Newborn routines: how to implement a routine with your baby
When you’re in the newborn phase, it can be difficult to know what your baby needs from you. Establishing a newborn routine can help, but where do you start? Here are our tips to help you find a schedule that works for you and your baby.
By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Mar 23, 2023
In association with
The first few weeks of life with a newborn can feel like a bit of a blur. A constant cycle of feeding, sleeping - or not as the case may be - and changing nappies, it can be hard to keep track of what time of day it is, never mind knowing what your baby needs.
In the early days, newborns eat and sleep throughout the day and night, but as the weeks go on you may observe patterns and cues around their sleeping, eating and playing, which can help you establish a newborn routine. This can help give you more structure to your day and enable you to understand what your baby might need and when.
When your head is fuzzy with tiredness, it can be hard to know where to begin with planning a newborn routine. We’ve consulted our Mumsnet forums for advice from parents who’ve already been through the newborn phase and found a routine that worked for them.
Here are our tips for implementing a successful newborn routine.
Why following a routine is useful
Every newborn needs the same thing, to sleep, eat and have lots of newborn cuddles! In the early days, they need milk and sleep at all times of the day so it’s hard to have any kind of structure to your day.
This is why a routine can help, as it gives both of you an idea of what should be happening. From about the age of two months old, you can try establishing a bedtime routine, a feeding schedule and regular nap times. Babies adapt well to a routine and it will help you plan your day better if you have other commitments, such as older siblings who need to go to childcare.
It’s important to remember though that children go through different phases, such as growth spurts and teething, so their routine will change over time. Keep in mind that any schedule should be flexible.
When to start implementing a routine
“Honestly, the best tip is just relaaaaaax. Easy said with first baby, but just rest as much as possible, and cuddle your baby. You need to get to know your little one a bit before having any idea of a routine, maybe after 6-8 weeks, some kind of vague norms with naps etc will emerge, but before that it’s all over the place... Try not to read too many posts telling you what to do, is my next top tip!” Advice from Mumsnetter Merename
Many of our Mumsnet users found the first days and weeks after your baby is born is too early to implement a newborn routine, and it’s better to get to know their cues first. While some parents may feel more comfortable with a structured day and want to get started early, it’s thought that babies can be ready to start a routine from about two months onwards.
You could start by making a note of your baby’s eating and sleeping times, looking out for any cues or alerts that show any patterns. There’s helpful apps available that can help you to keep a note of this stuff. This will help you form a routine that schedules naps and feeds at times that feels natural to your baby, so you can start encouraging them into a more structured routine.
Once you start your routine, try to be consistent as this will help your baby learn what to expect at certain times of the day.
How to establish a routine
As we’ve mentioned, it can be difficult to know where to start with creating a newborn routine for your baby. The consensus is to start around the age of two months old. Here’s a few steps to follow to help you create a routine that works for the entire family.
Firstly, introduce a bedtime routine
“I'd say it's far too early for a bedtime routine just yet! When DD was around 12 weeks we introduced a bath and bedtime story before her 7/8 oclockish feed. She is now 4 months and sleeps through the night (8-6). I go to bed [at] the same time and watch TV/read.” Advice from Mumsnetter bubblebath62636
You can start a bedtime routine whenever you want, but as babies grow their sleep habits start to change. Their sleep patterns start to become more regular from around three months, so this can be a good time to start a bedtime routine.
Staying consistent with this routine each night will eventually show your baby that this is the time for them to go to sleep. It’s up to you what your bedtime routine involves, but make sure to keep it simple and don’t do anything that will overstimulate your baby. Your routine could include a calming bath, a book and cuddles in their room to help them wind down and give them a soother to settle.
Feeding, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, is a great bedtime bonding experience and can help babies get ready for sleep.
To help make bedtime go as smoothly as possible, it’s worth investing in good baby products - MAM has a huge range of feeding products and accessories, including bottles, soothers, and breastfeeding tools to help make life as a new parent that bit easier.
