Parents of MeFi, share your day to day!
February 3, 2013 8:18 PM   Subscribe

My daughter is home from the hospital (yay!). Now what? I'm looking to hear from stay at home parents of infants up to toddlerhood. Can you give me an idea of your daily routine at various ages and how you developed it?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty to Human Relations (14 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Baby Jungle is 6 months now and we've settled into a nice routine:

7-7:30am Wake up, change out of dirty diaper and have diaper free time in the crib while I have breakfast (about 30 minutes).

8:00am - 9:00 am Dressing and then play time with Mama or Papa on the floor, she's starting to crawl so this is really fun. When she was smaller tummy time was shorter and less fun and usually involved reading books.

9a-9:30a Neighborhood walk, the only time we don't go is in the rain. Cold is fine because you can bundle them up!

9:30-10am High chair time while Mama straightens the kitchen and starts laundry. There are usually silly songs and dances to keep Baby Jungle entertained.

10:30 nurse
11-12 nap for baby, shower for me. If we need to go out early in the day I shower during what is usually breakfast time and have a cold breakfast instead.
After nap time we either go run errands or go see our neighbor, she's home bound and loves Baby Jungle to pieces.
2p-4p second nap and nursing. I use this time to prep dinner, tidy the house, watch too much Hulu, you know, fun stuffs! Some days I nap with Baby, it just depends.
4p-4:30p tummy time with reading
4:30-5p Baby is in her step and play piano or bouncy horse while I do whatever is left before Papa Jungle gets home.
5p-6p Daddy time with I make dinner, there's usually giggles and books and silliness.
6-6:30 dinner
6:30 Bath, jammies, book, nursing
7:00 bed
2 am feeding
7am repeat

We do tummy time 2x a day and some days she wants nothing to do with her toys and just wants to be held so on those days she gets a lot of sling time while I do the necessary things and all the unnecessary things get pushed to the side in leui of snuggles (here's looking at you laundry pile!). It took awhile to get a good routine and sometimes activities get moved around, but not naps. Baby Jungle is a sourpuss without her naps so we never move them. On pretty days we spend more time outside and some days we might go out twice, life is fun with a baby, enjoy it!

I hope this helped, if you have any questions there's always memail.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:51 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, starting when Baby Jungle was about 3 months I tracked her sleeping, waking and eating to figure out what the pattern was and slowly shifted things to make the routine we have today. We did tummy time from day 1 and I think that really helped, she had great neck control early on and she's an early crawler.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:58 PM on February 3, 2013

I was a SAHD for the first 3 months after our daughter came home, so I can really only speak to the infant phase.

First of all, a lot of this will depend on what type of sleeper your baby is. Each baby is different, and you can't really control their sleep patterns when they are that young. Let them sleep when they need to sleep.

Babies (and really children of all ages) thrive on routine and stability. I found that the following routine worked well for us: eat, play, cuddle, sleep, repeat. At nighttime I cut out the play. There weren't actual times attached to most things, but eventually we did fall into a routine where wake-up was around 6:30-7:00.

Play time as an infant was really just a combination of laying on the floor looking at me holding toys and shiny things, listening to music, or me holding her in one arm while I walked around the house and narrated my every move so she could hear me speaking to her, or as she got a little older and developed her muscles - tummy time, actually grasping and moving small toys, etc.

You often hear that you should "sleep when they sleep" - which if they don't nap long, doesn't help you. In my case, when she fell asleep during the day, I would have just enough time to clean up, do a chore or two around the house, maybe prepare the next set of bottles, and use the bathroom or take a shower. No way could I have fallen asleep long enough to get actual rest before she woke up again. Now there was usually one mid-afternoon nap when she was tiny that I could regularly count on being longer, so I did usually plan to sleep during that time and did nothing else when she went down so I could lay down right away.

Mine happened to sleep anywhere from 20-45 minutes per nap during the day with wake times of anywhere from 1-2 hours between, and anywhere from 45-90 minutes a time at night with about an hour wake up between. YMMV, as some babies will begin sleeping through the night, or at least longer stretches at night, much sooner than others. We slowly moved toward longer nighttime sleep, but it took a while. I think it's because she liked napping during the day (especially in her swing) and thus didn't need enough sleep at night to keep her from waking up.

Other than the general guidelines you get from your pediatrician regarding exposure to germs, don't be afraid to leave the house! Just being able to run to the grocery store or over to Target felt like such an adventure when I was mostly housebound. I probably went out 2-3 days a week, just to one store and back home again usually.

