How to Get Newborn an a Schedule

Getting Your Baby Into a Predictable Routine

Those first few weeks probably feel like a blur. Your newborn seems to constantly eat, poop and sleep, but keeping track of everything is no easy task when you're running on stretches of an hour or two of sleep. Figuring out a routine that works for both you and your baby takes a little work, but it pays off with predictability that makes your life easier.

When Is Baby Ready for a Schedule?

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You may be ready for a schedule now, but your little one may need some time. Babies are usually ready to begin settling into a schedule around 2 to 4 months old. By 4 to 6 months old, she can handle a relatively consistent routine. Giving her some time to adjust to life on the outside makes the schedule easier. Before 2 months old, it's best to follow your baby's lead by feeding on demand and meeting her needs as they arise.

Sleeping Schedule

New parents live for a regular sleep schedule. It's tough to plan your day when you have no idea when your little bundle will wake or sleep. Newborns often get confused between night and day. Your baby might sleep all day long only to be wide awake and ready for party time at night. Getting your baby on a normal sleeping schedule helps get other parts of the schedule on track.

Even if your newborn is still a bit unpredictable on sleeping, you can prepare her for a routine by establishing bedtime rituals from the beginning. Follow the same set of activities before bedtime each night. A good routine often includes a bath, diaper change, pajamas, feeding and rocking.

Around 3 to 4 months, start putting your baby in her crib when she's still awake. If she is able to fall completely to sleep on her own without being rocked or fed, she is better able to get into a good routine that doesn't require you to do everything.

If your newborn sleeps too much during the day and stays awake at night, do what you can to help her learn the difference. Create a bright environment during the day, and engage your baby in age-appropriate activities to show that daytime is for play. At nighttime when you want your baby to sleep, dim the lights, and create a calm, quiet environment.

Feeding Schedule

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Experts recommend feeding newborns on demand for the first several months. That simply means you watch for hunger cues, such as rooting, smacking lips and making sucking actions, to know when to feed your baby. Feeding on demand instead of on a schedule ensures your newborn gets the nutrition he needs. Without the frequent on-demand feedings in the first few months, he may have delays in growth and development.

Your little one should start to show patterns in his eating habits around age 3 to 4 months. He'll eat about the same amount at similar times each day. Once he falls into this natural routine, you can track those times, so you know when to anticipate his next meal. Instead of waiting until he gets hungry, you can start offering him the breast or bottle at those times.

Other Activity Scheduling

Newborns also have a time when they're alert that falls between napping and eating. Like the other parts of the routine, her play time naturally emerges as she settles into life outside the womb. Watch for patterns to identify the times when your baby is most alert. These are ideal times for activities like tummy time and interactive time with you.

Tips for Your Newborn's Schedule

Taking cues from your baby's natural patterns helps you find a schedule that works for him. Fine-tuning those patterns makes it work for you, too. Use these tips to polish the routine:

  • Expect changes as your baby gets older. He might take shorter naps, go longer between meals or eat more food at certain times. Growth spurts can also change his normal habits. Stay flexible in the routine to account for those changes.
  • Keep the routine consistent once you establish it. Frequent changes to the schedule can throw off your baby's rhythm.
  • Understand that no schedule is perfect. Your baby will have some days when the schedule goes out the door. Accepting that the schedule is more of a guideline than a strict hour-by-hour breakdown of activities makes the process less stressful.
  • Keep your baby's well-being at the heart of your schedule instead of focusing on what's convenient for you. The schedule needs to work for you, but meeting your baby's needs is the main priority.
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