Keep an eye out for baby cues
“I shifted my focus to wake windows and watch for my son’s sleepy cues. He’s never been one for long naps, I figure that’s just who he is. Friends babies seem to regularly nap for 90-120 minutes and I’m thinking “what is this witchcraft?!” Also got into the habit of using the word “rhythm” rather than routine because babies can’t tell the time and I found it really helpful. Most importantly trust your instincts, it sounds like you have your son sussed!” Advice from Mumsnetter PurBal
While your baby obviously can’t tell you what they want yet, they will show signs that they’re hungry, tired or want to play. Spotting these signs will help you respond to their needs better and will help you to implement a routine that fits their natural rhythm.
Watch your baby in the early weeks to see if you can spot these signs, making a note of any patterns you notice. For example, you may start to identify the sound or cry they make when they’re hungry, other cues can be sucking on their hands or fingers and turning their head to the side with their mouth open. If they’re feeling tired, they may seem fussy or rub their eyes. Making a note of when these things happen will help you give them what they need at the right time.
Help them understand the difference between day and night
“At five weeks it’s probably a bit early for a routine. They change so quickly for the first three months, it’s very hard to get any kind of routine established. One thing that really works for helping them get their days and nights the right way round is to take them outside every day. It helps get their circadian rhythm working. Try a walk in the pram or some time in the garden every day if you can. It’s fine for her to be downstairs with you in the evenings. She will most likely naturally move to an earlier bedtime as she gets a bit older.” MadamMedea
Newborns sleep all day and all night and they don’t know the difference between the two. This means you can have a baby that dozes all day long and then wakes you up for hours at night.
While it’s normal for them to wake up for feeds, if your baby is lying awake for long stretches of time, there are steps you can take to help them learn that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for playing. These include:
- Keep nighttime calm and quiet, use low lighting and quiet voices around bedtime. Don’t do anything that will overstimulate your baby.
- Change their clothes before bed and when they wake up so they get into a routine and know this is time to get up and socialise.
- During the day, keep your house bright and noisier than at night.
- Interact with your baby throughout the day, so they begin to understand that this is the time for playing, not at 2am! Get outside as much as possible.
Try to establish a feeding routine
“Breastfeeding wise, on demand. You need to feed on demand to establish supply and also, tiny babies should be on a schedule. I found both of mine (both breastfed) fell into a natural feeding patterns when they were a couple of months old anyway, every 3 hours and then every 4 hours (roughly). Wasn't anything I did really, just loosely followed eat, play, sleep pattern.” Advice from Mumsnetter, Aria2015
At first, your baby will eat round the clock so it’s unlikely they will have a feeding routine for a while. However, as they grow up, babies can go longer between meals.
Look out for cues that show your baby is hungry so you can implement a natural feeding plan. Try to work out when they are awake and ready for a feed so they’re not due milk when they’re asleep.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll probably feed whenever your baby is hungry during the first weeks, but you can start to look for patterns, such as when they need a feed and how long they go between them. This will help you develop a schedule for their feeds that works around their naps and bedtime. If they fall asleep during a feed, maybe adjust your schedule as they may wake up hungry.
Once breastfeeding is established, breastfed babies on average will feed every two to four hours (with the exception of cluster feeds). If you have a partner or relative who can help with an occasional bottle of expressed milk once you’re into a good breastfeeding routine, you can pump milk using a breast pump - MAM have a range of breast pumps, including single, double, and manual to fit easily into your day.
To help your baby feed more easily and help prevent colic, look for bottles that are designed to let children feed at their own pace, such as the MAM Easy Start™ Anti-Colic 260ml Better Together - Baby Bottle. With a flat soft teat and a self sterilising function, MAM bottles are also great for on the go and come in a range of cute designs.
MAM Baby range: Feeding and soothing
Try to introduce a sleep plan
“Agree with others, don't let the baby sleep more than two hours, follow 'eat, play, sleep'; feed regularly and start your day at the same time every day (7am is pretty standard). I have a four week old so I get how hard it is but this should make a difference.” kmbegs
The one thing that we have to remember about babies is that they are all different and that is never more obvious than when it comes to sleep! They differ in how long they sleep, how much sleep they need and the times that they sleep.
Generally, a newborn needs up to around 18 hours of sleep a day, but some may sleep less and some longer. Waking for feeds in the night is completely normal, in fact, most newborns can’t sleep through the night, but when babies get to around three to six months they should start to sleep for longer stretches at night with around three naps during the day.
