Whether you are a stay at home mom, working mom, work from home mom, or some other option, having a new baby changes everything. The needs of a new baby can be overwhelming between feedings and diaper changes and tummy time and gas and not sleeping... Sometimes it can seem impossible to get anything else done.
But, there are other things that need to get done. Like caring for the other kids, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, work, etc. So how do you get it all in?
You make a schedule.
I am a huge, huge proponent of putting your baby on a schedule. Both my kids had pretty steady eating and sleeping schedules as babies and it really helped me with planning my day. Here are my tips for creating a schedule that works for you and baby.
#1 Take Cues from the Baby
When the baby first comes home, it will probably be eating every 2 to 3 hours, stay up a little bit and then nap. Try to note the times when this happens. Are they eating on the 3's (3, 6, 9, 12) or on the 2's (2, 5, 8, 11)? If their timing works for you, keep it. If not, you can slightly adjust their feedings by about 15 minutes over a few days until the 3 hour blocks work for you.
So if your baby naturally feeds at 5 but you want to start feedings at 6 because that's when you get up and then you can get on with your day, adjust back the feedings 15 minutes a day over the course of a few days. You can eventually get their first feeding of the day to be when you want to get up.
The general flow of things should be eat - play - nap during the day. I like this because then the baby doesn't use feedings as a way to get to sleep. The only feedings that would immediately be followed by sleep are the bedtime and middle of the night ones.
#2 Base Your Schedule off of Baby's
Now that you know your baby's schedule, you can use that to your advantage. Schedule the things you need or want to get done during the naps. For newborns, you generally get 1-1.5 hour chunks to get things done. If one of those chunks is used to get a nap in yourself, that's fine too!
For the rest of the chunks, plan ahead of time what you will be doing during each nap. Your time is precious, especially with a new baby. You don't want to waste half of their nap trying to figure out what you want to do in the first place.
During a bedtime feeding or the first morning feeding is the perfect time to brain dump all the things you want to do for the day and put them into nap slots. Then when baby's nap comes, you know exactly what to get done to make the most of the time.
#3 Be Flexible
Creating this schedule is all well and good, but don't forget, you had a baby, not a robot. Everyday is not going to go as planned. Baby might have really bad gas and not get to sleep. A diaper blowout may mean you have to do laundry instead of whatever you planned to do.
Try not to be so rigid that this throws off your day. If you have tasks that are more important than others, try to get those done earlier in the day so that if things get thrown off, the important stuff got done. Having a new baby is precious and it's important not to blame them for waking up 10 minutes earlier than scheduled and you not finishing a task.
#4 Re-assess Regularly
During the first few years, your baby is growing and developing so quickly. It really flies by. As far as scheduling, it's important to check in every couple of months and see how the gap between feedings and the length of naps need to change. It's also different depending on whether you breastfeed or formula feed.
They generally start with 4-5 naps a day then down to 3 naps and so on. Make the changes to baby's schedule at the appropriate times for your baby and then adjust your schedule accordingly. There are tons of resources out there on the suggested number and length of naps for babies at different ages. You can follow the guidelines or take cues from your baby.
I am not a baby sleep expert, and my first two have been pretty good sleepers. We'll see what happens with baby #3 come May. What I am an expert on is scheduling and time management. So see the patterns in your baby's sleep and use that to schedule your time.
The biggest takeaways here are to be flexible and to plan what to do during the naps before they happen. This will really help you make the best use of your baby-free time.
What are your biggest scheduling struggles? Let me know in the comments!