Ah baby schedules. It’s a magical phrase, isn’t it?
For many moms, especially first-time moms, it almost sounds too good to be true, like an urban legend. However, they do exist and do work for many moms…eventually.
What is a Baby Schedule?
This schedule refers to training your child to sleep and wake and feed at approximately the same time daily. They learn to recognize day and night eventually (in the first 3 months) and start sleeping more at night (but not usually throughout). The idea is to start creating some type of schedule or timetable where they get into the habit of taking their naps, feeds and bedtime routines at approximately the same time daily, to ensure they are getting enough hours of sleep for their age and so forth.
Should I Be Doing a Schedule?
This is a personal choice. You may feel you need to know what is approximately occurring on a daily basis or feel you want to have a routine that is consistent. Perhaps you want to train your child that bedtime is a certain time so you have some quiet time at night (some nights). You may just need to leave them with a sitter or child care provider some days and it’s easier for you to leave instructions based on a when/what/where basis. Or perhaps you have certain classes, programs or appointments you partake in with your child and need to be adhering to a certain time on a routine basis.
If any of the above situations pertain to you, a schedule may not be a bad idea. It can help to keep, or aim to keep, some type of routine in your daily life. Keep in mind, however, these are babies and small children, so although schedules are great, there will be some days that things won’t always go according to plan. A schedule also takes some work up front to get going. So if you are willing to do that, you may benefit.
OK, It’s For Me. When Do I Need to Start?
This is debatable. The first 3 months of life, really is the infant being in the driver’s seat. Many nurses/experts may advise that at this stage just try to get them to learn day and night, but not fretting too much about a schedule. At this stage, their feeding is likely to be around the clock (every 2-3 hours), and so it is alright to not have a set schedule. In fact, I would say it’s probably difficult and unnecessary to worry about schedules in the early stages, though perhaps good practice for you.
Generally speaking, once your child is starting to sleep longer, you will notice a pattern that they are able to sleep longer and what times. When this is the case, you can try to ensure you are putting them down for their naps at the same time daily, and get them ready for bed at the same time daily. Whether they actually sleep right at that time, don’t worry…just keep at it for yourself. This includes making feeding occur when they wake, or before they go down. You will notice they will start to create one for themselves with you nudging it into place. For most, this is usually after 4-6 months. By the 6-9 month stage, babies may begin to adhere to a schedule more so.
Schedules Are not Set in Stone
A big thing to remember is that even if you establish a schedule with your child, as they grow, or hit a growth spurt or reach milestones, you will notice the schedule may shift. This is normal. So you may find you have to somewhat start from scratch again. Ah the joys, we know!
So knowing that, it’s fair to say for the first year of their life, be prepared to be flexible and adjust as needed. You sometimes have to go with the flow.
Here is a rough idea of a sample schedule at 9-12 months (that is having some solids and 2 naps). The unscheduled times is whatever you do with the baby in the day, play, activities, etc.
- 8am – Wake up
- 830am – Breakfast / Feeding
- 10am – Snack
- 1030am – Feeding followed with a Nap
- 12pm – Lunch / Feeding
- 2pm – Snack
- 3pm – Feeding followed with a Nap
- 430pm – Snack
- 6pm – Dinner
- 7pm – Bath and Start Bedtime routine (bath, massage, book, songs, etc.)
- 730pm – Feeding and Sleep
Note: This is completely a sample schedule just to give an idea, not a suggestion (as you know your baby best). Also, for younger babies, you may need to add an additional nap or more feeds.
*Images Courtesy of Shutterstock