Finally - although babies like routine, it's also important to vary it a bit. What I mean by that is - if you always sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and use the same blanket for bedtime, she might freak out when you, or a grandparent, or any other helper, sings another song or uses a different blanket. When everything is always exactly the same, any variation can cause stress. You want to make sure the routine is generalized in their heads, so it's more like "soft singing in the rocker with lights out, then tucked in with a blanket means sleep" instead of "only this song and this blanket will get me to sleep" (just an example; obviously you shouldn't leave a baby unattended to sleep with a blanket).
posted by trivia genius at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a 22 month toddler so this will be for future you:
6:00 am kiddo wakes me up (ugh, sometimes earlier!) We do diaper change and then head to my bed for a bottle, some books and to bother daddy while he gets ready.
7:00 we usually head downstairs for breakfast.
8:00 to 10:00 play in the house with toys and books. Legos and the wooden train are the current favs. Sometimes we skype with grandparents.
10:00 snack then out to the park or other high energy activity. I try to run him hard for 2 hours with lots of climbing and exploring.
12:30 lunch (usually at home) with a bottle of milk
1:00 - 3:00/3:30 nap (I am 6 months pregnant so usually I nap too)
3:30 - bottle and snack then more playtime. We often have an errand to run and we sorta tidy up and make dinner.
6:00 - daddy is home and plays with the kiddo while I work on dinner
6:30 - dinner
7:15 - bath
7:30 - pjs, books, teeth brushing and in bed by 8:00. He sleeps through to 6:00, finally!
8:00 - daddy and I clean up dinner, put toys away and try to relax for a bit before we head to bed around 10 - 11.

You will notice I spend very little time on house stuff/me stuff as my kiddo is super busy and there is not much downtime other than the nap. I often shower/bath at night to fit it in.
posted by saradarlin at 9:12 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My son's first book was Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. He was a captive audience and I enjoyed reading out loud to him. That's how we spent his "hang out time" as an infant when I was bed ridden and we couldn't do much.

I wrote an AskMe question about "How to play with your baby?" Because I was equally stumped when Baby Jbenben came on the scene!

I have zero skills, so my solution was to take my son out as absolutely often as possible, there's no real schedule when they are super tiny because they eat and sleep at will. My husband and I made a sincere habit of taking our son to nicer restaurants (early, like 5pm or 6pm) along with parks, nature, walks, shopping, and anywhere and every where. Farmers Markets are GREAT. We just kept all necessary supplies on hand everywhere we went for the first 3 to 6 months.

The result is that at 22 months, my son is well-behaved at restaurants (within reason, we can get through a meal for sure) and he's a champ at adapting to New Places and New People.

We tried the tummy time stuff - eh. If we were home, we did it. If there was someplace fun to go, we did that.

At about 10 months we joined our local aquarium because it was stimulating AND a great safe clean place to practice crawling and walking. This was THE BEST.

I can't speak to schedules because we never really kept one, per se. We had a stroller/baby bjorn/car seat situation that made a schedule unecessary when our son was younger. I was more concerned he be out and about in the world, especially near trees, ponds, and the ocean. And near people at museums, restaurants, and later - parks, the aquarium, and the zoo. Even if he was sleeping.


The upshot is that our son is really nice, he doesn't hit other children at 22 months on the playground, even if he doesn't exactly get "sharing" every time the opportunity to share arises. He understands social boundaries VERY well. He's a late-talker because a lot of languages are spoken regularly in front of him, but now that he is talking at 22 months in English, he uses correct grammar - A dog, My book, HI kitty - shit that kinda blows me away.


My husband is Egyptian, and one of our good neighbors is Persian. When Baby Jbenben was under 10 months, I was TOTALLY angry I did not have one of those magical children that went to bed every night at 7pm on schedule. No really. It was an issue.

Then my Persian neighbor and her American husband exchanged hilarious stories with me about how it is totally a Middle Eastern thing to keep the kids up all night while every one is socializing - and I calmed down a bit.


As your Little Peanut gets old enough to crawl or walk, it is easy enough to wake them up early, and even with a big nap, exercise them enough to get them to sleep by 7pm or 8pm regularly.

I swear.

Before that, infants have their own schedule, and I could not make heads or tails of it, all I could do was make sure all possibilities were covered and avalilable at all times, no matter where we were or what we were doing.

We did not do Mommy and Me classes. We did do a HEAP of other interesting stuff. My son slept through half of it, at least as an infant.

He's just fine, adjustment-wise. He sleeps like a normal person at 22 months.

Go have fun. It will be fine:))
posted by jbenben at 9:32 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Find all of the library baby storytimes near you. If you have 3 libraries within a half hour drive, than you may very well have 3 days of baby storytime you can go to. We learned all sorts of games and songs at the various storytimes we went to, and our daily routine changed drastically once we started going to these.

