baby routines by age
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4 Easy Baby Routines By Age

Do you struggle with knowing what to do with your baby all day? Do you find the unpredictability of your baby’s needs stressful? The solution to alleviate the struggle and stress is simple: follow a baby routine!

I’ve had numerous conversations with my mama friends about how establishing a simple daily routine helped enormously in managing their lives, eliminating guesswork, and calming their babies.

Grab your coffee and let’s start brainstorming about the routine you could use to simplify your life!

do you need a baby routine

The value of establishing a baby routine

Establishing a routine will benefit your baby, but especially you!

For your baby

If you read my post a couple of weeks ago on RIE parenting, you’ll know that babies and infants derive security and even pleasure from a steady routine. Why?

When babies and infants learn to adjust to a routine, their days (and nights) become predictable. They know what to expect. They know what’s coming next. A routine gives them context, and from this, they can feel confident that they simply know what’s going on!

Do not underestimate the power of routine, especially if you want your baby to sleep well. Keeping set hours every day will naturally help your baby to establish good sleep habits, both for nighttime and for naptime. In addition, mini routines (such as nighttime rituals) within your daily routine will help your baby to know even more easily when it’s time to sleep.

This might be TMI, but I also found that keeping set hours for mealtimes even made my daughter’s elimination more predictable. It was the side effect of routine I didn’t know I needed! Whether you are practicing elimination communication with your baby or you are using diapers, establishing set hours for meals will help you to:

  • know a general timeframe for your baby’s elimination
  • organize potty training
  • make clear when your baby’s digestion is off, so that you can consider whether your baby is sick or simply needs a slight change in diet
baby routine faq

For you

I cannot understate the importance of routine in our lives. Both Papa and I are creatures of habit already, and we tended to follow the same general routine even before C arrived.

When I started nudging C onto a routine, Papa suddenly had a hard time adhering to my military schedule. But when he saw that he could “predict” when C was feeling tired, in order to respond appropriately and put her down for a nap, he became a believer.

Trust me, you won’t regret establishing a routine for your baby. What seems restrictive at first becomes liberating. Why? Because you’ll know when you need to be present for your baby, and when you can have time for yourself (when your baby is sleeping, primarily).

You won’t have to wonder anymore, “Why is my baby crying?” because you’ll simply look at the time and realize, “Oh, it’s time for ____.” Okay, sometimes babies cry for different reasons. But at least you can eliminate the most obvious causes simply by sticking to your routine.

Again, the best benefit for us was knowing when C was going to get tired. I know now that, thanks in large part to our routine, she sleeps for 12 hours at night and 2 hours in the afternoon. So I can get things done during those times. Especially for those of us who work from home, knowing in advance when we’ll have time to ourselves is a godsend!

Baby routine FAQ

Here are some questions you might be asking yourself about baby routines.

Does keeping a baby routine mean I can’t have fun?

Absolutely not! You can literally schedule fun into your routine. Carve out time for quality interaction with your baby, and likewise, carve out time for independent play.

Will you still be going out to the bar on a Friday night? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how you are able to organize your life and rally help. Get your baby’s caretakers (spouse, grandparents, babysitter, etc.) on the bandwagon with the routine you’ve established, and then if you want to go nuts on a Friday night, then where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It’s easy to miss your old life when you first become a parent. But, I promise, when you begin to settle into your routine with your baby, you won’t even want to go to the bar on a Friday night anymore!

As long as you are intentional about your routine and you align it with your values, there’s no reason why you can’t have fun along the way.

How long do my baby and I have to stick to a routine?

I’ll get more into this below with my sample routines, but the short answer is simply by, once again, observing your baby.

Babies and infants change so rapidly that their needs will not look the same for months at a time. Be ready to improvise, adapt, overcome!

In addition, before you are ready to adapt your routine, WAIT. When babies and infants go through developmental milestones, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to change the routine right away. You might find that after a few days or even weeks, your baby settles back into your regular routine. Other issues such as teething can temporarily derail your routine a little bit, but stick the course and things will right themselves.

