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What You Need to Know About Setting a Baby Schedule

Thinking about putting baby on a routine? Before you do anything, read this.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Updated September 18, 2023
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The early days of parenthood are chaotic. There’s no rhyme or reason to anything, and you’re following the orders of a fussy, tired, hungry newborn. But as your little one gets a bit older, you’ll settle into some semblance of rhythm—and it’ll help you both feel more settled. “Babies come into the world as a blank slate, and they depend on you to teach them routine,” says Nina Vaid Raoji, RN, MSN, APN, author of Raising Baby: A Pocket Guide to Baby’s First Year. “When the same thing is done at approximately the same time interval, baby quickly learns the sequence and will anticipate the next step.” The sense of familiarity that results from a baby schedule can be a big comfort. Plus, getting into a daily routine can help you stay sane. “Once baby adapts to the set schedule, you can make plans accordingly knowing that during certain times baby will be sleeping or will need to eat,” Raoji says. So when’s the right time to establish those baby schedules? And how should you go about it? Read on for all the answers.

What Is a Baby Schedule?

Infant schedules are exactly what they sound like—an overall outline or routine your little one will follow each day, explains Jillian Thistel, a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Twinkling Stars Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Ontario, Canada. But it’s important to note that baby schedules really set in once baby is past the newborn stage and sleeping patterns improve (and are a little more predictable).

As baby gets a little older, their daily routine may include wake time, feeding, play, nap and bedtime. Some parents may also prefer “eat, play, sleep schedules.” “Playing with your infant after feeding extends their awake time until the next nap and further separates eating from sleeping,” says Denise Scott, MD, an Oklahoma-based pediatrician. “Following this eat, play, sleep pattern throughout the day can help baby learn to fall asleep without having to feed.”

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Why Baby Schedules Are Important

As mentioned, baby schedules offer both baby and their caregiver a blueprint on what to expect and when. For starters, a predictable schedule means baby is less likely to miss a nap or feeding—and get fussy as a result. “When baby is happy and content, family life is much easier,” Scott says. Thistel agrees, adding that putting baby down for naps and sleep at consistent times helps ensure they’re not going to sleep overtired but rather within their ideal wake window. (This is how much time baby can handle being awake before needing to sleep.)

Moreover, baby schedules allow little ones to anticipate what’s next and “learn a day-to-night routine,” Scott says. In other words, consistent timing helps babies develop their circadian rhythms—which is often flipped at birth, since babies sleep during the day and wake at night in the womb. All this is to say that baby schedules can lead to better sleep overall for baby. “If they’re laid in their bed at specific intervals, and you set a routine for sleep time, they begin to incorporate those cues into their behavior,” Scott says. Not to mention, having an infant schedule set also takes some of the guesswork out of the parents’ daily lives, which can improve their stress and anxiety levels.

When to Set Baby Schedules

Baby schedules typically apply to babies past the newborn period. It’s pretty much impossible to put newborns on a schedule since they should eat and sleep on demand, Scott says. “Schedules aren’t practical during the newborn period due to the need for frequent feedings and increased sleeping.” (However, you can start following baby’s wake windows right from day one, Thistel says.)

So when can you actually start setting baby schedules? Cheryl Wu, MD, a pediatrician at Amaranth Pediatrics in New York City, says that babies can start getting into rhythms and patterns around 3 months. “Usually around 6 months, they’ll get into a rhythm for nighttime sleep, sleeping about 12 hours at night and waking up two or three times throughout the night. A daytime schedule emerges for most babies around 9 months of age,” she adds. Scott agrees, noting that schedules can usually commence once baby has gained weight and can stay awake for longer periods of time. For help determining when your little one is ready for a baby schedule, Scott recommends reaching out to your pediatrician.

How to Create Baby Schedules That Work

Just how easily parents can implement their baby schedules—and how rigid they end up being—depends on many individual factors, including baby’s personality. “There are three kinds of babies,” Wu says. “Ones who are very easy to get on a schedule, ones who are very difficult to get on a schedule and ones who are somewhere in between.” You might love the idea of an infant schedule, but if your child’s not having it, it might just stress both of you out trying to create one. The key when setting infant daily schedules that work is to be flexible. Below, some tips from the experts on how to create baby schedules that work:

  • Keep a daily log: Wondering how to figure out what baby’s natural routine looks like? Keeping a log of baby’s day-to-day every day for months is simply not realistic (and will make you completely insane!). But in the beginning, when you’re developing your baby schedule, it’s helpful to write down when your child eats, plays and sleeps. Follow baby’s feeding and sleeping cues, Scott says. That way you can pinpoint patterns in their day, and plan their schedule around those. “You also want to make sure baby’s feeding, peeing and pooping enough,” Raoji adds. “After the first couple weeks, I’d recommend logging feed and sleep times every month or two for a few days just to see if baby’s schedule is still the same or changing.”

