Making a Family Calendar: Infants
By GetParentingTips.com staff
Read Time: 7 Minutes
When you first have a baby, it can seem like you're busy all day and never get anything done. This is totally normal. Your focus has to be on taking care of your newborn and yourself, and everything else has to wait. At this point in your life, trying to plan out every detail of every day is probably not possible, and that's completely OK.
After those first months pass, you might want to create a family calendar. Even if you're not able to stick to your plan all the time, having guidelines can help you get more done and feel less overwhelmed. Schedules and family rituals can help keep kids healthy, happy, and out of trouble as they grow up. Here are some tips for creating a family calendar that work for babies.
Why Family Routines Matter
Every child is different, and you know your baby best - even if right now it seems like your little one is changing every day! That's why, as your baby grows, you're the perfect person to put some guidelines in place for key routines like bedtimes, meals, and naptimes. Daily schedules for babies help them get enough rest and feel secure. Creating this daily family routine gives babies the structure they need to be healthier and happier.
Daily Routines for Babies 1–3 Months Old
Your newborn should call the shots on their eating and sleeping schedule. Many newborns have their days and nights confused, and that's OK for now. It's normal. They will get into a normal day and night routine soon.
Sleeping and Eating Schedules for Babies 1–3 Months Old
Sleep is a huge part of keeping infants healthy and growing. Sleep plays a big role in a child's brain development and behavior. A lot of parents are surprised that infants need 14–17 hours of sleep a day.
Studies have shown that moms actually get MORE sleep when their baby is in the room with them.
How Do Babies Sleep?
Babies 1–3 Months Old: Sleeping
Most newborns sleep a total of 8–9 hours at night and 8 hours during the day. Here's what you can expect:
- It's normal for babies to sleep in stretches of 1–2 hours at a time. Babies wake up this often to be fed, comforted, and have their diaper changed.
- For the first few months, you can expect your sleep to be in short, 1-2 hour stretches.
- If possible, try to sleep when your baby sleeps during the day and get rest when you can. You have to take care of yourself during this time so you can care for your baby.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Get friends and family to help with older children and to do things around the house so you can rest.
Even a short nap can help you feel more rested. Get whatever rest you can, and remember, this phase is only temporary and it gets better.
Babies 1–3 Months Old: Eating
Most infants need to eat every 2–3 hours. After all, their stomachs are only about as big as a cherry! Pay close attention and follow your baby's cues for when she (or he) is hungry or full. If you are breastfeeding, frequent feedings will help keep your breasts from getting too full or engorged and keep your milk production up.
- Don't limit the number of feedings, or the length of feedings. A baby is full when she falls asleep nursing or releases the bottle nipple.
- Checking on your baby lets you recognize early hunger cues quickly, so you can feed her before she gets too upset to eat.
Most babies increase the amount of milk they drink at each feeding by about 1 ounce each month.
How to Tell When A Baby is Hungry
Daily Family Routines for Babies 4 Months Old and Up
Most babies don't sleep in a solid stretch of 6–-8 hours until they're at least 3 months old, but every baby is different. Some babies don't sleep through the night until they are closer to 1 year or older. As your baby's daily routine gets more regular - usually at around 4 months - you can begin to structure your daily family routine around sleeping and eating.
Don't forget to do some tummy time each day to help your baby build head and muscle strength!
Babies 4 Months Old and Up: Sleeping
Starting at around 16 weeks, babies begin to fall into deep sleep first instead of light sleep, and they wake up less often. That's why parents often feel that babies sleep better at around 4 months.
- At 4 months, you can expect your baby to sleep 14–15 hours each day, with 3 or more hours of sleep during daytime naps.
- At around 4 months, most babies still take a nap in the morning and 1 or 2 naps in the early afternoon. By 6 months, many babies have dropped down to 1 nap in the morning and 1 in the early afternoon.
- At 4–6 months, it is common for babies who began to sleep in longer stretches to have sleep regressions - times when they start to wake up again during the night.
- Look for signs of sleep readiness (rubbing eyes, tired eyes, yawning, fussing) and try to put your baby to bed before she gets overtired.
- It's impossible to hold a baby too much. While holding your baby provides a pleasant bedtime ritual, you should consider placing her in their crib when she starts looking drowsy. This allows her to develop the skills she needs to put herself back to sleep when she wakes up during the night.
- It's common for babies to fuss or cry when put down for the night or for naptimes. Give your child a chance to settle herself before you go back in to offer comfort.
