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The Contented Little Baby Routine for Babies and Toddlers by Gina Ford

6am-8am

Baby needs to be fed and either settled back to sleep, depending on the time he awoke, or encouraged to sit in his chair while the toddler has his breakfast

If the baby fed from one breast at 6am it would be best to wake him and give him the second breast while the toddler is having his breakfast.

Try to get both children fed by 8am, so that you allow plenty of time for washing and dressing.

8am-10am

Get both children washed and dressed.

Baby will be ready for a nap between 8.30/9am.  If you have to take the toddler to pre-school or nursery this nap will have to take place in the car or the buggy.

Once you have dropped the toddler off at nursery, time permitting you can probably fit in the daily shopping.  This will ensure that the baby sleeps well during his morning nap.

10am to 12 noon

The baby will need a feed somewhere between 10 and 11am, and will probably be ready for a nap between 11.30am and 12 noon.

Once he has had his feed, encourage him to go under his playmat for a short spell so that you can fit in a few chores and prepare the lunch for you and your toddler.

11.30/12 noon

Baby will be ready for a nap around now.  If you have to pick your toddler up from pre-school or nursery he will have to take the first part of the nap in his car seat or buggy.  But try to prepare his cot and nursery before you go out, so that he can go straight down in his cot the minute you get home.

12.30pm-2pm

Lunch for you and your toddler.  During this stage of development your toddler will benefit greatly if you try make time to eat with him.  It will also help him realise that although he now has to share you with his baby brother or sister, he still gets special time with mummy.

Even if your toddler has dropped his lunchtime nap, I would try to encourage him to have some quiet time after lunch.  Noisy games and running around should be discouraged at this time.  This will allow time for both you and him to re-charge your batteries and ensure that the baby has a really good sleep at lunchtime.

2pm-5pm

Aim to have the baby awake and feeding no later than 2pm, so that he has had at least half of his feed during your toddler’s nap or quiet time.  By 2.30pm your toddler will probably be starting to get a bit restless, so it will become very difficult if he has to sit through nearly an hour of you feeding the baby.

Once the toddler is up he will probably be happy to play with some of his toys while you finish off the baby’s feed.  If he is demanding your attention try reading him a story while you finish off the feed.

This is also a good time to offer him a drink and a snack.

He will most certainly be getting bored by 3pm so try to arrange in advance different things each afternoon: a trip to the park, an arranged activity or play date with some of his friends.  Alternate the activities so that he does not have really hectic ones two or three days in a row.  If he is at nursery school every morning then afternoon activities should most certainly be more relaxed ones, if over-tiredness is not to become a real problem at bedtime.

The baby will need a short nap between 4pm and 5pm.  This can be taken in his buggy during a trip to the park, or if at home in the garden or a quiet room downstairs.

If the play date is taking place at your home, I would advise that you ask the other mothers to help you put the bulk of the toys away at 4.30pm.  The fewer toys there are to clear up the easier it will be to get the toddlers to cooperate at clearing them away, at a time when they are beginning to get tired and hungry.

5pm-6pm

The baby will need to have a half of his breast feed or bottle around 5pm.  Depending on what you have been doing that afternoon, you should aim to give your toddler his tea either at 5pm or 5.30pm. 

If he has friends around he may be happy to play on until 5.30pm allowing you to feed the baby.  The baby, having been fed, should be happy to sit in his bouncy chair or go under the play-gym while you prepare and give tea to the toddler.

Alternatively, if you have been very organised and prepared tea earlier then some toddlers are happy to sit and eat their tea while the baby is being fed. 

It is important that if you are feeding the baby at the same time as your toddler is having his tea, that you do so in a seat very close to your toddler.  A young child should never be left alone while eating, not only is it dangerous but it will also lead him to feel very abandoned if you go off to another room to feed the baby.

6pm-7.30pm

This is usually one of the most difficult times of the day for parents with a young baby and toddler, especially when you are coping with everything by yourself. If you have a partner who can help out when he gets home, that’s wonderful, but for many mums this time is one they have to manage alone.  The guide below is so you can manage on your own.