  • Consider baby’s personality and cues: Baby’s personality will also clue you in on whether to implement a baby-led routine or a parent-led one. “Baby-led schedules mean that parents follow baby’s cues for feeding, sleeping and play,” Raoji says. “Parent-led schedules require ‘training’ baby to feed at certain times, sleep at certain times and play in between as desired.” Baby-led routines tend to be easier on baby and easier to make happen—you’ll just have to make room for more flexibility from day to day.

  • Consider your family: Much like each baby is different, every family has a different daily routine they follow. For example, some families may choose to do bath time before bedtime to help calm baby down, while others may choose to do it in the morning as a way to start the day. Ultimately, the best way to create a baby schedule is to figure out what works best based on baby’s natural cues and your existing family routine.

  • Consult your pediatrician: If you’re totally stumped about what baby’s schedule should be, or how to get them there, you can bring your notes to baby’s pediatrician for some help. “I can usually see a pattern,” Wu says. “If you’re at your wit’s end, bring the information to a person who’s not as affected by how your child is sleeping as you are.” Together, you and the doctor can come up with a plan to create a schedule that’ll work for both you and baby.

  • Be flexible: This is perhaps the most important thing you can do when building baby’s daily schedule. Each baby is different and each baby schedule will be different depending on their age, sleeping and feeding needs, personality and your individual family structure. It’s important to understand that all baby schedules look different from family to family—and even from day to day. “The best thing a parent can do is to learn to read their infant’s cues regarding hunger and sleepiness,” Scott reiterates. Being flexible will help you build a schedule that’s actually helpful rather than a hindrance. But, of course, show yourself grace, as you’re figuring it out and working through hiccups and disruptions.

  • Accept change: Just when you feel you and baby have finally gotten the schedule down, they may get sick or go through growth spurts and change the whole thing. Or, as baby gets older, they may decide they’re done with that late afternoon nap, and there might not be anything you can do about it. “At times, you may feel like you have taken a few steps backwards,” Raoji says. Try to remain calm, accept the change and work with it. Just consider this baby’s next phase and see this as a new, slightly different routine.

Baby Schedule Mistakes to Avoid

While there are some ways to help ease the transition when it comes to setting baby schedules, there are also a few ways caregivers may unknowingly make it more challenging, including:

  • Going against baby’s natural rhythm: If your little one’s patterns are irregular, but you still try to put them in a very regular schedule, it just won’t work, Wu says. “Some babies will be fine, but others have a stress reaction, and the routine gets completely screwed up.” Instead, as mentioned, follow baby’s natural cues.

  • Keeping baby up too long: Some parents believe that keeping baby up slightly later may help them sleep longer or later, but this is simply not true—instead, it’ll make them overtired. “They may show it if they seem to have gotten enough sleep but are cranky when awake,” Wu says. “If baby’s under 6 months old, within two hours of waking, they should be asleep again.” Again, follow baby’s sleepy cues and put them down for naps and nightly sleep accordingly. Scott also cautions against letting baby sleep too long (more than two hours) during naps, as this may disturb their nighttime sleep and lead to missed feedings.

  • Making a sudden switch: “Slight changes in routine won’t affect baby too much,” Raoji says. “But a big change in schedule like a missed nap or a delayed feeding may leave you with a really cranky kid. When it comes to baby schedules, your child has learned to anticipate the next step, and when that routine gets messed up, they can become very irritable.”

  • Expecting perfection: Instead of putting pressure on baby and yourself to follow a rigid schedule or taking a “one size fits all” approach, Thistel recommends really letting go of any expectations around baby daily schedules. “Putting too much pressure on yourselves as parents to have a ‘perfect’ schedule is bound to leave you feeling discouraged and defeated,” she says. Instead, recognize that each baby is different and their schedules will change as they grow. You’ll have to “use some trial and error to see what works for your child,” Wu says.

