Schedules for Babies and Toddlers

There's so much joy and excitement bringing home your newest addition to the family! There can also be some fear and anxiety about not knowing what to do with your newborn. I'll share my experience of bringing home my three little ones and how we adjusted as a family. I hope this blog post helps you to be able to find the perfect routine for you and your family.

Baby Schedule: 0-3 Months Old

When I had my first baby I was honestly clueless what to do once we got home. I knew he would have to eat, and diapers would need to changed, and he would sleep a lot; but I wasn't sure what my role as a mom was supposed to be like--was I supposed to let him decide his schedule, or was I supposed to decide the schedule?

My husband and I are very organized people so we thought it would work best in our family to create a schedule for our children. This would allow us all to know what to expect each day. I know that sounds crazy, but honestly our children thrive and are very happy knowing how their day is going to go.

So how do you put a newborn on a schedule? With each of my children, the only schedule they had from zero to three months of age was a feeding schedule. From the time they were born I had them nursing every three hours. I did not wait for them to wake up to let me know they were hungry. I set my alarm on my phone and woke them up to eat every three hours. This helped to get them ready for a schedule, it helped my milk come in, and it helped them maintain their birth weight.

After you leave the hospital, you will usually go visit your child's pediatrician. The pediatrician will want to check if the baby is maintaining or gaining weight. This is a sign that baby is healthy and that your milk is providing enough nutrition for baby. Once I got the all clear from our pediatrician that our little ones were above their birth weight, then I would stop setting my nightly alarm for every three hour feedings and let baby wake me when they were hungry. This helped me to get a little more sleep, and it also helped my little ones to start to learn how to sleep through the night.

My second child was premature, so I had to wake him to eat every three hours for about a month. He wasn't able to nurse the first month of life just because it took so much more energy than bottle feeding, so I would have to bottle feed him and then pump to make sure my milk supply stayed healthy. But with my other two children it was only two weeks before I started letting them wake me during the night.

0-3 Month Example Schedule

7:00am-Feeding

10:00am-Feeding

1:00pm-Feeding

4:00pm-Feeding

7:00pm-Feeding

8:30pm-Feeding-After baby is above birth weight, I would feed again right before bed time to get my children nice and full to help make them sleep for a longer stretch of time.

Once they are above birth weight let them wake you up for nightly feedings, so those times will vary.

Baby Schedule: 4-6 months old

At four months old is when I started to have set nap times for my children. I tried my best to also have set feeding times, but I am flexible about that because babies might need to be fed sooner than the time you have set in place. Between four to six months I tried to move the time in between each feeding to three and half hours. I do this by slowly moving their feedings back by five minutes each day until I get to three and a half hours. I also started introducing baby cereal and baby food around five months of age. I chose to feed my children solid foods each evening about an hour before bed to help fill them up so they would sleep longer at night.

To start having set nap times, I had a rule I went by with each child--two, three, four. This means that I would let baby wake up, eat and play for two hours, and then lay them down for a morning nap two hours after they woke up that morning. They would typically nap an hour to hour and a half. When they woke up we would eat, and play for three hours, and then they would lay down for their afternoon nap three hours after they woke up from their morning nap. They typically sleep for an hour to and hour and a half for their afternoon nap as well. Then when they wake up from their afternoon nap they eat and play for four hours before their evening nap or bedtime.

Between the ages of four to six months babies sometimes need an evening cat nap to help them make it to bedtime. This nap is typically just 30-45 minutes. I usually just let my children sleep during their evening feeding in my arms for this nap.

4-6 Month Example Schedule

7:00am-Feeding

7:30am-Tummy time, read books, play

9:00am-Nap

10:30am-Feeding

11:00am-Play time

1:30pm-Feeding/Nap

3:00pm-Play time, run errands, etc.

5:00pm-Feeding/Evening nap

7:00pm-Cereal/Baby food feeding

8:00pm-Get ready for bed and feeding

Wake during the night to feed varies

Baby Schedule: 7-9 Months Old

Between seven to nine months I typically keep the same rule--two, three, and four. The only difference I make during this age range is I try to extend the time between feedings to from three and a half hours to four hours by moving the time back five minutes each day until baby is at the four hour mark. Of course baby can have growth spurts or start teething and need to be fed before the four hours is up, and that is totally fine!

Around nine months I also start to introduce solid food in the morning as well as the evening. My little girl was not a fan of baby food, she wanted the real table food. Around nine months I noticed that she was starting to pick things up with her fingers so I started introducing her to soft, tiny bites of table food. She was much happier with table food, and so was I because I was not constantly getting baby food spit in my face!

