Routines Room

“You cant put a baby in a routine” they all say
But a baby soon knows when to eat, sleep and play!
Although they’re not robots and each day will vary
The days fall into place with advice from The Magic Sleep fairy!

Importance of routines

When the word ‘routine’ is mentioned, many parents automatically think of a strict and prescriptive regime that must be followed to the minute without any deviation. While this is true for the well-known method of babycare set out in The Contented Little Baby book, the word ‘routine’ does not need to be interpreted in this way. If you analyse how most of us live, we do all follow a basic routine of sleep, get up, eat, wash, dress, etc., but with no two days ever being exactly the same and each person’s daily routine differing from another’s. This is just how it is with babies. They actually respond better if they have a basic routine which follows a particular sequence of daily events, albeit one that may vary slightly from day to day as it incorporates the flexibility of family life.

Many people think that a baby is unable to fall into any sort of routine until around two or three months old. However, I simply don’t believe this to be the case. In my experience, the sooner you put a structure in place, the easier it is for both you and your baby to enjoy life as you move through the first few weeks. Babies learn by association almost from the moment they are born, very quickly getting used to whatever is introduced and the conditions surrounding the way they feed and sleep, so whatever you implement in those first few weeks will become the norm for your baby. Trying then to change and introduce something different can often cause confusion and difficulties for both of you. This is why I advise using my plan from Day 1, or at least starting as early as possible.

I have devised the plan to meet all the natural feeding needs and sleeping patterns of any healthy newborn and parents are always amazed at how quickly and easily their baby fits into it – though do remember that all babies are individuals and some fall into the pattern with ease while others can take longer to settle down and need a little more prompting!

By following my plan you will quickly learn whether your baby is crying from hunger, tiredness or some other reason. You will be able to understand and respond to your baby’s needs quickly and with confidence, and this will have the knock-on effect of both you and your baby feeling calm, contented and reassured. Within a matter of weeks, as well as having structured daytime naps, your baby will happily go to bed and sleep from around 7pm until 7am without the need for night- time feeds.

Start following a 3-hourly feeding routine

In the early weeks I advise you to try to follow a 3-hourly feeding schedule with your new baby. This actually follows his natural digestive cycles and allows the natural sleep patterns to develop around it.

Think of each 24 hour period as 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night and I use the timing of 7am to 7pm for each day/night.

During the 12 hours of daylight you would try to follow a feed schedule that is aimed at feeding at

7am. 10am. 13:00. 16:00 and 17:00 which is the last feed of the day and is known as the ‘bedtime’ feed.

This is only a rough guide and you obviously need to adapt when it’s necessary and respond to your baby accordingly.

This ‘routine’ is the underpinning basis of The Sensational baby Sleep Plan and there is detailed information on how to implement and follow the plan.

Moving on to 4-hourly feed routine

After around eight weeks your baby should have responded well to the plan, be sleeping through the night and no longer needing a night feed. Once he has consistently slept through for around 12 hours each night for at least two weeks, you can gradually start to reduce the number of day- time feeds by increasing the time between each feed from 3 hours to 4 hours. Your baby may very well indicate that he is ready for this change by losing interest in his 3-hourly feeds, not taking as much milk each time and generally appearing to be ‘bored’ by the whole feeding process. This may also cause him to stir during the night because he is actually hungry, having taken less milk during the day. If he is starting to wake at night again after sleeping through for a few weeks, look at his daily feeding schedule and adjust it accordingly rather than taking the backward step of re-introducing a nighttime feed.

There is no hard and fast rule about when your baby may be ready to drop a feed. Trust your own judgement and watch for signals from your baby that indicate he may be ready for this next step and agin, there is much detailed information on this topic in my book.

Typical sleep requirements and routines

The sleep requirements of an individual baby, toddler or child can vary slightly, but the following table gives a general guide. This table will be useful for to check the cumulative hours of sleep your little one is currently achieving and to better understand whether they are getting the required amount. Be aware that it’s not just the cumulative sleep that’s important; the sleep has to be established in line with the natural patterns of sleep.

For example, an eighteen-month-old that still has two daytime naps, doesn’t go to sleep until 9 or 10pm, wakes once in the night is up at 5am is definitely not following the natural rhythms of sleep and will most certainly be overtired.

0–5 years: typical sleep requirements per 24-hour period


16–18 hours

3 months

15–18 hours

6 months

15–17 hours

12 months

14–16 hours

2 years

14–15 hours

3 years

12–14 hours

4 years

11.5–12.5 hours

5 years

10.5–11.5 hours

Most children will still need a daytime nap until they are three years old. However, some toddlers give up their nap at two-and-a-half years old and others still enjoy one at nearly four. Whatever age, I advise some ‘quiet-time’, usually after lunch, around the same time that they would have been sleeping.

The amount of sleep we each require varies, particularly when we become adults, but, according to America’s  , research makes it clear that enough sleep is essential at all ages. Sleep powers the mind and restores the body, fortifying virtually every system within it. But how much sleep do we really need in order to get these benefits? The Sleep Foundation  says that healthy adults need 7–9 hours of sleep per night (7–8 hours for those over 65), but babies, young children and teens need considerably more, to enable their growth and development.

The following table sets out the total expected daily sleep requirements for older babies, toddlers and young children. Based on the average amount for each age group, it also shows how many daytime naps are needed to promote good night-time sleep.






6 –12 months



2 naps

12–18 months



1–2 naps

18–24 months



1 nap

2–3.5 years


12 –13

1 nap

3.5–5 years


11 –13

0 naps

Of course, there will be individual variation in how your toddler’s sleep patterns develop – for example, whether at twelve months they have decided to have just one, longer nap during the day or to continue to enjoy two naps; either is more than acceptable. The key to daytime sleep, and whether they are getting right amount and at the right time, needs to be guided by what’s happening at night.





Typical 6 - 12 months routine

  • Wake-up: Milk feed 1.
  • Breakfast. Usually around 8 to 8:30am
  • Nap 1: around 2 hours after waking, ideally for 1.5 hours.
  • 11am: Milk feed 2 – as breakfast portion increases and lunch becomes more established this milk reduces and disappears usually by 7 to 8 months at the latest.
  • Lunch. Around 12 noon.
  • Nap 2: 12:30 to 13:00 second nap, ideally for two hours or even longer!
  • 15:00 Milk feed 3.

May need a late afternoon nap if tired or not slept well during the day, but usually this late afternoon nap has totally disappeared by 7 months.

  • 16:30 to 17:00 tea/dinner/supper.
  • 18:00 to 18:30 bath time.
  • 18:30: Milk feed 4. After which you can do story time and then put baby to bed by 19:00.

What can you do.

Both my  books, The Sensational baby Sleep Plan and The Sensational Toddler Sleep Plan,  have reams of information on suggested routines, feeding schedules and expected sleep patterns which you can buy in paperback or even download as audio books.

The audio books have the tables and charts in complimentary downloads so you can see the necessary information set out for you to follow.

  • You can read both my books.
  • You can listen to the podcasts I have recorded on setting routines and how to stick to them.
  • You can scrutinise my Instagram page and replay many of my ‘live’ posts and Q and A sessions.
  • You can seek direct help from me through an online consultation.

More Information