For the first 6 months or so, we did a lot of the same stuff over and over. We basically had a bottle, than some stories, then some tummy time, then some baby gym time, some bouncer time, some toy time, swing time, or whatever, and then a nap, and repeat, 4 times a day.

As he got older, the routine got longer and incorporated more things. So, instead of 2 hours of play and then nap 4 times a day, it was 3-4 hours of play and then nap 2-3 times a day. We still did a lot of the same stuff every day over and over until he was starting to crawl around. Once that happened, I would let him guide me as to what he wanted to do, by leaving things out around the rooms for him to find and enjoy.

By the time he was crawling, we were also going out most mornings to do baby storytimes, and walks with other parents. He never liked the stroller, so I had him in a hiking backpack, and we'd walk for about an hour with several other parents, and then do playtime at a playground.

Once he started walking, everything changed. During good weather we spent most mornings going to parks or other events with friends, and we'd leave all of the indoor playtime for later in the day when it was really hot, or bad weather days. Around this time we also got memberships to the zoo and the local childrens museum, and went to one of these each week. We also would go to the mall a lot before the shops opened, and there were a bunch of people there walking. He would walk sometimes, or sometimes I would carry him in the pack and get in a few miles myself. Either way, it was something to do when the weather was bad, and kept him interested.

After a while we started changing things up a bit, and would go to thrift stores, or music stores, or other places that he had no interest in when younger. Once he was about 18 months he was fascinated by a lot of new things, so we took advantage of that.

The main thing I learned through all of these stages, though, was that it is much better to have a routine and stick with it (even when it is a bit boring), than to try to wing it every day. Some days that works out OK, but other times you just end up frustrated, unable to think of anything to do, tired and cranky with a little child who just wants to be entertained. As soon as we had a regular thing planned out for each day of the week, things seemed to go much smoother overall. Some weeks we'd mix things up, but it was never because of lack of inspiration, but instead because new and more exciting things came to be.

The first few months were really tough until we found our rhythm. Finding other parents at storytimes helped a lot for us to get idea of new things to do.
posted by markblasco at 10:15 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a stay at home mum with a 6.5 month old. Like trivia genius mentions above, it really does depend on how your baby sleeps (and how you sleep!), so you're going to get a lot of different responses. The key is to fit other people's experiences into your own life, rather than the other way around. Too often do I get caught up in what I'm "supposed" to be doing rather than what works for our family, and that is the long road to frustration.

Having said that, here's how we usually roll on most weekdays:

5-6am: wake up, diaper change, he plays while I grab breakfast/put on a load of laundry/make the bed. His dad spends some time with him before he goes off to work too.

7:30-9:30am: couch nap! I build a nest of cushions and he naps on my lap while I catch up on email, internet or take a nap myself. This is the best time of the day - especially if the previous night has been a rough one. I wish I'd done this earlier (although the obvious safety precautions should be taken with a newborn), I get so much more rest now.

9:30-12:30pm: feed the baby, I get him dressed, he goes into one of his various spots to play while I shower and get dressed. Then I pick up around the house/hang up laundry to dry/sort dry laundry. I feed him again and then hang out with him on the floor (songs! Spinning around! Practising standing up!) while I eat an early lunch.

12:30-2:30pm(ish): second nap of the day, often on the couch, but if he's in an especially pliable mood I'll try and get him down to sleep in his crib. This might result in a shorter nap than usual (40 minutes, ugh) but at least I get that time alone. If he's hungry, I'll feed him again after he wakes up.

2:30-4:30pm: more play! More housework! Probably more feeding in here somewhere! I'll clean up the kitchen while he sits in his highchair. He'll hang out in his playpen or jumparoo. Depending on the weather, this is a good time to take him for a walk in the stroller too, especially if he needs to nap. Sometimes we just roll around on the floor or will talk a walk around the garden.

4:30pm: this is where he'd nap for 45 minutes if he's especially cranky or didn't nap for long enough at noon.

5pm: feed and play. So much play. So much play I have to hit google for ideas.

6pm,: his dad gets home, we institute NAKED TIME and baby gets a workout without a diaper on a pile of cloth diapers while the adults catch up.
6:30pm: bath time
6:45pm: storytime + feed
7pm or thereabouts (depends on how hungry he is): bedtime

10-11pm I go to bed, and when he wakes up for a feed, we co-sleep until the morning so that feeding him doesn't rely on me being 100% conscious (still breastfeeding).