So you’ll see below that I have 4 different sample routines to share with you that I used for my daughter. I actually used more, before I started writing them down every time. I’m kicking myself that I don’t remember more of what we did in the early days.

But if you’re wondering rather how old your child needs to be before you really start relaxing your routine, I must say, I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe never! Each season of life brings something new. Once your infant starts going to school, I imagine that will be a whole different routine. Surely once she becomes a young adult, she’ll be responsible for her own routine.

But I’m a “real” adult now (right?) and I can say with confidence that having a routine still benefits me greatly. So the main thing would be to teach your children explicitly the benefits of having a routine so that they will carry their habits with them into self-sufficient adults.

how to establish a baby routine

What if I need to temporarily deviate from our baby routine?

Life happens, people. We can’t all stick to our routines all the time. I fight tooth and nail to stick to mine, but even I have to admit, it’s not possible all the time. It can even feel fun to let loose once in a while, as long as you’re okay with things not being predictable for a few days.

Sometimes we’re invited to a fancy(ish) lunch or dinner. Or we go away for the weekend. Before Covid, we would go on vacation twice a year. All these instances required us to deviate from our routine, more or less.

You won’t derail all your efforts if you have to go off your routine for a few days or even a week or two. Yes, it will be harder to come back to your schedule. But just try to go with the flow. Observe your baby and respond to her needs. That’s the best you can do.

How to establish a routine with your baby

Sometimes life dictates our routine. I’m thinking particularly of parents who go out of the house to a traditional job. In that case, your baby’s routine will pretty much be decided for her, and you might not have a lot of wiggle room.

Still, if you’re struggling (let’s say on the weekends), the below tips will help you get into the groove.

Start by observing (always!)

If you’ve been on MCS for any amount of time, you’ll know that I always recommend you observe your baby. There are endless reasons why, but let’s focus on routines for the sake of this article.

Specifically, I am thinking of sleeping and eating. Try to notice signs of tiredness in your baby and respond to them promptly. If you need to, you can take notes.

Do this for a couple of days, maybe a week or more. Do you notice any patterns? If so, use them as a basis for your routine.

As I mentioned above, sometimes our work schedule will dictate large swaths of our routine. There is one more thing to consider: family/social/cultural norms. For example, Papa and I like to eat dinner around 9pm. We could have chosen to organize C’s routine so that she would adapt to eating with us in the evening, and many parents do this to great success.

For me, I saw that keeping her up that late would lead to disaster! She is most tired at the end of the day, when I most wanted to chill out and unwind. So we always fed C earlier and put her to bed before starting our dinner. We’re all happy, and everyone wins.

So take compromise into consideration. If you think your baby or infant can handle waiting an extra half hour for their meal or their nap, then by all means, make your routine around times that suit you as the parent.

But if you’re going to wind up forcing something that will only make everyone fussy (!), then reconsider. Try to find common ground.

sample baby routines

Write it down and hang it up

I am very good at keeping information in my head and just “knowing” what’s going on all the time. We have a saying amongst our friends: “Do you want to talk to the man in charge, or the woman who knows what’s happening?”

I started writing down C’s routine for Papa when I needed to be at work and he needed to take care of our daughter and arrange things with the nanny, etc. He couldn’t remember the routine off the top of his head, but he still wanted to stick to it.

So I wrote it all out—sleeping, waking, meals (even what the meals should be composed of)—and put it on the fridge for easy reference. Worked a treat!

Commit

Unsurprisingly, you need to commit to your routine for it to work! Remind yourself of the benefits, both short- and long-term, of establishing a routine for your family. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also a good idea to let your baby’s other caretakers in the loop about your routine.

In fact, C’s nanny was instrumental in helping me establish a routine. She had her way of doing things in her home that C needed to adjust to while she was there. She let me know her observations of C as well, and together I think we found a great compromise to form a routine for C that we could both be happy with.

