The Ultimate Guide To An Easy Baby Routine With A Unique Twist!

By  Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 29 January 2021

So what is an easy baby routine and is it actually achievable? An easy baby routine is one that works for you and for your baby . It is the routine that feels right and one that suits your lifestyle and your family.

Getting your newborn into an easy baby routine does not need to be complicated. It may feel impossible in the early days but I believe it is achievable to establish a healthy and easy baby routine by following a few simple guidelines that I have found work for most babies.

You may ask if babies really need a schedule and my answer to that would definitely be yes! A good routine makes your baby feel safe and secure and allows you to have some semblance of control over your day. Having a baby is exhausting and can be more so if you can't get into some sort of routine that prevents you from feeling overwhelmed.

Ultimate Guide To An Easy Baby Routine

When should you start an e.A.S.Y baby routine

You can start implementing a routine for your baby whenever you feel is the right time to do so. Even at the beginning when you are demand feeding an easy baby routine just means following a certain order in which you can structure your day to make it feel more easy to cope with.

Sleep rhythms begin to develop in babies at around 6 weeks and most babies are capable of regular sleep schedule by 3- 6 months, however it is possible to nudge your baby into a good feeding and sleep schedule from very early on by helping him to sleep and eat on a schedule that fits in with your day and allows you to maximise your time and to ensure you get as much sleep as possible too.

Of course if you choose to demand feed and do not wish to craft a tighter routine that is fine and many mothers are happy to do this. Whatever your approach, it is important that you should focus on loving and caring for your baby and making sure they are getting all the food and sleep they need.

If you feel you would like to try and have a bit more control over your day and night then my suggestions on how to work towards an easy baby routine might be just what you are looking for.

E = Eat

A = Activity

S = Sleep

Y = You

What you need to know about babies & sleep

Day and Night Confusion

A lot of new babies (including my own son!) have day and night confusion where they appear to want to take their long sleep in the day time and wake more frequently during the night.

The first step is to teach your baby to sleep for less time during the day by not letting them sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. If this means that you have to wake your baby for a feed then do so. This will probably mean than your baby will be quite sleepy and may fall back to sleep after only a few minutes of feeding.

If this is the case there are a few simple things you can do to ensure they stay awake to take a full feed which is important if you are to establish an easy newborn routine. So if your baby is struggling to stay awake to feed , try the following:

  • Rub or tickle their feet
  • If necessary strip baby down to their nappy
  • Wet their face with a damp cool cloth or baby wipe
  • Make sure you burp thoroughly halfway through feed
  • Feed in a bright and airy room
  • Encourage your baby to stay awake for a while after a feed during the day
easy baby routine day and night confusion

Some of these measures may appear a little harsh, but they are not something that you are going to have to do on an ongoing basis. They do work and you will find that very quickly things will begin to turn around. Your aim is to make sure that you baby sleeps and eats every 3 hours during the day and takes full feeds.

Another good tip to help with day / night confusion is to make sure that day time feeds and that includes the early morning feed at around 7 am is taken in bright natural light and than the evening feeds are low key and taken in a darkened dimly lit room. Your baby will soon learn the difference between the two types of feed.

I don't think it is ever too early to establish a healthy baby bedtime routine and although day and night meld into one in the early days for you and for baby I believe you can implement these easy and very doable elements into your baby routine within 2-4 weeks.

Establishing bedtime routine

It is important to make a definite mood difference when it comes to early evening and night time feeds. A good bedtime routine should be simple and consistent and you should aim to follow the routine even when you are away from home.

Once your baby has reached 6 weeks old the early evening feed should be taken in a quiet and dimly lit room after a bath and without any disturbances. Look out for your babies sleepiness cues to make sure you get the timing right. It is a good idea to have a room thermometer to monitor the temperature in the room where your baby will sleep as this will have an influence on how well they sleep. Aim for a temperature between 18-21 C.

Once you have all this in place you can then settle your baby in their crib and hopefully have a little bit of down time yourself. This is a good time to introduce a white noise machine to help your baby sleep undisturbed.

Part of an easy baby routine is to make sure you have a quiet time yourself at the end of a busy day so try and forget the chores at this time, sit down with your partner, read your older child a bedtime story and give yourself a well earned rest. You will hear me advocating a healthy bedtime routine a lot and that is because I feel it is hugely important that you get this right from the beginning to ensure you get the time you need at the end of the day to recharge your batteries. Part of being a good parent is making sure you look after yourself too.

