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How To Create A Flexible, Daily Newborn Schedule

could this be the secret to loving the newborn stage? I think so. Here's why.

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6 minute read

At first, it may seem like there’s no rhythm to your baby’s day and that all your little one wants to do is eat, sleep and be held in a giant blur! But once you’ve mastered your feeding routine and your baby starts to be awake for longer stretches during the day…You naturally start to wonder… “When will I ever sleep again?”

This is a natural question for new parents. In many ways our society glorifies lack of sleep as a “right of passage” into parenthood. But sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and fatigue can do a number on your physical and mental health. 

Whether you’re a new sleep-deprived parent with a newborn or a seasoned parent struggling to manage your little one’s days… The secret to dream-filled nights and loving these first weeks and months with your newborn is easier than you think. 

All it takes is bringing their basic needs — eating, wake time activities, and sleep — into balance. Let’s start off by taking a look at what’s top of mind: the importance of newborn sleep and the key to getting your little one to sleep through the night. 

Your Baby’s Sleep Needs: 

The truth of the matter is: no human being can survive without sleep. Studies have found that babies that sleep for longer, uninterrupted stretches at night become healthier — and SMARTER — babies. Healthy sleep creates well-adjusted, well-developed, happy babies!

And after several long weeks of nighttime feedings and interrupted sleep, you may be wondering how you can help your little one sleep for longer stretches at night. 

Well, if you have a safe and workable sleep arrangement set up and you’re past the first 2 weeks of postpartum recovery, then read on.

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The Secret To Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night:

Getting your baby to sleep through the night doesn’t happen by chance. That’s because sleep is a learned skill. Teaching your little one to sleep at night takes planning, commitment to a daily routine, and hard work.

The good news is that you can start to help your baby learn how to sleep as soon as they’re born! There’s no need to wait until they’re 4 or 6 months old to start “sleep training.” There are simple solutions you can put into place TODAY that will help your little one learn how to sleep on their own. 

The secret to success? Keeping a consistent, daily routine is one of the most important things you can do for your child.

That’s because human beings thrive on routine. And so does your baby! Establishing rhythms throughout your baby’s days actually leads to more continuous nighttime sleep. 

Those first few weeks can be a blur. But as you start to emerge from the haze of parenting a newborn, you’ll start to notice certain patterns about your baby’s day. What should you be looking for? 

Elements of Your Baby’s Daily Routine: 

Your baby’s day is really pretty simple. Let’s take a look at the 3 basic elements of your baby’s daily routine: eating, wake times, and sleep.  

1. Eating: 

Most likely, establishing a feeding routine will be one of your first priorities after your baby is born. That’s a good thing because making sure your baby is getting the proper nutrition they need is the first step to sleeping better — and longer — at night. 

Whether you’re chest/breast feeding or bottle feeding, it’s important to make sure your baby gets a full feeding after they wake up from a nap or sleep period. Paying attention to when your baby’s last feeding was in addition to their hunger cues will set you up for success. 

2. Wake Times: 

As your little one gets older, they’ll continue to have longer and longer wake times throughout the day. At first this will only last long enough for them to eat. But gradually they’ll be awake longer than their diaper change and will have the energy to play! 

The key is to keep up with your baby’s developmental changes so that you can interact with them through age-appropriate activities while they’re awake…without overstimulating them! When your baby is active throughout their wake time, this will lead to more successful and consistent nighttime sleep. 

3. Sleep: 

It’s so important to follow your baby’s sleepy cues so they don’t become overtired. Your baby needs to take age-appropriate naps because keeping your baby awake too long can cause them to struggle going to sleep. 

On the other hand, too much sleep during the day can lead to your little one only being able to sleep a certain number of hours at night. It’s all about finding the right balance of daytime and nighttime sleep for your little one. 

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Other Elements Of Your Newborn Schedule

One thing I really encourage moms to consider as they are thinking about their newborn schedule, is all the other tasks that are important to you to keep you as a mom feeling whole and your house running. Not only does your newborn need a routine, but you need predictable times to shower, exercise, work, prep meals, do laundry, see friends etc.

One thing that really helps create an overall sense of balance is to mesh your needs with babies. The more consistent you are with your daily routine, the more your child will understand what comes next and be a part of it.

For example, consider morning playtime always starting at a playgym.

Afternoon playtime is always your outdoor time.

And after the afternoon snooze your newborn sits in a swing in the kitchen while you listen to music and prep dinner together.

You can even extend it to days of the week: Monday we cook together, Tuesdays we go for a hike with friends, Wednesdays we do laundry… etc. etc.

Of course, you will need to reflect on your own daily needs to find spaces for the things that matter to you and incorporate those into your newborn schedule.

Importance of Giving Your Newborn A Flexible Daily Schedule:

By following a daily routine, you are setting you and your baby up for success right from the start. That’s because a flexible routine — not necessarily a set schedule! — helps your baby to know what to expect throughout the day. It also gives you a better understanding of your little one’s needs at any given moment. 

But remember: I recommend a flexible schedule— and not a rigid schedule — for a reason. While having a consistent daily structure is important, the timing of everything can and will fluctuate based on your baby’s age and the day. 

So how do you get started with a flexible, daily schedule? 

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How To Set Up A Daily Routine For Your Newborn: 

If this is your first time creating a routine for your newborn. Start by incorporating the 3 elements of your baby’s day — eat — play— sleep — in that order. 