The majority of young babies and toddlers are getting tired and irritable by this time, so trying to get them both bathed and settled happily in their beds at a reasonable time requires a huge amount of patience and discipline from the parents.

Try to get both children upstairs no later than 6pm.  It is essential during the early days that the baby does not become over-tired.  Remember that during the early days he will be ready to sleep two hours from the time he last woke. You will also need to take into consideration how long he slept during the late afternoon.  If it was only a short nap I would aim to get him into bed by 6.30pm.

Try to create a calm quiet atmosphere at this time  so that neither of the children get over-stimulated or over-excited.  Make sure that there are not too many toys lying around that could encourage your toddler to get hyped-up.

Whether you attempt to bath both your toddler and baby together will depend very much on the age of your toddler and how active he tends to be in the bath.

The following describes two approaches to dealing with bath-time. I suggest that you give both of them a try to decide which one will work best for you

Approach 1

Bath both children together, putting the baby in one of the specially-designed, moulded plastic bath seats which he can lay back in and which will free up both his hands.

Wash the toddler first, so that he can play while you quickly wash the baby.  Have a changing mat on the bathroom floor so that you can transfer the baby to it to be dried, massaged and dressed while you keep an eye on the baby.

Having been fed at 5pm the baby should hopefully be happy to lay on his changing mat once dressed, long enough for you to get the toddler out of the bath and dried and creamed.

Take both children through to the bedroom and encourage your toddler to dress himself while you give the baby the second breast or the remainder of his bottle feed.

Once the toddler is dressed he should be encouraged to sit next to you and drink his milk while you read him a story, or he watches a video.

Whatever you do, do not tell your toddler that he must not shout or run around because you are trying to get the baby to sleep.  This is the fastest way to ensure that he will start running around screaming at the top of his voice. Instead, explain that it is quiet time now and once baby is asleep he will have some special time with mummy.

If your toddler is active and not the type to sit still, I found that establishing a ritual of where the toddler had several little beds  (painted boxes, with handmade blankets, etc) to put his special toys to sleep could occupy him for quite a while.  He can, in turn,  give each toy a drink from their own special bottle or beaker before tucking them up and kissing them goodnight.

Have a special toy in the baby’s room that also has its own bed, so that when you take the baby through to settle him in his cot, your toddler can bring the special toy through and quietly tuck it up for the night.

A few minutes prior to settling the baby in the cot, make a point of using a very low, quiet voice to tell baby that he must be very quiet now as it is time to go in his cot so that you can read his big brother a very special story.  Emphasise to the baby what a good boy his big brother is and how quiet he is.  Of course this must all be done within earshot of the toddler!

Once the baby is settled in his cot you can then take the toddler to his room and read him his special stories.  You will have to be strict about how long you spend reading to him, otherwise a situation could arise where he will want just one more story and the bedtime settling begins to take longer and longer.  I would suggest that you allow no longer than 15-20 minutes of reading.   

Approach 2

If bathing both children at the same time is too daunting in the early days, then establish a separate bath-time routine for each child. It would be advisable to start earlier, if you still want both children in bed by 7.30pm, as it will obviously take longer to bath and settle each child separately.

Bring the 5pm feed forward by fifteen minutes so that you can then bring the bath-time forward for the baby.  Get your toddler to help you with bathing, drying and massaging the baby.  I always used to encourage them wash, dry and cream the feet, counting the baby’s toes.  It will hopefully distract him from the more delicate parts of the baby’s body such as the head, eyes and mouth, etc.

Once the baby is ready to feed, you can adopt the same ritual as described above, but omitting the toddler’s milk at this stage.  You should manage to settle the baby in bed by 6.30pm. Even if he has fed and winded well but does not seem ready to sleep you can still lay him in his cot, but leave a dim light on and prop a cot mirror or baby cot book along the side for him to look at.  I used to have to do this when I was settling twins in the evening and they very quickly got into the habit of going in the cot while wide awake, gazing happily at their books or mirror before drifting off to sleep.

This will allow you to start the toddler’s bath around 6.30pm, aiming to be reading his story and give him his milk at around 7pm. This will ensure that he is still in bed by 7.15pm to 8pm.

Related links about Routines

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