Parents, take hold of your schedule: A guide to Eat-Play-Sleep for newborns

Before becoming a new mom, I was a creature of habit. I love a good schedule, thrive on a routine, and have a deep appreciation for predictability in my day. When my son was born, I naturally thought I would take my love of predictability and apply it to our lives. We’d have nap time, we’d have feeding time, we’d have play time and of course, it would all center around when I planned for things to happen. Okay, you can start laughing now if you haven’t already! For anyone who has ever had a newborn, you know this grand idea of mine is absolutely impossible! For at least a few weeks after he was born, however, I persisted with my dream of routine. Its quite funny to me now to sift through my old computer files and find countless versions of what I thought would be the perfect schedule, all of which I am sure never made it to our actual days and were shut down by my newborn who had other ideas as soon as those schedules were created.

Although I wasn’t able to create a routine like the schedules I was accustomed to pre-baby, I did discover a new kind of routine that kept me sane during those newborn years: Eat, Play, Sleep. And it turns out, babies like routines – just not in the way I was used to implementing them. That is, I thought of routine as a schedule “at 5 o’clock we do this, at 7 o’clock we do that,” and not necessarily as only the same set of activities. But that’s exactly what Eat, Play, Sleep is – a set of activities that you do in the same order as you cycle throughout your day. Each activity may vary in length each time you do it, but they should be done in the same order and repeated routinely. This sense of control over our day, even if I didn’t know exactly what time I’d be doing what was extremely helpful for this routine oriented mama and gave me the predictability I needed to be (somewhat) sane during the newborn phases. You can start Eat, Play, sleep any time, and I recommend starting at birth. So, let’s break each of these down a bit to learn more about how to implement them with your own baby.

Begin as soon as your child wakes up in the morning to start their day (even if the day was broken up by many night wakings, there is still likely a clear “wake up” time that is followed by at least some chunk of sleep. If not, use the approximate time you yourself would normally wake up). Regardless of predictability of sleep at this point, have a set time where you begin your routine for the day. 

Eat – this one is easy! Well, not exactly easy to do, but easy to understand. No matter how you feed your baby, start here, and go with it. Try for a full feed, which could take up to an hour. Let them get filled up and enjoy (looking for tips on pumping with a newborn? Read my blog on pumping with pride, here Also check out this must-have breastfeeding box from sunflower motherhood). This is where things can get tricky. I naturally thought that baby would want to eat and then go immediately to sleep. And most people do, in fact, think this. Before I started Eat Play Sleep, I would try to put baby back down again and while sometimes he would fall back to sleep, other times he wouldn’t, and this would create some oddities in our day and definite disruptions in his overall sleep schedule. Resist the urge to put baby right back down to sleep and instead play!

Play – How do you play with a newborn? Great question! Pre-baby I was accustomed to Toddlers and school aged children through my work, so “playing” with such a young infant did not come naturally to me at first. But there are all sorts of ways you can play with a newborn – tummy time, peek-a-boo, reading books, singing, dancing, taking walks and pointing things out. These HABA toys were my favorite and they make the most adorable toys for ages 0 to 12 months. I l also oved what I called morning walks, which were just around my backyard where I labeled everything in sight and sang a short song that I made up. As my son got older, he actually requested the little walk and began to say the words I had been pointing out to him all those months (e.g., “tree!” – for more on language development in babies, check out my blog on teaching baby to sign). Diaper changes and even short errands count for play time. Whatever the activity is, plan it and have fun. I came to truly enjoy play time with my baby, especially as he got older and engaged more.

Sleep (finally)! The above two parts of the routine may take 20 minutes to a few hours, depending on your baby’s age, sleep needs and even time of year. If your baby is slightly older and you’re looking for tips on sleep, read my sleep blog, here. And if you’re anything like me, I stressed about putting baby down and typically wasn’t able to relax myself. But, tools like this monitor really helped so that I could see baby, monitor when he awoke but still have some time for myself during his sleep time.

No matter what you do, don’t be like me and stress about the actual time of each of these activities – focus on the activities themselves instead. Communities of other mamas like the one found in peanut can be extremely helpful in supporting your plans for eat play sleep. Your focus on activities over time will allow you some predictability of your routine while giving you some control over what you do and when!

Disclosure: I only recommend products I currently use or would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links and if you purchase something using them, I may earn a small commissionYou can read my full disclaimer, here.

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