On a weekend, his dad more involved - tired babies seemingly always nap in carriers or strollers unprompted, so the noon-time nap is spent being carried around the garden or the grocery store or Costco while I get a break at home. Sometimes though, we just time a visit to a swap meet or the zoo properly, and he'll nap in the carrier/stroller while we do things. It's a lot easier to be flexible when there's two of you around!

How I developed this... erm. Honestly: it was mostly a mixture of googling and deciding what my priorities were. A small baby screaming at you is also an effective form of behavioural modification. I wanted a shower, rest, a happy baby, the laundry done and (as of recently) a clean kitchen. Everything else could wait until the weekend. I will say this: I found instituting naps to be the #1 parenting hurdle and while it's not something I can say I've absolutely succeeded at, knowing the "x age can only be awake for y hours and start winding down 30 minutes before that nap is needed" formula really helped. Tired babies are perhaps the most miserable creatures on earth and that misery is contagious. There's a lot of help out there (not just "let the baby cry until they learn otherwise") to find a solution that works for you if you have problems. The internet is a great resource for parents.
posted by saturnine at 10:57 PM on February 3, 2013

An interesting development for us is that we have a 3 year old but child #2 arrived several weeks ago and.. the routine has remained broadly the same merely with frequent breastfeeding added in.

With child #1, everything was thrown into stress and disarray as it was a huge life change for us and our routine was radically different to that of childless adults. But after a couple of years, we found a great rhythm that suits everyone and wasn't entirely child driven. Now we're semi-confident parents, we've managed to have another baby and fit it into our schedule rather than letting the baby drive everything.

So in one sense, I'd say that a baby can, within reason, fit into any reasonable schedule.. but I say that as someone with years of stress and experience under the belt. Could we have done it first time round? Probably not.

My point - if there is one - is to keep adapting. Eventually you will find certain schedules trivial to maintain but initially you might find keeping up with anything to be daunting as you try to adapt to a whole new life. Good luck!
posted by wackybrit at 1:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, one other schedule related thing that worked for us.. once baby isn't so fragile (believe me, it comes quick!) try to become involved with local playgroups, get-togethers, and any sort of events where you can take children during the day. My wife was initially petrified of the idea but persevered and now most of her social circle and weekly activities are based around playgroups, play meets, and other moms - she loves it.

She knows a few other moms (who she used to work with) who never seem to get out and about with their kids, whose kids aren't well socialized, and whose social circles have been decimated by having kids.. and it's not a pretty picture.
posted by wackybrit at 1:04 AM on February 4, 2013

I should say that, in the first month, there was no routine. That is, we were On Duty looking after baby (or recovering from/preparing for same) at all times. Wake, feed (takes an hour maybe? tiny stomach, slow suck), clean up from feed, change diaper, nap, start again. Both parents were home for the first month or two, which meant there was usually enough functionality in the house to get meals made, but nothing else had a schedule. I think there were 5 naps per day, of which 3 became meals, and two were either naps or showers or whatever the household needed. Later, when one parent went back to work, that person became in charge of dinner, because the one home all day was still whipped and incapable of much thought, let alone prep.

We did keep track of wake and sleep cycles at various stages, which was very helpful for anticipating how long you had before the next feeding cycle stuck you to a couch. But we had a kid who was very predictable from an early point (like, literally, there was a point (around 6-12 weeks?) when she slept 55 minutes every 2.5 hours, and she was much happier if you were prepared and stuck to that, but I had plenty of friends whose kids were way less regular. Anyway, we could add up how much she slept during naps and at night and see that, even as it moved around (longer stretches at night, slowly coalescing daytime naps), the total hours were pretty consistent for many months (I think 13ish hours for 6months at least, maybe the first year).

We never designed a schedule. Just tried to keep up with the developmental changes. Two naps is a good stage of life, then the transition from two to one is death (you can't ever plan anything, because they switch back and forth, are always grumpy, etc.), then one nap is pretty good (because it's long and predictable) until they want to give it up. (We still do them, at least on weekends, at 5 years old.) Just make sure to build in outdoor time (which goes by fast and refreshes you as well), time with other at-home parents (which gives you permission to use your brain and to let your kid watch adult interaction), and occasional breaks to recharge your batteries. It helps if both parents view the at-home job as the harder one (we both certainly did); that means that the got-to-go-to-the-office parent will come home prepared to take the kid out of your hands for an hour or two, or show up with take-out dinner, or whatever best supports your end-of-day exhaustion. (It helps if the secondary parent has solo time on a regular basis, so that they are just as tuned in with the kid's developments and eccentricities as the primary parent, too; this also helps with appreciation of the difficulty of the job. This could be one afternoon per week, or most of a weekend day, or whatever; it's empowering to everybody.)