Sleep is so important for both you and your child and will continue to be so. Parenting is tiring and you will need all the sleep you can get so encourage your baby to have good sleep habits as soon as you can. Part of being a good parent is making sure you look after yourself too.

Over tiredness

Getting your baby into a easy baby routine will be helped by not letting your baby become over tired. In my experience sleep breeds sleep and too little sleep can actually mean your baby will struggle to establish a good sleep routine.

A newborn baby can handle around 45 minutes of wakefulness while a 6 month old can manage a couple of hours. With this in mind in the early months you should try to make sure that they get enough sleep during the day as it will ensure that they sleep better at night.

An overtired baby will cry and become difficult to settle as they become more stressed and may wake again quite soon after settling. This may sound counter intuitive, but that is why sleep and enough of it at the right times in the day are so important for young babies. When I hear mothers say that they had changed baby's nappy, fed him, made sure he wasn't too hot etc and he still didn't settle, chances are their baby was overtired.

Sleep Cues

In order to get your baby to follow an easy baby routine you need to be able to spot the sleep cues that will help you ensure your baby does not become over tired. Signs to look out for are:

  • Rubbing ears, eyes or head
  • Fussiness and jerkiness
  • Yawning
  • Shrill crying
Easy Baby Routine sleep cues

An extremely overtired baby is difficult to calm & settle and they may scream & stiffen causing you to think they have wind or something else is amiss, when if fact they are just overtired. Take the baby to a quiet peaceful location and gently talk and rock them until they begin to calm. You may need to rock them fully to sleep in order to put them down as they will not be able to self settle at this point. Be prepared for your little one to wake soon after being put down and you may need to help them re settle.

White Noise

White noise machines are a relatively new addition to helping your baby into a healthy sleep routine. When used correctly they can be a god-send and I would advise investing in a good quality machine as not all white noise machines can create the sounds most suitable to settling your baby and helping them stay asleep at the correct level.

Using a white noise machine at the correct level is of paramount importance with a constant level of no higher than 64-70dB.

Even for easy babies white noise is extremely useful as it will help avoid potential blips in a settled baby routine such as when you stop swaddling, your baby becomes more aware and social, or when teething.

When these hiccups occur the white noise that your baby has become accustomed to will act as a cue to go to sleep. Slow low rumbling sounds are best to soothe your baby or a constant steady sound like rainfall.

It is not advisable to use white noise for nap time as it should be reserved for night time sleep only. As I said earlier it is good for your baby to get used to the usual everyday sounds of the household at nap time, but at night when all is quiet, white noise will prevent your baby from being disturbed when longer periods of sleep are required for everybody.

Swaddling

To swaddle or not to swaddle that is a question. Many babies respond to swaddling well as it makes them feel safe and secure and prevents them from startling themselves awake (the Moro Reflex). Some babies do not like to be swaddled and of course in this is the case I would not recommend it. But, in either case you should always lay your baby to sleep on their back.

If your do decide to swaddle your newborn it is extremely important that you do it correctly and stop swaddling as soon as your baby shows signs of being able to roll over. Always use a breathable material such a cotton receiving blanket or a specialised baby swaddle. Never layer them as it is extremely important that your baby does not overheat.

Remember to not swaddle above your babies shoulders and use hip healthy techniques to ensure your baby can move their hips and knees. Your babies legs should be able to fall into a natural position.

I would not recommend swaddling beyond 2-3 months as by then your baby should be ready to learn to go to sleep without it although many parents swaddle up to 6 months. While some babies will make it quite clear that they no longer enjoy the restriction of being swaddled, others will miss the comfort of it once the time comes to stop.

If you baby is struggling with stopping swaddling  try gradually reducing the tension of the swaddle and then moving to just swaddling legs loosely. This should allow you to wean your baby off the swaddle should they have trouble settling without it.

I personally would not swaddle during the day beyond the first few weeks as then swaddling should be reserved for night time sleep only.

Self Settling

When your baby is around 3 weeks old and got into the rhythm of taking full feeds with day and night time confusion sorted, you can start to think about building self settling into your easy baby routine.

You might have concerns that this is too early but newborn babies quite naturally self settle and you need to encourage this good habit. As babies grow older they stop self settling naturally and you will find it harder to re introduce.

