How to Create the Best Baby Bedtime and Daytime Routines
Babies thrive on routine—and so do new moms and dads. That’s why creating and maintaining daily rituals that give order to your day can be a lifesaver as you transition to having a newborn at home.
But how, exactly, do you figure out the right routine for you and your baby? We’ve got the guidance you need to easily set up a baby routine for all different phases of your baby’s development so you can create more little magic parenting moments, both day and night.
And a word to the wise: Remember that flexibility is key. A schedule that’s too rigid can end up leaving you both stressed and unhappy—the exact opposite of what a schedule is supposed to do for you.
How to Establish Your Newborn Baby Routine
In the first few weeks and months, follow your baby’s lead to get them into a groove of when it’s time to eat, play, and sleep. Although at first all your baby’s cries may sound the same, you’ll quickly learn to distinguish through the sound of the cry and your baby’s body language if he or she is hungry, tired, in need of a diaper change, or in distress. Use these cues to set up an “eat-play-sleep” routine that repeats every 2 to 3 hours, such as this one:
- Eat: Feed your baby when they wake up—but if they’re not hungry, don't force it. Afterwards, it’s time for a diaper (and maybe an outfit) change.
- Play: Play is how your baby learns about the world, so build in time to play with rattles and toys with high-contrast patterns, do tummy time, and sing, talk, cuddle, and interact with your baby. And remember this time isn’t just about learning, it’s also a way to strengthen the bond and connection you have with your little one.
- Sleep: Put your baby down for a nap or bedtime before they start yawning and fussing (you’ll quickly learn the signs that your baby is starting to tire of play—they may become upset when you try to get their attention, or wriggle, flap their arms, or kick their legs).
- A smart baby bassinet that’s equipped with sound and motion to help your baby sleep longer can be an essential tool to help you establish a solid sleep routine, so rely on this important piece of equipment for better sleep during this phase of your baby’s life.
This newborn routine is just a suggested schedule. If your baby needs you to go through the steps in a different order or repeat it every 90 minutes or even every 4 hours, don’t sweat it. Remember: the schedule doesn’t own you; you own the schedule.
How to Establish an Older Baby’s Routine
Once your baby is 4- to 6-months old, it’s time to start thinking about creating a distinct routine for days and nights. Consistency is the key to a successful routine: whether it’s naptime or bedtime, put your baby down in the same spot and signal that it’s sleep time by going through set motions, such as pulling down the blinds and dimming lights, turning off electronics, and playing soothing white noise or lullabies.
Baby Day Routine
Many parents anchor their daily routine in naptime, with three two-hour naps spaced throughout the day for 4- and 5-month olds and a one- or two-hour nap in the morning and afternoon for babies between 6-12 months old. Make sure your baby is fed and has a clean diaper before laying him or her down in their crib or playard.
And remember that a good nap schedule during the day will help your baby sleep better at night, so do your best to keep your baby on—or at least close to—the schedule you’ve created for naps. If your baby is having trouble staying awake during the day, get down on the floor to play or go for a walk with the stroller.
Baby Nighttime Routine
By 4-6 months, many babies are able to sleep through the night without a feeding—which means a better night’s sleep for you, too. A solid baby bedtime routine can help you both get the shuteye you need for better days.
Start by taking note of when your baby naturally sleeps for the longest stretch and time your schedule around when they fall asleep. A consistent bedtime routine, where you start getting ready for bed at the same time each night, will pay off with easier evenings for you both.
Before bedtime, feed your baby so they don’t wake up in the middle of the night because they’re hungry, and try putting your baby down while they’re drowsy but not yet asleep so they learn to fall asleep on their own. Don’t be discouraged if your baby needs to be rocked to sleep; just keep trying every few weeks until your baby is able to fall asleep on their own outside of your arms.
Take a Deep Breath—You’ve Got This!
While the prospect of creating a baby routine might seem daunting, most experienced parents will agree that the time spent creating a predictable rhythm for your days and nights is worth it in the end. Both you and your baby will be happier, more bonded—and much better rested.