Thursday, September 6, 2012

My routine with a 7-month old

I've written about Natalie's sleep schedule before as well as the unpredictable nature of life with a baby that makes the concept of a routine challenging. Although I am destined to jinx it by writing about it, for roughly the past month I've finally felt like I've got a reasonably set routine with Natalie.

I still divide my day into pre-nap and post-nap chunks. Thankfully, around the time Natalie turned 7 months old she went from three naps a day to two, and that has made a huge difference in my general happiness. Fewer naps = increased ability to get out of the house. Incidentally, the 7-month mark is also right when Natalie started crawling, so she is at last reasonably happy playing a little by herself on the floor with me nearby.

I'm always curious about the routines of babies and stay-at-home parents, so here's what my present daily routine looks like.

Wake up routine, pre-nap 1: 7:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Natalie wakes up between 7:30 and 8:30.
  • Get my breakfast ready before getting her from her crib (I typically feed myself while feeding her).
  • Change her and breastfeed her immediately.
  • Read some books together because this is when she's most quiet and agreeable.
  • Play in the Exersaucer/on the floor. She is most agreeable to independent play this time of day.
  • Go down for nap 1 around 10-10:30.

Post-nap 1: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • Natalie typically wakes up from nap 1 around 11:30 a.m. No matter what, nap 1 is consistently one hour long. During that hour I've usually taken a shower, done a couple chores, read some internets...
  • Upon waking up from nap 1 breastfeed her immediately.
  • Feed her solid meal 1 of the day.
  • This is the best time of day for activities outside the house. On those rare days when I don't have something planned outside the house I take Natalie for a walk or run some errands with her. Staying home all day is unpleasant for her and me.
  • Go down for nap 2 around 2-2:45.

Post-nap 2, pre-bedtime: 4-7 p.m.
  • Natalie typically wakes up from nap 2 around 4 p.m. No matter what, nap 2 is consistently longer than nap 1, usually one hour 15 minutes or one-and-a-half hours long. During that time I've usually eaten a late lunch, done some more household maintenance and maybe even a little something I enjoy, like reading a book.
  • Upon waking up from nap 2 breastfeed her immediately.
  • By this time Matt is typically home from work, so we try to go on a long dog walk if we don't have other commitments. Although I'm more likely to schedule excursions during the post-nap 1 phase of the day, we do sometimes makes plans for the late afternoon.
  • Feed her solid meal 2 of the day with Matt, if possible, to establish the concept of family dinner time.
  • Try to read to her some more, if she'll take it.
  • Play in the Exersaucer/on the floor. This is the time of day when Natalie does best when we're interacting with her a lot.
  • Start the bedtime routine by 6:45 p.m. We still give her a bath every other day unless she seems particularly messy or we've done something out of the ordinary, like gone to the pool that day. Once she's changed for the night she's either breast or bottle fed and then rather immediately falls asleep.
  • Natalie is usually asleep by 7 p.m. but almost always by 7:30 p.m. at the latest.

On this schedule, Matt and I find ourselves eating dinner on the later side, usually around 8 p.m. We get in a couple hours of together time before it's time for Matt to turn in for the night in preparation for his early morning wake up for work.

Helping Natalie transition to a two-nap-a-day schedule has not only allowed us greater flexibility in making plans, but it has also allowed Natalie to start falling asleep for naps and bedtime more quickly. Although getting her to sleep usually has never been a challenge, the crying is even less now than it was before, which is probably a good signal that she's appropriately tired when it's time for sleep and she's struck a good balance for herself between sleep time and awake time.

Natalie turns 8 months old next week, and at that point I want to begin feeding her three solid meals a day. So, her routine will adjust slightly with the addition of "breakfast," but hopefully the routine will not change much.

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