If you want to implement a newborn sleep routine, look for when your baby is tired, such as rubbing their eyes or becoming fussy, and get them ready for their nap using a naptime routine - maybe putting them in their sleeping bag, giving them a soother and singing them a song. Some experts recommend following an eat, play, sleep routine to help give more structure to your day.
Can I use a dummy to help my newborn sleep?
Using a soother is a personal preference, and there’s no real right or wrong way to introduce one, although the NHS recommends you don’t introduce one until breastfeeding is established.
During a baby’s first crucial years, they often need to be sucking on something for comfort. According to MAM, this is called ‘non-nutritive sucking’, which can also help your baby settle to sleep. Then as they grow, they’ll find other means of soothing themselves. There are several other advantages of using a soother, although using one to help establish a sleep routine for your baby is one of the most common reasons parents choose to introduce one.
“Her dummy was the difference between sleep and no sleep…”
Original Pure Start - Soother 0-2 months
Go easy on yourself
“My 2 main tips are be prepared for routines to go out the window sometimes (teething, poorly etc) and also don't be afraid to do what works best for YOUR BABY & YOU! You know your baby best and if following your gut instinct involves politely nodding and smiling along to a relative and then going away and ignoring the advice completely then you go for it and never feel guilty!” Advice from Mumsnetter, firstimemamma
Remember, that all babies are different and what works for other families might not work for yours. Your baby will have off days, just like we do, where they might want to feed more or sleep for longer.
Life with a newborn can change from day to day so don’t be hard on yourself if it isn’t quite going to plan. Milestones like learning to sit and crawl can affect their routine and they will go through different phases, such as growth spurts, sleep regressions, teething and illness, which can make them feed more regularly and affect their sleep.
Just stick to their routine as much as possible during this time and it’s likely they will settle back into it. If not, you could look at adapting it if it seems like they are growing out of their current routine. For example, as they get older and they need less sleep, it may be time to drop a nap.
Sample schedule for one month olds
Your baby needs at least eight feeds a day around this age. Babies at this age sleep for around 18 hours a day and have no concept of night and day.
- 6am - wake, feed and back to sleep
- 7.30/8am - wake up and play
- 8.30am - feed
- 9am - playtime
- 9.30am - nap
- 11.30am - wakes up and feeds
- 12/12.30pm - playtime
- 1.30pm - feed and nap
- 4pm - wakes
- 4.30/5pm - feed
- 6.30pm - starts bedtime routine
- 7.30/8pm - feed
- 12am - feed and back to sleep
- 3am - feed and back to sleep
Sample schedule for three month olds
Depending on your choice of feeding, your baby may have between five to eight feeds a day. Babies need around 15 hours of sleep at this age with around three or four naps a day.
- 7am - wake and feed
- 8am - playtime
- 9.30/10am - feed and then nap
- 12pm - wake and play
- 1pm - feed
- 1.30pm - nap
- 3pm - play
- 4pm - feed then nap
- 6.30pm - feed
- 7pm - start bedtime routine
- 7.30pm - feed
- 12am - feed and back to sleep
- 4am - feed and back to sleep
Sample schedule for six month olds
Babies can sleep through the night, but many don’t. They need around 14 hours of sleep a day, including around two or three naps. Not only will they be having milk, but they’ll be getting ready to start eating solids too.
- 7am - wake
- 9am - feed
- 9.30am - play
- 10am - nap
- 12pm - lunch and milk
- 1pm - play
- 1.30pm - nap
- 3pm - feed and play
- 4pm - nap
- 5/5.30pm - feed
- 7pm - start bedtime routine and feed
Please bear in mind that all babies are different, some sleep for longer, some feed more regularly. These are just a guide and it is more important that you follow your baby’s cues to find a routine that works for all of you.
Find advice on when to consider mixed feeding and tips from parents on how to make it work for you and your baby.Read more
We’re MAM and we love babies. We believe that only the best is good enough for them! That’s why for over 45 years we’ve been developing extra-safe baby products that combine attractive, innovative design with proven medical benefits. So, parents can feel confident, and babies feel good.