Routine from 6 months
I was lucky enough to have a wonderful maternity nurse, followed by a great nanny. They both helped me get my first child into a routine. This may not be the answer to everyone’s prayers but it has been a godsend to me, and my children love the security of their routine. If you spend time on it at the beginning, it's much easier to tinker with it later on. But remember, the routine has to suit you and I always think a baby should fit in to your life, and not the other way around.
7am: Up, change nappy, bottle (I try not to go in before 7am as that's when I like to start the day. If your baby is crying, you should see why, but if there’s nothing wrong I would try leaving them or do controlled crying. Most babies have a bottle of milk or breast feed but when they get a bit older, try giving them a beaker).
8am: Breakfast followed by top & tail before getting dressed.
9-10am: Anytime between 9 and 10, put your baby down for a nap (In a cot or pram, whichever suits you. They usually grow out of this sleep at around 1 year but each child is different).
1pm: Down for a nap (I always like to put them down for this big sleep in their cot. I put them in a long sleeved vest, in their sleeping bag or swaddle if they're little. Curtains closed and lights off. My son loves music so I play soft calming music at this time. My children also like a snuggle blanket so they have this at each sleep time. If they wake before 3pm, I do controlled crying but this normally only happens for the first few days)
3-4pm: When they wake, change nappy, dress, milk or snack (My daughter is only 10 months and still has a bottle of milk at this time but my son, who is 2, has juice, water or a glass of milk and a small snack).
6.00pm: Naked playtime (Babies love to be naked if the room is warm enough. I let mine crawl around the bathroom while I get the bath ready. I started this from birth).
6.15pm: Bath, teeth, massage, PJ's on (I'm paranoid about water and babies and I wouldn't leave them alone in the bath at any age. I let them splash around with bath toys after washing them and brushing teeth. I started gently brushing teeth as soon as the first tooth arrived. I sometimes find it easier to wash babies on the floor on a mat before putting them in the water to rinse off. Be careful though as they may be slippery. There are all sorts of handy bath supports for little ones and I find a plastic bath mat is essential. When your baby starts sitting, I would suggest putting a flannel under their bottom to help prevent slipping if you don't have a mat or are away. After they're dry, I give a short massage. Most babies love this but don't use too much pressure).
6.45pm: Story and milk (I try and do this in a calm room with the lights dimmed and use a quiet voice to get them in the mood for bed. My son is crazy about 'In The Night Garden’ on CBB’s, which also gets him ready for bedtime. Most babies have a bottle of milk with a teat or breast feed, but when they get a bit older, try giving them a beaker, as at morning time).
7pm: In cot (I've always been very strict with bedtime and my children actually thrive on routine. After their story and milk, I put them into their sleeping bag and straight into their cots. I always get the room ready before so curtains closed, lights off. My children like a night-light, soft music and a snuggle blanket so I have this ready to make for an easy bedtime. If they wake, I would suggest controlled crying again, but this normally only lasts for a few days if you stick to your guns. Babies are so clever and if you take them out one night, they'll expect it the next).
NB: If you're doing controlled crying you need to make sure that your baby is happy and safe. My maternity nurse used to say, 'If she's Dry, Fed and Winded, she's fine.' I have a habit of feeling the back of my children's necks before I go to bed to check their temperature. If you're at all worried, check it with a thermometer. The electric ones are so easy and can be done while they're asleep.
I always offer a beaker of water or a doidy cup (great at teaching them to drink from a cup at an early age) with meals. If you're worried about weaning, Annabel Karmel does a wonderful book on it, with helpful menu suggestions.
It's often hard to find time to do the washing/ironing etc but if you keep on top of it every day it makes life easier. I often think after lunch is the perfect time when they get in to a routine as you have 2 hours to yourself and it means you'll have time to look after yourself or your husband when they go down at 7pm.
NB - to find out more about controlled crying, check out Gina Ford’s website. Gina Ford is one of the many experts on controlled crying.