What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

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:




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



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



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
Feeds in
24 hours
Wake time
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.

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.