You should start to notice that your little one will sleep longer stretches during the night by this time. If you are lucky they will do this on their own like my youngest did. With my first he didn't start sleeping through the night until he was nine months old because I was a new mom and didn't know that he was just using me to soothe himself back to sleep. So I had to  break that habit by doing the cry-it-out method for two nights and then he was sleeping through the night. (I know that may seem harsh, but it is what worked best for us! I cried just as much as he did, but I promise we are all fine.) With my second, he was sleeping through the night around six months old. He would go through spurts of sleeping through the night for a week and then being up three times a night for a week so I knew he did not need the nightly feedings for food (plus he was in the 87% for weight)--it was a comfort thing for him as well. So I did the cry-it-out method with him as well--he cried four nights and then was sleeping through the night.

7-9 Month Example Schedule

7:00am-Feeding

7:30am-Tummy time, read books, play

8:30am-Ceral/Baby food feeding

9:00am-Nap

11:00am-Feeding

1:30pm-Nap

3:00pm-Feeding

3:30pm-Play time, run errands, etc.

6:30pm-Feeding

7:00pm-Cereal/Baby food feeding

8:00pm-Get ready for bed and feeding

Baby Schedule: 10-12 Months Old

I don't change much in the 10-12 month old schedule for naps or eating, but I do try to add more solid foods and finger foods during these months to help baby adjust to eventually weaning from nursing or the bottle. I try to let baby eat their meals around the same time we eat our meals so that the baby is included in the family meal time. I typically keep nursing times four hours apart, but I did notice with each of my children that the duration of the feeds dropped during these months. They get very interested in their surroundings and they can also suck the milk a lot faster so they don't need to eat as long. So don't get discouraged if you see that your baby is nursing less!

When my kids turned one I started weaning them from nursing/bottles by introducing cow's milk during one of the daily feedings. Breastmilk is sweet unlike cow's milk so I read that if you add a bit of orange juice to the cow's milk it resembles breastmilk, and then you reduce the amount of orange juice each day. This trick worked for my boys, but my girl is not falling for it so I'm not sure how I'm going to wean her yet. I would substitute cow's milk in a sippy cup for one of the daily feedings for a week, and then the next week I'd substitute another until they were done nursing. I started with the daytime feedings because by that age they weren't nursing long during the daytime feedings anyway. Then I moved to morning feedings, and lastly night feedings. I was sad to see nighttime feedings go because I love when they would fall asleep in my arms each night while they fed.

10-12 Month Example Schedule

7:00am-Feeding

7:30am-Read books, play, go outside, etc.

8:30am-Ceral/Baby food/Finger food feeding

9:00am-Nap

11:00am-Feeding

12:00pm-Baby food/Finger food feeding

1:30pm-Nap

3:00pm-Feeding

3:30pm-Play time, run errands, etc.

6:30pm-Feeding

7:00pm-Cereal/Baby food feeding

8:00pm-Get ready for bed and feeding

Schedule: 12 Month And Beyond

During this time you will probably start to wean your baby from nursing or bottles, and begin to introduce them to more finger foods. They will start to become on eating schedule similar to you and your family with three meals and two snacks a day. Like I said above, I usually give my children cow's milk during their normal feeding times, but once they are fully on cow's milk I tend to only give them cow's milk during breakfast, lunch (if they want it) and bedtime. I let my children drink milk before bed until they were two years old for nutrition and as a filler for their tummies. This is totally up to you, but we stopped at two to help get them ready for potty training.

My children started switching from two naps to one nap around 15 months old. I think the average time babies start making this transition is between 15-18 months old, but that's just an average. I started making the transition when I noticed them only napping for 30-45 minutes during one of their daily naps for a week. This transition is tough because they will typically get grouchy that last hour before nap time, but they do adjust to the new schedule. And you can always let them take two naps one day if they need it. You are the parent, so you know best!

My oldest started transitioning out of napping around three or three and half years old. But let's be honest, mommy still needs the "nap time" to get things done, so we started calling it "reading time." He would still go to his room and lay down in his bed, but he would get to keep four books with him for reading time. He thought this was the greatest thing ever! Sometimes he would fall asleep and other times he would read quietly and other times he would talk and sing to himself. He was not allowed to get up from reading time until 2:30pm though.

Now that he is about to start preschool, we have transitioned his reading time into quiet time where he can do a quiet activity, read books, or take a nap in his room. But he still has to stay in his room until 2:30pm so that he can rest and mommy can get some work done. He likes that he has free reign to choose what he can do during his quiet time.

18 Month Example Schedule

7:00am-Wake up, eat breakfast

8:30am-Read books, activity time, play, go outside, etc.

9:30am-Snack

11:00am-Lunch

1:00pm-Nap

3:30pm-Snack

6:00pm-Dinner

7:00pm-Milk time

8:00pm-Get ready for bed

 

Please let me know if you have any questions about how I did feeding/nap schedules! I would love to hear from you!