Ways to encourage self settling are to make sure your baby is well fed, nappy changed and not overtired. Then simply put your baby in their own crib while they are drowsy and let them fall asleep alone. They will probably stare off into space for a bit first or even fall asleep straight away.

While there is always the temptation to rock your little one to sleep this is fine occasionally but on the most part I would recommend that after the first few weeks, making the most of the fact that a newborn will be able to self settle.

easy baby routine self settling

As your baby gets older you should allow them to lie in their crib for short periods of time looking at a mobile for entertainment so that they get used to not being held all the time.

Sleep Association

Healthy and sustainable sleep association is essential to getting your baby into an easy baby routine. If your baby needs you in order to fall asleep then that is an unsustainable sleep association. This will mean that whenever your baby wakes they will need you to settle them back to sleep. Not great.

So how do you teach your baby to have healthy sleep associations that will help your baby self settle?

  • Encourage self settling
  • If you are feeding your baby to sleep then try feeding them in their swaddle or sleeping bag so they associate the feeling of these with cuddling you and getting drowsy. It is never too early to start with positive sleep associations so always putting your baby in a swaddle or sleeping bag for bedtime is a good way for your baby to get the cue that sleep is imminent
  • Use a swaddle or sleeping bag rather than a blanket
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy instead of letting them fall asleep in your arms
  • Pat your baby on their chest while they are falling asleep, slowly decreasing the amount of time you do this for. Try to leave before your baby is fully asleep
  • White noise is a positive sleep association as it will calm and comfort your baby and they will associate it with sleep time
  • Dummies if used should be reserved for sleep time only. The downside is that until your baby is able to put the dummy back in themselves (around 5 month old) you may have to get up in the night to put the dummy back in
  • Follow a consistent nap and bedtime routine

What you need to know about babies and feeding

Cluster Feeding

Cluster feeding is a term used for when newborns need a lot of short feeds at a specific time in the day. Frequent feeding is essential for newborn babies and they will feed at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period especially if they are breast fed as breast milk is more easily digested than formula.

A new born baby's stomach is only the size of a marble when first born so it needs to be replenished often. This can feel like you are constantly feeding in the beginning, but this feeding is essential to your babies development and growth.

Cluster feeding can happen at any time of the day but more often than not it occurs in the evening and night time. If your newborn seems inclined to cluster feed in the early evening this can help them sleep for longer periods during the night as they stock up so you should look at this as a positive.

Not all newborn babies will cluster feed but if they do you just need to ride it out as it usually disappears after the first few weeks. Should this not be the case, it might be wise to check that your baby is gaining weight as they should.

Whilst this phase can be exhausting you should use it is a time for bonding and being close to your baby and remember this pattern of feeding will not last.

Dream Feed

A dream feed is when a baby takes a feed while they are not fully awake and is usually given between 10pm and midnight in order to allow you to have a longer stretch of sleep at night. It is a method that I have often used with a huge amount of success and therefore something I feel must be included in my easy baby routine.

You can introduce dream feeding as soon as your baby is going for longer than stretches of 4 hours sleep at night. Once they have reached this stage by waking them to feed before you go to bed will hopefully allow you to have a decent stretch of sleep before you have to wake for a night time feed.

Every extra hour of sleep is so valuable and if it works for you and your baby is happy to be roused to be fed and settles again then it will definitely help you get some much needed rest. The advantages of dream feeding are:

  • Your baby will get the extra calories they need to sleep better at night
  • The feed is at a convenient time to you to maximise your sleep
  • The feed is not a response to crying so association of crying at night and being fed will be less habit forming
  • Your baby will eat less in the middle of the night an therefore boost daytime feeding
easy baby routine dream feed

When to stop in the dream feed will be different from baby to baby but I would say that generally you could stop dream feeding 2-4 weeks after your baby is sleeping well from the time of the dream feed through to the morning.

Routines

Now that we have covered some of the fundamental tools you need to establish an easy baby routine I have listed some easy baby schedules for you to base your everyday routine around. There is always some flexibility on times for example at the beginning and the end of the day, but the sequence of events is the key and making sure your baby has enough to eat and enough sleep in any 24 hour period.

Don't beat yourself up if some days things don't go to plan. Life is like that and baby routines are sometimes thrown when normal life gets in the way. So if you have a bad day, don't panic. Tomorrow is another day so dust yourself off and start again.

