When a newborn baby arrives in the house, your regular routine is turned totally upside-down, at least during those first weeks. For people who are natural planners, it only makes sense to apply a little organization to all this baby chaos. By following a daily newborn baby schedule, you can add some order back to your day.
Plus, experts agree that a schedule can help both mom and baby adjust to this new normal. "Knowing what to expect and when is very comforting to them," said pediatrician Marilyn Heins, M.D., in Parents. Getting cues about when it's time to eat, nap, and play helps your baby start to understand the world a little better.
For the most part, the newborn schedule is initially based on how long your new baby can stay awake, according to The Baby Sleep Site. In those early days, these periods of waking are not very long at all. "In general, newborns sleep for about 14 to 18 hours per day, not staying awake for longer than 30 to 60 minutes at a time (after that they can become overtired)," as postpartum educator and advanced birth doula Adriana Lozada tells Romper. (Lozada also hosts The Birthful Podcast.) As you might expect, the initial schedule gives your newborn baby plenty of time to sleep, because that's their main job at this point.
Next, the newborn schedule takes into account your baby's frequent need for food. "They feed about 8 to 12 times per day and should appear satisfied after meals," says Lozada. With this in mind, the first schedule is just a series of naps and feedings. But hopefully, this sort of routine will help prevent your baby from getting overly tired or hungry at any point in the day.
With that in mind, it's also important to maintain flexibility along the way, because your baby's needs will change rapidly in those first few weeks. "I find the best thing for new parents to do as they are discovering the baby they got is to not follow schedules, but rather guidelines," says Lozada. "Each baby will have individualized needs and they tend to be really good at expressing those needs through their feeding and sleep cues." With that in mind, here are some basic newborn guidelines you can follow and change to fit your own kid's needs.
9:00 a.m.: Get Up and Feed Baby
10:00 a.m.: Nap
11:00 a.m.: Wake and Feed
12:30 p.m.: Nap
This example newborn schedule is from The Baby Sleep Site. As you can see, those naps are already prioritized, and the baby is not staying awake for longer than an hour at a time, as Lozada recommends. Plus, your newborn's initial wake-up time for the day will vary based on their own needs. If your baby is ready to go closer to 7:00 a.m., then go with that.
1:00 p.m.: Feed Baby
2:00 p.m.: Nap
3:00 p.m.: Feed Baby
4:00 p.m.: Nap
5:00 p.m.: Feed Baby
The afternoon is more of the same, with a caveat that your baby's needs will not work out to perfectly spaced, hour-long chunks. (You baby probably can't stay awake a full hour yet, anyway.) Feeding times and amounts will vary for every child, and newborn naps typically last between one to two hours at a stretch, as Dr. Harvey Karp explained in The Happiest Baby on the Block. Again, the schedule just exists so you can deviate from it.
6:00 p.m.: Nap
6:30 p.m.: Feed Baby
7:00 p.m.: Nap
8:00 p.m.: Wake and Feed
9:00 p.m.: Nap
10:00 p.m.: Wake and Feed
11:00 p.m.: Feed and Bedtime
3:00 a.m.: Feed and Right Back To Sleep
6:00 a.m.: Feed and Right Back To Sleep
Also based on the Baby Sleep Site newborn sleep chart, this portion of the schedule includes some longer stretches of sleep for both baby and caregiver in the evening. In general, the exact times don't matter as much as making sure your baby is getting enough food and sleep throughout the 24-hour cycle. If you have any questions or concerns about your newborn baby's daily routine, don't hesitate to talk it over with your pediatrician or postpartum doula. In time, you and your newborn will find a pattern that works for you both.