While you can deviate from your routine once in a while, it’s important to learn how to say no to invitations that don’t jive with your routine. And remember, it’s not forever. As time goes on, you can be more relaxed with timing. The more military you are about it in the beginning, the easier it will be down the road.

Sample baby routines by age

I started nudging C onto a relaxed routine at 4 weeks old, but I didn’t start writing down our routines until she was 9 months old. Derp!

Well, I hope these help you if you have a baby between the ages of 9 and 20 months. C is currently 2 years old and we are still using the 20-month-old routine. As things change down the line, I can report back!

9 months

  • 7:30am Wake up and breakfast
    • Nursing or bottle of expressed milk
    • Fruit compote
  • 9:30am Morning nap if needed
  • 11am Lunch
    • Puree with animal protein
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 1:30pm Nursing and afternoon nap if possible!
  • 3pm Snack
    • Fruit compote
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • Possibly another quick nap in the afternoon
  • 6:30pm Dinner
    • Vegetarian puree
    • 1 yogurt
  • 7:30pm Nursing or bottle of expressed milk, then sleep (hopefully through the night!)

12 months

  • 7-8am Wake up and breakfast
    • Nursing
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
  • 9:30-10am Morning nap if needed
  • 11am-12pm Lunch
    • Puree with animal protein
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 1:30-2pm Nursing and afternoon nap until 4pm latest
  • Snack upon waking up
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 6:30-7pm Dinner
    • Vegetarian puree
    • 1 yogurt
  • 7:30-8pm Nursing, then sleep

16 months

  • 7am Wake up and breakfast
    • Nursing or bottle of expressed milk
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
  • 11am-12pm Lunch
    • Puree with animal protein
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 1pm Nursing and afternoon nap until 3pm latest
  • Snack upon waking up
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 6pm Dinner
    • Vegetarian puree
    • 1 yogurt
  • 7pm Nursing, then sleep

20 months

  • 7am Wake up and breakfast
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
    • Bread with jam
    • 1 yogurt or cup of milk
    • Water
  • 12:30pm Lunch
    • Meal with animal protein
    • 1 yogurt or 1 portion of cheese
    • Water
  • 1pm Afternoon nap until 3pm latest
  • 3:30pm Snack
    • Fruit compote or ripe fresh fruit
    • 1 yogurt
    • Water
  • 6pm Dinner
    • Vegetarian meal
    • 1 yogurt or 1 portion of cheese
    • Plain bread if hungry
    • Water
  • 7pm Bedtime routine
  • 7:30pm Sleep
notes about baby routines

A few notes about the above routines:

If you’re wondering about the components of the meals, please check out my post about introducing solids here. We do consume animal protein (meat, fish, eggs) in our family at this time. If you are vegetarian or vegan, please speak to your family doctor about your child’s diet.

Another thing I would like to add is that I breastfed C more often than is noted above. I did always make sure to nurse her upon waking up in the morning, right before naptime, and then right before bedtime. In between I also nursed her as needed. (I stopped at 19 months.)

Another thing I did with C was wake her up at the times I noted above. I didn’t do research on this and I probably should have. It might be controversial, I don’t know. Others have told me “it’s not good” to wake up your baby. I viewed this as just part of the routine and learning to adapt to the family’s needs.

I think it also depends on each baby. C certainly never complained and was always fresh as a daisy when I woke her up. I also really think this method contributed enormously to the success of establishing a routine in the first place. Food for thought!

Now your baby routine is old hat

You’ve learned about the importance of routine and how it can benefit both babies/infants and their parents.

I really urge you to be consistent with your baby’s routine because it has helped us so much and I know it can help you, too.

Find your own Why—it can be the knowledge that your baby will derive security from a routine, or the knowledge that you will have the same set free time each day.

For more on routines, check out these great articles:

What kind of routine have you established for your family? When did you start? What benefits have you noticed? Let me know in the comments!

-Jessica

About the Author

photo of me

Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !

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easy baby routines by age

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