While the earliest days of parenthood can (and should!) feel like an emotional, exhausting haze, the key to success for happy parents and babies is to get everyone settled into a regular routine. Most babies are ready for some structure around the 3-month mark. Since their needs at this point are still fairly basic — eat, sleep, play — it's up to you to format their days in a way that makes sense for your family. While there are hundreds of books on the topic, you can start off with some common sense based on observations of your baby's patterns.
We've broken down five tips for segueing out of your newborn fog and into a structured daily agenda. If at first you don't succeed, make an adjustment! Keep trying until you find something that feels right for you and your baby. As they grow and develop, this will naturally evolve, but having an outline to start with will help you down the road. Do your best to maintain continuity whether your baby is in your care or that of a babysitter/day care. While our own schedules may vary throughout the week, your 3-month-old doesn't know the difference between a Tuesday and a Sunday. They just want to know when the next meal's coming!
Observe Before You Act
For a couple of weeks before making your move toward a more scheduled routine, take notes on your baby's natural rhythms. What time do they wake in the morning (and during the night for feedings)? How long do they go between meals? How long do their naps last? A journal of observations will offer clues to what kind of routine your baby will respond best to.
Ease Into It, and Adjust Accordingly
Rather than expecting change to happen overnight, transition your baby comfortably in the direction of the routine you want for them. For instance, if you'd like to push back their morning nap by an hour, try starting with delaying it by 10-minute increments until you meet your goal.
Add consistent cues to your routines so your baby knows what's coming next by association. For instance, when it's nap time, dim the lights and turn on some white noise. When it's playtime, take them into their nursery or play space and introduce a couple of toys at a time. Talk them calmly through each transition, and eventually they'll understand what to expect next.
While it may seem counterintuitive, sticking to a strict schedule can actually lead to a more adaptable baby. After a week or two of schedule setting at home, try spending the day out and about or visiting friends or family. Stick to the same timeline for naps, activity, and feeding (even if those events each look a bit different away from home), and they'll learn to know what to expect, no matter the surroundings.
Let Your Schedule Evolve as They Grow and Change
The thing about babies is, as soon as you think you've got them all figured out, they hit another developmental stage, and their needs change. As your baby learns to crawl, stand, and eventually walk, their activity needs will change. Same goes for eating solids. Roll with it. It's about working with them, not against them.