Many babies begin to sleep through the night and then suddenly start waking up again.
While frustrating for parents, these sleep regressions are totally normal. Go easy on yourself and keep the aspects of your routine that make sense for your family. Remember that this is temporary and you - and your baby - will be back on a normal sleeping schedule and able to maintain your routine soon!
Creating a Bedtime Routine
Creating a calming bedtime routine is a powerful way to help your baby relax and settle down for sleeping. You can do a shorter version of this routine - maybe just with books and rocking - to get your baby ready for naptimes.
- Be consistent. Try to start your bedtime routine at about the same time every day, and try to do the same things in the same order.
- Start with a warm bath. If your baby likes massage, you can offer a calming massage with a nice-smelling lotion.
- Brush baby's teeth or gums, or wipe them with a clean washcloth or gauze, ideally after your last feeding. Even before babies have many teeth this starts good oral hygiene habits.
- Avoid extra stimulation. Turn down the television, avoid loud music, and keep lights low.
- Depending on what you and your baby like, you can read books, sing softly, or snuggle in a rocking chair.
- Put your baby in her bed when she is drowsy but not asleep. Comfort and soothe your baby if she gets upset, but try not to take your baby out of her bed. Try leaving the room for a few minutes and coming back if she is still upset.
- Be patient, and remember that this phase is temporary. Helping your child learn good sleep habits doesn't happen overnight, and as your child grows, her sleep will become more regular.
Baby Eating: What to Expect
As your baby (and her tummy!) grows, she will start to go longer between feedings and eat more at each feeding.
- Continue to follow your baby's cues for when she is hungry and full.
- It's normal for babies to go through periods where they eat more, or have more frequent feedings. This could be a sign that your baby is having a growth spurt.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents wait until babies are between 4 - 6 months old and showing signs they are ready before starting solid foods. Even when babies start trying solid foods, they still get most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula. Also, remember to check with your baby's doctor on which solid foods are okay. For instance, it's not safe to give honey to kids under 1 year old.
It's a myth that giving babies solid foods helps them sleep through the night.
Make a Weekly Family Schedule
While you might not have an idea of what your daily routine will be like, you can try to think about the bigger picture. Prioritize what needs to get done for your household for the next week ahead. What things must get done? What would you like to get done?
Make a plan.
Take 30 minutes at the start of every week to sit down and decide what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and whose responsibility it is if more than one adult lives in your home. Think about planning family meals, household chores, laundry, work time, and other necessities like doctors' appointments.
Write it down.
Write down your family schedule on a calendar that you keep in a central place, or use a shared calendar app to create a family calendar that everyone helping you can see on their phones. Shared apps are nice because everyone can pull up the calendar anytime, see what they need to do, and make edits. These calendars can also give digital reminders to help you stay on track.
Don't forget the fun stuff.
Include some fun activities and family rituals on your family calendar. Maybe Wednesday night is Pizza Night, or Saturday afternoons are for family walks. Choose activities that your newly expanded family can do together. Keeping family rituals can help you stay connected during this exhausting but exciting time!
Don't forget active play.
Active play is important for babies, and it's a fun thing you can do together. Up until 6 months, babies need activities that work on their balance and coordination. Consider letting them feel things by moving their hands and feet and stroking their feet and hands with various objects. Place toys just outside of their reach to encourage them to move on their own. When babies have daily active play, they sleep better and feel better.
Check in throughout the week.
Take a few minutes every day, either at night before bed or in the morning, to go over the plan for the next day. Be sure everyone helping you knows their daily tasks. Do your best to give extra help when your partner asks for it.
Be flexible and ask for help when you need it.
All parents need help sometimes. If you need help, ask a family member or friend for help watching your kids so you can get some rest, cook a meal, do laundry, or run an errand.
Consistency is Key
Just as you try to be consistent with family rules and consequences, do your best to be consistent with your family schedule. Routines are helpful for both adults and babies. As much as you can, plan activities, meals, naptimes, and bedtimes to avoid meltdowns. While it might seem like you're missing out sometimes, remember that babies grow up fast and this is a temporary phase.
When You Get Off the Family Routine
As much as you plan ahead there are times that you will get off your daily or weekly schedule. Sometimes you might have to wait at an appointment longer than expected or your child might miss a nap and get off schedule. Do your best to roll with the unexpected, and know that you'll get back to your daily and weekly schedule as soon as you can. You're doing a great job, and in the long run, your hard work will pay off.