As you get to know your baby, things will become more intuitive and second nature. You will learn what works for you and for them so no matter how much advice you get or how much you read about what is best try and take what feels right and run with it.

Easy baby routines and schedules for different ages

Getting into an easy baby routine at any stage means making sure your baby has enough to eat and understanding how much sleep your baby needs. Quite simply babies need a lot of sleep and they need to eat little and often. The amount of sleep and food they need will change as they grow, but in the beginning your newborn does not yet stay in REM sleep for long periods of time so will wake more often and easily. On average a newborn baby will not manage to stay awake for longer than 35 -40 minutes after a feed but by 6 weeks old this will have gradually started to increase and their sleep cycle will have developed to a point that they can stay asleep for longer periods of time.

0-6 Weeks Schedule

And you're off! Take things slow and take the time to get to know your baby. Enjoy these weeks and don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing OK.

Key Points:
  • Amount of sleep in a 24 hour period 15-18 hours
  • Time for which baby can stay awake between sleeps 30 minutes to an 1 hour
  • Longest night time sleep 2-4 hours

Time Of Day

Routine

7am

Day should start with a feed

8am

First nap of the day around

8am-6:30pm

Daytime feeds and naps as needed

6pm

When you are ready introduce bath time and feed

Bedtime

Night time feeds as baby needs

Tips:

  • Don't be tempted to let your baby stay awake for longer than 1 hour as this will result in an overtired baby who is difficult to settle
  • Feed when baby needs but wake baby to feed if they have not done so during the day after 3 hours
  • Start putting your baby down to sleep whilst drowsy
  • Make sure there is clear distinction between day and night feeds
  • Change nappy before feeds during the night and not after as it will over stimulate them

2-3 months schedule

Now you are ready to get your baby to sleep for longer periods of time. If you have not done so already now is the time to establish good sleep habits like self settling and a good bedtime routine.

Key points:

  • Amount of sleep in a 24 hour period 14-16 hours
  • Time for which baby can stay awake between sleeps 45 mins to 2 hours
  • Longest night time sleep 3-6 hours

Time Of Day

Routine

6:30am-7am

Day should start with a feed

8am

First nap of the day around

8am-6:30pm

Daytime feeds and naps as needed

6:30pm

Bath time

7.30-8pm

Bedtime and feed in darkened room after bath

10pm - 12pm

Wake to Dream Feed before your bedtime once baby can go 4 hours without waking

Night time feeds as baby needs

Tips:

  • Continue to watch that your baby does not stay awake for too long a periods during the day as over tiredness and over stimulation in the day will lead to unsettled night time sleep
  • Naps can be taken when out for a walk, in the car or outside in a pram
  • Feed when baby needs but wake baby to feed if they have not done so during the day after 3 hours
  • If you have not done so already start putting your baby down to sleep whilst drowsy and showing sleep cues
  • Implement a bedtime routine by using calming activities before bedtime like, bath, feed, lullaby and bed.
  • Use a white noise machine at night time

4-6 months schedule

This period of time in your baby schedule will see a great deal of change. A lot depends on the baby and some may be down to 2 naps a day while others will not. Some will showing signs of sleep regression and others may be sleeping through the night.

Whatever your baby is doing at this point it is comforting to know that sleeping through the night is within your grasp. This is primarily due to the developmental milestones your baby will achieve during this period. However your biggest challenge will be the transitions that take place during this time such as stopping swaddling, moving baby into a cot and or into their own room for example.

Key Points:

  • Amount of sleep in a 24 hour period 12-15 hours
  • Time for which baby can stay awake between sleeps 1.5-2.5 hours (sometimes longer)
  • Longest night time sleep 4-8 hours

Time Of Day

Routine

7am-8am

Day should start with a feed

7am-6pm

Naps would usually be 3 times a day each at 1-3 hours long (some babies may only be taking two naps by this time one mid morning and another in the afternoon).

6pm

Bath time

7-8pm

Bedtime after feed in darkened room

Your Bedtime

Dream feed before your bedtime 

Most babies will be needing 5-6 feeds a day and some will still need one night time feed. Now you can either continue to dream feed before your bedtime and hope your baby sleeps for up to 8 hours, but you may feel happy to wake just once in the night and feed. You will quite naturally find that your baby will start to go for longer and longer periods in the night without waking to feed until that all important 8 hours stretch has been achieved.

