How to Create a Daily Routine For Your Baby
Creating a daily routine can help your baby understand that certain things happen at predictable times. This can include naptimes, feeds, activities, outings, and bedtime.
However, even if you have a good schedule in place, your toddler may decide to skip a nap or wake up earlier than usual. This is normal and often linked to baby growth spurts or illness.
Establish a consistent sleep schedule
As babies grow older, they can learn to sleep for longer periods of time overnight and will benefit from having a daily routine with predictable nap times and feeds. However, this may take time to develop. If you have a toddler, this can be especially challenging.
Newborns don't understand the difference between day and night and can have trouble sleeping for long stretches. They also wake frequently during the night for feedings and tend to have short naps during the day. This can be frustrating for parents, but is normal and expected.
It can help to have a pre-sleep routine such as stories, baths, massage, and lullabies to soothe babies and signal that it is time to sleep. You can also try keeping lights low at bedtime and during night feedings.
Babies are most likely to be awake for a short time after waking from a nap, and some may even have a "dream feed" at 10pm in which they are fed before going back to sleep. This can be helpful if your baby is struggling to sleep through the night and may give you more time to prepare for the next nap.
Plan regular feeding times
Many new parents struggle with the question of how often their babies should be fed. The answer is, of course, that it depends on your baby’s individual needs. However, many newborns seem to follow a basic routine of sleep, eat, cry, and poop, so establishing a predictable daily routine is important.
Newborns will typically need to feed every three to four hours during the day, while older infants can go longer between meals. When your baby is ready to start solids, it’s recommended that you offer her a variety of foods in small quantities until she’s established a healthy eating pattern.
Try to stick to a consistent bedtime routine, which includes a bath, book and lullaby. This will help your baby fall into a restful state before napping and sleep well through the night. If your baby experiences growth spurts (usually around 3, 6 and 9 months), you may need to adjust your schedule. It’s also normal for her to have fussy moments that don’t necessarily indicate hunger. If this is the case, first check for other factors such as being wet or tired.
Incorporate playtime and learning activities
If your little one isn’t yet interested in toys or a play mat, reading stories to them is another wonderful way to help develop their language skills. It can be as simple as sitting down with a favorite book before naptime, or as structured as reading a story at bedtime.
Newborns also love to listen to music, so turn on some baby-friendly tunes and sing along! Nursery rhymes and songs about animals or colors are great for their auditory development, as well as traditional music from their culture.
When they are a bit older, try playing games that encourage two-way communication. Play peekaboo with them, and use the daily face-to-face time of nappy-changing to practice making eye contact and talking. Try pointing out objects they can see on a walk outside (trees, birds, clouds, airplanes, etc.) – this helps their visual and cognitive development too! Also, try doing tummy time outdoors on a blanket or in a safe area of the park to help them build strength. They’ll love the fresh air and the opportunity to watch other kids play.
Allow for rest and relaxation
Newborns can be a lot to handle, and establishing a daily routine can help you feel more in control. This routine allows for regular nap times, feeding, activities, outings and time with you. This is especially important if you have other children who may not receive as much attention as the baby.
During this time, it is important to allow your newborn the chance to play and relax. This can be done with toys, a book, cuddling or playing a game with them. You can also take this time to put your toddler down for a nap or to play with them in the yard or at home.
Once your newborn has gotten the hang of sleeping and eating more regularly, it is helpful to set a daily schedule for them. This will keep them happy, and it can even be a great way to bond with your child. Keep in mind, though, that your child will go through growth spurts and may change their sleep habits or appetite. It is normal, and it will usually go back to the norm within a week.
Be flexible and adaptable
When creating a daily routine for your baby it is important to be flexible and adaptable. This is particularly true during the first few months of your child’s life when their sleep and eating habits will change regularly.
For example, some babies will need to feed more frequently than others during the day or may need to be fed while asleep. They may also wake up at night more often than other times or prefer to take a short nap at midday. It is a good idea to keep track of their feeding and sleeping habits so that you can create an approximate schedule.
Your baby’s schedule will also likely be disrupted by growth spurts or if they become sick. It is important to be patient and know that your baby is doing their best and will eventually adjust to their new schedule.
Use visual cues
A daily routine gives your baby a sense of predictability and stability. It also helps your baby understand their surroundings and develop their sense of time (e.g. day versus night). However, your baby will still have to adjust to many changes in their environment during these early stages.
Smiling Faces: Show baby pictures of family and friends to help them identify faces. Read with Sound Effects: When reading books, use your feet to make noises – stamping when someone in the story is walking or howling when a wolf is howling! This will add excitement to your readings and will help baby learn new sounds.
Play Peek-a-boo: Lay baby on a blanket on their tummy and gently cover their face with their hands or scarf. Then uncover their face and say “peek a boo!” This will encourage them to use their imagination and develop their play and communication skills. Playing with a Soft Touch: Hold baby by their ankles and move them in circles while saying “go, go, go!” This will help them use their legs and develop their motor and visual focus.
Get out of the house
At first, the thought of leaving the house with your baby can seem overwhelming. There’s a lot to think about, like coordinating nap and feed times around your outing and packing enough wipes and spare clothes to avert a food-nami or poo-tastrophe. But as your baby grows and begins to develop, it’s important to get out and interact with the world outside of your home.
So start small – meet a friend for lunch, run errands or go on a walk. Give yourself plenty of time – everything takes longer with a baby - and try to avoid having to juggle too many outings in one day if you can.
And don’t worry if your plans fall apart now and then – life with babies will have its unexpected interruptions! Just make sure you’re getting out daily to break up your baby’s busy day and help her develop and grow. Besides, it’s nice to have some adult interaction! Then everyone can relax and recharge for the afternoon. A good afternoon nap will help prepare your baby for a quiet, calm evening with you.
Be mindful of your own needs
While a baby schedule is helpful, it can also be stressful for both you and your newborn. Remember that newborns don’t respond to routines as well as older babies, and they often need help settling down to sleep and feeding. So, be flexible and focus on reading your baby’s cues. If they’re fussy, first ensure that they aren’t hungry or sick.
As your baby grows, you can gradually build up to a more structured daily routine. However, be mindful that your baby’s needs may still vary based on the time of day and their growth spurts.
For example, your infant may need to nap in a car seat or buggy while you take a walk with the toddler. Or, your baby may need to spend some time on their tummy before they’re ready for a feed. But, if you plan for these changes ahead of time, it will make a smoother transition. And, don’t forget to give yourself a break! Parenting is tiring, but it’s also a lot of fun with your growing child.
Creating a daily routine for your baby can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By establishing a consistent sleep schedule, planning regular feeding times, incorporating playtime and learning activities, allowing for rest and relaxation, and being flexible and adaptable, you can create a routine that promotes healthy sleeping and eating habits, supports learning and development, and reduces stress for both you and your baby. Remember to trust your instincts and seek support and advice from your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions about your baby's daily routine.