For example: When your little one wakes up in the morning, start the day by offering your baby a feeding. Once they finish eating, engage in an age-appropriate wake-time activity. But keep an eye out for their sleepy cues! As soon as they show signs of being tired, lay them down for a nap.

This cycle will repeat roughly every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Each day may look a little different — and that’s ok! One “cycle” may last 2 ½ hours and the next 3 ½ hours…

You want flexibility — not a rigid schedule — so that you can adapt as your baby grows. It’s important to keep an eye on the clock but to also watch your baby’s cues! 

Give your little one time to get used to this new routine and don’t give up too quickly! Consistency leads to predictability! So stick with it! 

Your Baby’s Routine In The First Month (3-4 weeks):

During your baby’s first couple of weeks of life, your baby won’t have much of a wake time — other than feeding. Once they finish eating they will quickly drift off into dreamland until their tummy is hungry again! 

But by week 3, your little one should start to stay awake for longer periods of time. They’ll gradually start to have a distinct period of wake time after they’ve finished eating. Including feeding, your baby will usually be awake for 30-50 minutes. This is when you’ll really start to notice your baby’s daily eat, wake, sleep routine. 

Pro Tip: Parents often wonder if they should ever wake their baby. The answer is YES! If your baby sleeps for more than 4 hours in their first month of life you should wake them to offer a feeding. That’s because their stomach isn’t big enough to go much longer without food. 

Your Newborns Schedule For The First Three Months:

After the first month, your baby should have established a strong feeding routine. Their feeding times may begin to shorten as they become a more efficient eater. This means that your little one will spend less of their wake time eating and will have more time to observe and interact with their surroundings. 

On average, babies around 6 weeks old will be awake for 30 — 60 minutes and will nap for 1 ½ -2 hours. And by the time they are 3 months old they may be awake for nearly 1 ⅓ hours and nap for 1 ½ — 2 hours. 

If your baby has full feedings during the day along with age-appropriate wake-times and naps, they will be able to start sleeping for longer stretches of time at night. That’s because your baby’s stomach has grown and they are able to take in more calories during the day. By this time, they should be able to sleep for 4+ hour stretches at night. 

Sample Newborn Schedule For Sleep & Nap Summary: 

Learning how to make adjustments to your baby’s routine as they go through developmental growth spurts is half the battle. Here’s a general framework to help you anticipate your baby sleep changes as they develop:

  • 1-2 weeks: 17-19 hours of sleep each day with 5-6 naps 
  • 3-5 weeks: 16-18 hours of sleep each day with 5-6 naps
  • 6-7 weeks: 15-18 hours of sleep each day with 4-6 naps 
  • 8-12 weeks: 14-17 hours of sleep each day with 4-5 naps

Use this framework as a tool that can be adapted to your baby’s unique needs and to suit your specific situation. 

A Sample Life With A Newborn Schedule

Bringing everything together can be challenging and overwhelming. Because of that, I want to start you off with a sample schedule. Of course, remember, these times can be flexible and you can adjust this to your needs.

7:00 wake, change diaper, feed baby, dress baby

7:30/8 Baby down for a nap, moms chance to shower and eat

10:00 Baby back up, change diaper, feed baby, play on playgym or go out for errands/meetups

10:30/11 Baby back down for a nap, mom’s chance for a break or work, mom’s lunch time

1:00 Baby back up, change diaper, feed baby, go outside for a walk

1:30/2 Baby down for a nap, work or chore time

4:00 Baby back up, change diaper, feed baby , play in swing or chair in kitchen while food prepping

4:30/5 Baby back down for shorter nap, potential cluster feeding in evening

6:30/7 Baby back up, change diaper, feed baby, sit in kitchen while adults eat , daddy play time for 30 minutes while mom has self care time.

7:30 Bedtime routine: feed baby, bath, gentle massage, book or lullaby

8 Baby back down for sleep

10/10:30 Wake baby for dream feed – often a bottle given by dad

Overnight: Night time feedings as needed

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Newborn Scheduling Tips To Ease Overnight Feedings

You can help your baby stay settled through the night by choosing a consistent way to care for them while the start twinkle. Two simple habits can help your newborn sleep longer stretches at night.

  1. A dream feed between 10 and midnight.
  2. Before you feed your baby at night, respond to cries with a few minutes of holding them close or changing a diaper before you feed them.

One study found that within 3 weeks, 100% of babies were sleeping 5-hour stretches with these 2 steps, versus 23% of infants where no scheduling was tried.

Final Word About Your Baby’s Newborn Schedule : 

It can be so easy to get lost in the newborn haze and feel like you can’t keep up. You are not alone.

You and your baby both need routines you can thrive on.

Creating a structured — yet flexible — newborn schedule based on the 3 elements your baby needs — eating, wake times, and sleep — will help your baby get on the right track to happy days and dream-filled nights.

If you need more help, I have a few suggestions (in the unlikely circumstance you have time to read a book right now. If you need help creating a nurturing, healthy home rhythm and warm family environment I highly recommend the book You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. And, if you need a good laugh, and a feeling of being seen in the midst of it all – definitely download the book Sh**tty Mom.

You will find your rhythm and your dance in it all – even if it seems overwhelming at first.

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