Tips:

  • Continue to make sure your baby does not become over tired.
  • Make sure your baby has 5-6 feeds during the day
  • When out and about watch for sleep cues and ensure you baby has enough nap time.
  • Allow your baby to nap in the pram or car seat not all naps need to be taken at home in a cot
  • Don't let day time naps last for longer than 3 hours
  • Continue with the bedtime routine. Bath followed by bottle (lullaby or book) in a quiet darkened room and bed.
  • Use a white noise machine at night time
  • Watch for signs of sleep regression

If your baby does show signs of sleep regression there are things you can do to address the issue effectively. Most but not all babies will go through a sleep regression phase or phases at some point but if you are prepared for it to happen and know how to navigate your way through it rest assured that is only a blip in your babies otherwise healthy schedule.

6-10 months schedule

I can not stress enough that each baby is different and that each baby will have their own unique schedule. While I can give you basic guidelines for your baby's sleeping and eating schedule much will depend on whether you have been implementing my tips with regard to bedtime routines, learning sleep cues and sleep association and when you introduced them.

Try not to compare your baby to others as some will be sleeping for no more than 4 hours a night whilst others will have been sleeping through the night for weeks. Many babies do not sleep through the night until 6 months old but 70-80% of babies will be sleeping through the night by 9 months old.

Key Points:

  • Amount of sleep in a 24 hour period 11-15 hours
  • Time for which baby can stay awake between sleeps 2 or 3 hours (sometimes longer)
  • Longest night time sleep 5-10 hours

Time Of Day

Routine

7am

Day should start with a feed

7am-6pm

Naps would usually be 2 or 3 times a day each at 1-3 hours long (some babies may only be taking two naps by this time one mid morning and another in the afternoon).

During this time weaning will start followed by more structured meal times

6pm

Bath time

7.30-8.30 pm

Bedtime after feeding in darkened room

Your Bedtime

Dream feed before your bedtime if baby still not sleeping through

Tips:

  • Continue to make sure your baby does not become over tired
  • Your baby should be ready for weaning but will still require milk feeds up to 5 times a day
  • Continue to put baby down to nap whilst drowsy (watch for sleep cues)
  • Don't let day time naps last for longer than 3 hours
  • Continue with the bedtime routine. Bath, bottle (book or lullaby) and bed
  • Use a white noise machine at night time
  • Experiment with dropping the dream feed

10-12 months schedule

By this stage your baby will be far more active crawling, cruising and maybe even walking. They will be awake for far longer periods of time in the day playing and exploring their world. They will hopefully be sleeping through the night and pretty much on the same schedule as the rest of the household with the addition of 1 or 2 naps during the day.

Sleep regression may reoccur during this phase due to changes in routine, developmental milestones, being on the cusp of dropping the second day time nap or separation anxiety.

Key Points:

  • Amount of sleep in a 24 hour period 11-14 hours
  • Time for which baby can stay awake between sleeps 2.5-3.5 hours (sometimes longer)
  • Longest night time sleep 7-12 hours

Time Of day


Routine

6-7am

Day should start 

8am-6pm

Naps would usually be 1 or 2 times a day each at 1-2 hours long. (some babies may only be taking 1 nap by this time one mid morning and another in the afternoon)


Baby will now have proper meal times along with some snacks

6pm

Bath time

7pm-8pm

Bedtime after feed in darkened room

7-8pm-6-7am

Most babies should be sleeping through the night without the need for night time feeds

Tips:

  • Continue to make sure your baby does not become over tired.
  • Baby should be having 3 solid food meals a day supplemented with 3-4 milk feeds per day
  • Baby can now be having water from a cup
  • Around 10 months old baby's appetite may increase due to being more active and need some healthy snacks
  • Continue to put baby down to nap whilst drowsy (watch for sleep cues)Try and make sure at least one nap time is taken at home
  • Don't let day time naps last for longer than 2 hours
  • Continue with the bedtime routine. Bath, bottle /book and bed.
  • Use a white noise machine at night

With all these schedules that I have outlined for you please remember that they are only a guide. Each and every baby is different. Some babies will reach certain stages earlier than others and others will miss out some stages all together. As you get to know your baby you will instinctively begin to learn what works for them and for you. Only ever take the advice that you are comfortable with and as I always say, follow your instincts. As long as your baby is happy and loved, well fed and getting enough sleep and developing normally you are doing OK.

Easy Baby Routine
Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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