that my son would start to show some cues at approximately the same time every day, that would let me know certain things, like if he was hungry or tired. I would write these cues down and the time they occurred, and look for patterns.
Once I realized that he would start to rub his eyes at a certain time, I would start putting him down for a nap just before that.
Having said that, this is the schedule that I set up for my son.
My Daily Schedule With a 3-Month-Old Baby (as a SAHM – obviously this would be different if I was working outside the home.)
At around 7am, my son will start stirring. I get up and prepare his bottle. I’ll feed him, change his diaper, and bring him into bed to cuddle for a little while.
At 7:30am I put him under his play mat while I take the time to make myself a quick breakfast. After eating my breakfast, I’ll join him for the next hour and a half, playing, reading books, singing songs, etc.
During this time, I’ll also do some at-home exercises to help heal my diastasis recti.
At around 9am, I can tell baby is starting to get tired, so I put him down for his morning nap.
I don’t use the “cry it out” method, but I also don’t rush into his room the moment I hear him whimper. I use what’s called “the pause.”
(I learned this from probably one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read – “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman.)
Basically, “the pause” means that if I know my son isn’t hungry, has a clean diaper, isn’t too hot or too cold, etc, then instead of immediately going back into his room when he starts crying, I stand at his door and “pause.”
I give him a minute or so to see if he stops crying. If not, I’ll go into his room, place my hand gently on his chest and hush him. When he stops crying, I repeat.
This has worked really well for us!
Once he’s settled, I take a shower and then pull out my Macbook and get to work. The next couple of hours are spent doing whatever work needs to be done for the day.
10:30 – 11am
Between 10:30 – 11am, he’ll wake up, ready for his next bottle and diaper change.
If he wakes up wanting his bottle earlier than normal, I’ll try to distract him until it’s time to eat. If that doesn’t work, then I will feed him and adjust his schedule a bit (remember, when you’re experimenting with a schedule, flexibility is the key.)
The next couple of hours are spent playing, going for a walk in the neighborhood, spending some time in the sun, playing with the dog etc.
During this time I also try to get some light housework done, start prepping for dinner, washing bottles, putting a load of laundry in, etc.
Sometimes I will read aloud to him whatever book I am currently reading (right now we’re reading “Buffett – The Making of an American Capitalist”, but his favorite book is “Humpty Bumpty Dumpty” – haha!)
Around 1pm, he’s usually starting to get tired again. I put him down for his afternoon nap then do some study (I’m always learning, taking online courses etc), research and a bit more writing.
Baby usually wakes around 2pm, ready for his next bottle and diaper change. We do some more cuddling, playing and reading.
He spends some time in his favorite chair, listening to music and playing with his favorite ball while I finish any dinner prep, fold laundry, do some more housework, etc.
My husband usually arrives home from work around 6pm. We spend the next hour or so together until baby is ready to eat again. My husband usually does the 6pm feed.
After baby has been fed and bathed, we eat dinner, take turns to shower, and then put him down at about 8pm. (Remembering to use “the pause”.)
Once baby is asleep, we’ll either watch some TV (usually it’s Shark Tank, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, American Ninja Warrior or Undercover Boss), read a book, chat about our day, etc.
At about 9pm, baby wakes up for his “dream feed.” After feeding we put him down to sleep in his Magic Sleepsuit, complete a final few daily tasks (paying bills, putting the final touches on writing tasks etc) then we go to bed around 9:30pm or 10pm.
I think it’s important to remember the following points:
- In the first couple of months, a schedule is pretty much impossible
- Every baby is different, and every family is different
- Your schedule has to be flexible
For me, once I was able to get my son to start sleeping through the night, setting up a daytime schedule became a lot easier.
To start your own schedule, I recommend sitting down and writing down all of the tasks you want to get done during the day.
Mine would look something like this:
- Complete diastasis recti exercises
- Write 1 blog post
- Complete 2 modules of online course
- Clean baby bottles
- Cook dinner
- Do one load of laundry
- Do some light housework
- Read one chapter of my book
- Take baby on 4-mile walk
Then, allocate a realistic amount of time to each task.
Once you’ve done that, add up the total amount of time you need to get everything done, then start sectioning off your day into time slots, and figuring out which period of time you can insert each task.
Try to prioritize your tasks so the most important ones are done first, that way if something pops up, they’re already done 🙂
The key to succeeding with this is that you have to be flexible and recognize that things happen that are out of your control, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you didn’t get your workout in, or you didn’t get around to vacuuming the bedroom.
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