There are two books that I highly recommend you read if you have a small infant: Babywise and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. These two books have been a huge resource to me, especially when Cooper was under 4 months old. I have turned through the pages of these two books plenty of times. Both books talk about a daily schedule that follows a very simple pattern it looks something like this:
- Awake/ Play
- Repeat (eat, play, sleep)
This pattern is important to follow because your baby does not learn to depend on eating (nursing/bottle) to fall asleep.
Be careful not to hyper schedule- be flexible
Depending on how old your baby is will determine how long each cycle (eat, play, sleep) will be. Your baby is not a robot and each cycle may vary by a few minutes each day. It is important not to hyper schedule and only feed the baby by the clock. Also keep in mind that at different parts of the day, your baby will be able to go longer between feeds than other times of the day. My son was only able to go 2.5 hours in the morning between feeds when he was under 3 months old. The rest of the schedule he was able to go 3 hours between each feed. Be flexible. Find out what works for your child and build your schedule around that.
Schedules are constantly changing based on the developing needs of your child. Keep that in mind too! What worked last week might not work this week. Consider changing the amount of time your child stays awake if you child is having trouble napping by either decreasing or increasing his awake time.
What happens to the schedule when your baby has a growth spurt?
When a baby is in the middle of a growth spurt, if you are nursing, you must increase the number of times you feed your baby. This will only last a few days and you can go back to your normal schedule. If you are bottle feeding during a growth spurt, you can just increase the amount of formula in each bottle.
What determines the length of each cycle?
- Eating: this depends on how long your baby takes to eat (nurse/bottle). Newborns can take 20-45 minutes to nurse. As babies get older they get more efficient at eating. My son is now 6.5 months old and he nurses for 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes. When he was a newborn he was a fast eater, only nursing for a total of 15-20 minutes. Each baby is different and some take longer than others.
- Awake/ Play: this will depend on two factors- how old your baby is and how long it takes them to nurse. If your baby takes a long time to nurse then he will not have a lot of time left over to play. Below are some recommended awake times for each baby. Not all babies are the same. Some babies need shorter awake time while other may need longer. Remember to include how long your baby east when calculating awake time. As your baby gets older, wake times could vary. They tend to stay awake for a shorter time in the morning, longer in the afternoon, and even longer in the evening. See my post entitled 2-3-4 Nap Schedule for more on this:
Newborn 50-60 mins
1 month 60 mins-hour and 15
2 months 1 hour and 15 – 20 mins
3 months 1 hour and 20 – 30 mins
4 months 1 hour and 45 – 2 hours
5 months 2 hours – 2.25 hours
Late 5 months/early 6 months 2.25-2.5 hours
6.5 – 7 months 2.75-3 hours. Some are getting more.
8 – 10 months 3 – 4 hours. Some are getting more.
11 – 12 months 3.5 -4.5 hours. Some are getting more if moved early to 1 nap
- Sleep (naps): this depends on how long your baby can stay awake and how long they can go in between feedings. Below is a the number of naps that each baby should take each day (this could vary). See my post Infant Sleep Requirements which gives more information about how long each nap should be.
Newborn- 1 month 3-4 naps
2- 3 months 3-4 naps
3 months 3 naps
4-5 months 2-3 naps
6- 8 months 2-3 naps
9- 18 months 2 naps
18+ months 1 naps
I typed the schedules that I kept with my son every month. They have changed quite a bit as he has grown.