Monthly Baby Schedules From Experts

The exact baby daily schedule and sleeping patterns your little one follows will vary. “We follow a range of wake windows to leave space for individual differences, depending on if baby is a higher sleep-needs baby or a lower sleep-needs baby,” Thistel says. That said, there’s a general pattern to follow:

One month baby schedule example

One-month-olds have wake windows of 45 to 60 minutes, Thistel says. Their schedule may look something like this:

  • 7:30 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 9:40 a.m.: Feed
  • 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 12:40 p.m.: Feed
  • 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.: Nap 3.
  • 2:50 p.m.: Feed
  • 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Nap 4.
  • 5:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.: Nap 5
  • 6:50 p.m.: Feed (Baby may cluster feed during the evening hours.)
  • 8:00 p.m.: Bedtime
  • 8 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.: Overnight feeds as needed by baby

2 to 3 month baby schedule example

Babies 2 to 3 months old, have wake windows of 60 to 90 minutes. Below, a sample schedule for this age:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 9:40 a.m.: Feed
  • 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 12:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 1:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Nap 3
  • 3:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Nap 4
  • 5:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.: Nap 5
  • 7:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 8:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.: Bedtime (offer a feed before bedtime)

4 month baby schedule example

Four-month-olds have wake windows between 90 minutes and two hours. Below a sample daily schedule:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 9:40 a.m.: Feed
  • 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 12:40 p.m.: Feed
  • 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Nap 3
  • 3:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: Nap 4
  • 5:40 p.m.: Feed
  • 7:15 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

5 month baby schedule example

Five-month-olds have wake windows between 90 minutes and two-and-a-half hours. Their infant daily schedule may be:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 10:10 a.m.: Feed
  • 11:45 a.m. to 1:15pm: Nap 2
  • 1:20 p.m.: Feed
  • 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: Nap 3
  • 4:20 p.m.: Feed
  • 6:45 to 7 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

6 month baby schedule example

Six-month-olds have wake windows between two and two-and-a-half hours. At this age, they may also start solids if they haven’t yet. Below, an example of their baby daily schedule:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 7:40 a.m.: Give baby solid foods
  • 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 10:30 a.m.: Feed
  • 11:30 a.m.: Have baby try solids
  • 12:30 p.m.: Feed
  • 12:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 2:30 p.m.: Feed
  • 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Nap 3
  • 5:10 p.m.: Feed
  • 7:30 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

7 month baby schedule example

Seven-month-olds have wake windows that typically last between two-and-a-half and three hours. An example of a baby schedule for a 7-month-old is:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 7:40 a.m.: Have baby try solids
  • 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 10:40 a.m.: Feed
  • 11:30 a.m.: Have baby try solids
  • 12:30 p.m.: Feed
  • 1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 2:45 p.m.: Feed
  • 4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Nap 3 (this should ideally be a shorter nap)
  • 5:20 p.m.: Feed
  • 6:00 p.m.: Have baby try solids
  • 8:00 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

8 to 9 month baby schedule example

Babies ages 8 to 9 months have wake windows between two-and-a-half and three hours. An example of their infant schedule is:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 7:45 a.m.: Give baby solids
  • 9:15 a.m.: Feed
  • 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 11:45 a.m.: Feed
  • 12:30 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 2:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 3:50 p.m.: Feed
  • 5:15 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 7:00 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

10 month baby schedule example

Ten-month-old babies have wake windows between two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hours. Their baby daily schedule might be:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:00 a.m.: Give baby solids
  • 9:45 a.m.: Feed
  • 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 12:30 p.m.: Feed
  • 1:15 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 4:20 p.m.: Feed
  • 5:30 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 7:30 to 7:45 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

11 to 12 month baby schedule example

Babies in this age range have wake windows that last between three and four hours. An example of their infant schedule might be:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up and feed
  • 8:15 a.m.: Give baby solids
  • 9:45 a.m.: Feed
  • 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.: Nap 1
  • 12:30 p.m.: Feed
  • 1:30 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: Nap 2
  • 4:05 p.m.: Feed
  • 5:30 p.m.: Give baby solids
  • 7:15 to 7:30 p.m.: Bedtime (offering a feed before bedtime)

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Nina Vaid Raoji, RN, MSN, APN, is a registered nurse based in New Jersey and author of Raising Baby: A Pocket Guide to Baby’s 1st Year. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Seton Hall University and her master of science in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania.

Denise Scott, MD, is a pediatrician with JustAnswer and a pediatric endocrinologist based in Oklahoma with over 30 years of experience. Certified in culinary medicine, Scott also runs the blog Feed Future Health and is the author of Feed Your Child’s Future Health: Prevent Disease Before It Starts. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch and completed her residency at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center with a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Jillian Thistel is a certified pediatric sleep consultant in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. She is a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants and founder of Twinkling Stars Pediatric Sleep Consulting.

Cheryl Wu, MD, is a pediatrician based in New York City with over 20 years of experience. She earned her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and her medical degree from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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