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The Feed - Play - Sleep Routine

Babies thrive best when the day is structured to meet their needs, not the needs of adults. The feed/play/sleep routine is the core structure of a baby's day at any age, making life more manageable for everyone. Each repetition always follows the same order:

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   Feeding
    It's important to feed at the beginning of each repetition of the routine
    Well slept babies feed better and suck more effectively
    In general, a feed should last about 45 minutes in total
    After a feed, sit your baby upright for a short while
   Playing
    Playtime is important to a baby’s mental and physical development
    Even a new baby can spend a brief period alone on the floor on a blanket,
    stretching, looking around and not being held
    Other activities for playtime include massage, going for walks, and baths
    Play until your baby's tired cues are evident. The play period is quite short for a young baby
   Sleeping
    Use a brief simple routine to make your baby comfortable and show that it is time for sleep
    During the day, a young baby needs to be in bed for one and a half to two hours per sleep
    Stimulation in the late afternoon or early evening will lower the quality and quantity of sleep over night
         
   A Guide to FEED, PLAY, and SLEEP
   Remember, each baby is different but this is a guide to what you might expect.
Baby ages
(weeks)
Feeds in
24 hours
Wake time
(hours)
Daytime
sleeps
Sleep needs in
24 hours (hours)
0 - 8 6 - 8 1 - 1.5 Between feeds 16
8 - 12 6 1 - 1.5 Between feeds 15.5
12 - 16 5 - 6 1.5 3 15
16 - 24 5 1.5 - 2 3 14.5
           
At night, the pattern continues but the play period is omitted.

This routine may take some weeks to be learnt, and needs to be sustained for most of the first year. As your baby grows, the play periods lengthen and sleep needs decrease.

Unsettled periods are common later in the day for babies under three months of age.

Sickness or normal developmental changes may disrupt the pattern and these strategies might have to be re-learnt.
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In conclusion ...

It takes some weeks for these skills and strategies to become familiar and we all need support from our partners, family members and friends as we introduce them. You will be able to refine them to suit your baby and your own situation with time. There are details about how to begin on the following pages.

This webpage last updated 27 February 2014.