Good luck! Your rollercoaster ride is just beginning!
posted by acm at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2013

Also: good perspective here on the fourth trimester. hang in there!!
posted by acm at 7:46 AM on February 4, 2013

The first three months (fourth trimester) it's just feed feed feed, sleep, feed feed feed, sleep, and try to catch up on things like showers and laundry as you can. I never spent much time around babies before I had my own, so I really did not know how much of a new baby's time was spent eating! It seems like he spent about 75% of his awake time on the boob when he was a newborn. Also, we spent a lot of time immobilized beneath a sleeping baby, so having things like smartphones, books, and beverages within arm's reach was very important. That was really the extent of our routine. We had friends who tried to establish a set schedule for things like meals and naps, but ours seemed to thrive with on-demand milk and sleep.

The first year a lot of time was spent getting the baby to sleep. We held and rocked him until that didn't work anymore, and there was an era of car naps, and then there was a short time (maybe 10-12 months?) where his dad basically laid down with the baby and pinned him down until he fell asleep because nothing else seemed to work (we breastfed and coslept, so when I was around he nursed to sleep, but my husband is the SAH parent).

Basically, you'll figure out what works for your kid, and a routine will coalesce around that. Now at 26 months, our "routine" (we still don't have much of one) is: kid wakes up and we put some kind of breakfast (oatmeal, cheerios, fruit, yogurt) on the table for him so he can sit and eat while we make coffee, put on music, take the dog for a quick pee, and otherwise begin our day. Then we do whatever he wants to do (read books, play with toys) until we feel awake enough to get everyone into full clothes including shoes and go outside for a walk if it's not raining too hard. Afternoons are errands (grocery shopping or whatnot) and lunch. Or if there's no errands that need to be run, maybe a visit to the zoo or the children's museum. There is only one nap that usually occurs late in the afternoon (4pm or so) and that is parent downtime. After he wakes up it's start getting dinner stuff ready, throw in a load of laundry, and more book-reading and toy-playing. After dinner we do dishes while he plays on his own until it's time for bed (8 if he didn't nap that day, 8:30 if he did). Change into pj's, brush teeth, read 2-3 books, hug and kiss mommy and daddy, and he's down for the night and we watch a movie or read books or surf the internet for a while before we turn in.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:46 AM on February 4, 2013

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm is a quick light read about different parenting traditions around the world that comes to the conclusion that there are many good ways to raise a baby, and what counts most is love and flexability.

I have friends who swear by the "sleep, eat, play" cycle, a friend with twins who has everything scheduled precisely and friends who like me look up from the dishes to go oh blast, did I leave the baby asleep in the stroller or laundry basket?

Our one year old currently wakes up around 6-8am, nurses then plays all day with the occasional pause for a bottle of milk or to eat what someone else in the family is eating, a nap that can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and then falls asleep after nursing at 10-11pm.

There is no routine to our days. She does the same things most days - read books, shower, play with the cats, go to the nearby playground with our housekeeper, colour, chase a ball around - but it's based on need and availability because we have four other kids and both parents work a lot.

We did do some things to work for a flexible routine, although a lot of it is her personality. She has few toys, and they're open-ended type toys. They're in pull-out boxes she can get to on her own. Her books are on a low shelf for her, and she has a small desk with paper and crayons on it. The house is baby proofed so she can go all over without needing to be monitored. We're moving her clothes to a small dresser so she can get them herself next. We have breakfast and dinner together and she eats whatever we're eating, just smaller quantities and without chili. Lunch is hit and miss, currently she will snack on her siblings' food and maybe have a bottle later on.

Really, we are at the far end of the routine curve - I never could make myself do bedtime reading with any of my kids, and they still ended up average-to-avid readers - and it works for us better than any schedule ever has.

Good parenting adapts to the child because what works for one won't for another. And after a couple of kids, you relax because you realise you can't reshape a child, only sort of point them in a good direction. The biggest thing is to find a way that keeps you happy so your child grows up with a happy parent. That matters way more than what (or if!) mealtime schedule you have.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Great answers all around. Seems like we are already falling into a routine that looks a lot like the ones mentioned here, which is reassuring. I guess it's true that "you know more than you think you do."

Due to a medical condition, we are on strict doctor's orders to stay at home during cold & flu season for Baby McG's first couple of years, so story time, trips to the park/store/wherever are out. I've read through the how to play with a baby threads but would love any other suggestions on staying sane at home with a baby.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:44 PM on February 5, 2013

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