Newborn routine

Newborn | | Louise Broadbridge


Having a new baby is a major change to your everyday life and you may be wondering how quickly you can return to some sort of normal.

The truth is, when you become a parent, life will never be quite the same again, but you will eventually establish some sort of day-to-day routine for you and your baby.

Getting to know your newborn

The first few months of your baby’s life is a big adjustment for all of you. You and your partner will be getting used to being parents and your little one will be getting used to being out in the big wide world after spending nine months safely tucked up inside your womb.

In fact, though you’ll almost certainly be more tired than you knew it was possible to be, in the first few days your newborn will do a lot of sleeping – as much as 14 – 17 hours in a 24-hour period, though likely in short bursts throughout the day and night rather than for long stretches.

Don’t be in a rush to create a strict or structured timetable, as babies can’t tell the time and have no idea what the rules are. Instead, learn to understand your little one’s cues and create some positive habits to make both your lives easier. Newborns typically feed every 2 – 3 hours, so if there is a routine, it is based around that – feed, change, settle them to sleep, repeat. They will only have short periods of being awake and alert and will be content with just a few minutes of play or activity, which could be just having a cuddle or some tummy time.

Does my newborn need a routine?

The most important thing is to respond to the needs of your baby. A simple and flexible routine can work well if it helps you feel more in control, but you don’t need to worry about establishing anything rigid. For example, you might start establishing a bedtime routine early on by bathing your baby at the same time each day and then keeping their environment nice and calm with dimmed lights and no noisy distractions.

Follow your baby’s lead. Feed them when they show signs of being hungry, settle them to sleep when they are tired, and play with them when they are awake, alert and calm.

Don’t worry about trying to do things at set times, but if you want some sort of routine, try doing things in a similar order each day.

A flexible ‘feed – play – sleep’ routine


When your baby wakes up after a sleep, offer them a feed and then change their nappy once they have finished. If they are still awake, try to use this time to talk to your baby and do some sort of activity – it doesn’t need to be anything ambitious, it might just be letting them have some time in their baby gym or stretching out on a blanket.

After this, your newborn is likely to be feeling tired, so settle them back to sleep. Try to anticipate when your little one is feeling sleepy and put them down in their Moses Basket or cot before they actually fall asleep, so they become used to settling themselves.

Parents often find they end up falling into some sort of routine naturally without too much effort.

Routines that promote good sleep

One of the common reasons parents want to establish a routine is because they are keen to get their baby sleeping through the night. Newborn babies wake through the night because they need to feed regularly, but as your little one gets older and can go a bit longer between feeds, they will usually start sleeping for longer stretches.

From about four months, your baby will usually spend twice as long asleep at night as during the day. To encourage your child to sleep well at night, it is a good idea to follow a consistent bedtime routine from about three months.

Do the same thing in the run-up to bedtime each day so your baby knows what to expect. You can decide on your own routine but focus on keeping it simple, calm and soothing.

You might want to include bathing your baby, putting them into pyjamas or a clean Babygro, reading them a story, giving them a cuddle or singing them a lullaby.

Learn to read your baby

If you can recognise when your baby is tired, hungry or ready to play, it will make it easier for both of you to find your rhythm and avoid frustration.

The more time you spend with your baby, the easier it will be to spot their individual signs and cues. However, there are common things to look out for:

  • If your baby is tired, they may seem to lose interest in their surroundings, including people and toys. They might stare off into the distance, yawn or suck their fists or fingers. You might also notice some jerky movements, and they may become fussy and unsettled.
  • Hungry babies often start rooting – turning their head to the side and opening their mouths. They may also put things in their mouth and start sucking their hands or feet or make sucking sounds. Try not to wait until your baby is crying to feed them, as this is a very late hunger cue and once your baby is distressed, they are more difficult to feed and settle.
  • Eye contact is a good sign that your baby is ready to play and engage with you. If your baby reaches out to you, smiles or even just seems interested, curious or alert, take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with them. Alert babies will have bright eyes which are wide open and their movements are usually much smoother than when they are tired.

If your baby is upset and crying, check that all their needs are being met. Do they feel too hot or cold? Is their nappy wet or dirty? Often babies will just want to be held and comforted so they feel safe and secure.