As promised, this is the last part of the baby-related series of March. I have written a lot about the importance of routines and patterns in my life. I have found that routines have become an even more important aspect of my days since Hudson’s arrival. The tough part with baby routines is that babies are changing SO much from a month-to-month basis that I have found our routines need to be adjusted relatively frequently. Nap times and nap frequency changes a lot and this has a big impact on the whole day’s routine. Since Hudson is already almost 10-months old, I am going to focus on his current routine, which I imagine will stay relatively similar for the next couple months. Every day is different, but I have found that ever since he has turned 9-months, his naps have become extremely predictable. He is now down to just two naps a day. He usually has his morning nap at 9 am and his afternoon nap at 2 pm. There could be a slight variance if his morning nap was shorter, but for the most part, these are the two times he naps. I have loved having these very predictable times because it allows me to fill in the spaces between naps more easily. I would probably bore you if I went hour by hour and explained Hudson’s typical routine, so instead I am going to break it down into the three parts of the day and give general ideas and inspiration for 9-12 month old baby routines based on what we have found successful.
Morning Time: 7:00-11:00 am
- Wake baby up at a consistent time.
I used to not do this. If he slept past 7 am, I would let him. It is so hard to wake up your baby especially when they are finally, actually asleep. However, I have found, especially at his age now, that it is much better to get him up around 7 am. As tempting as it is to allow him to continue to sleep, so I can continue to enjoy my morning quiet time, I am learning that sticking to a wake up time is better for the both of us.
- Start day slowly.
The day always seems to be better when I allow those first couple hours of the morning to be a slow start. I typically never plan anything before his first nap. This allows for a solid two hours in the morning with the ability to slowly wake up to the day. We usually read a book or two. We say good morning to the tree and wall and neighbor’s house outside the window. We pet Nala and tell her good morning. I re-heat and sip my coffee. Now that Hudson is a full-on crawler, I usually let him explore and crawl around in the living room a bit before breakfast. Of course not all days allow for slower starts, but especially during the week, I really try to move things slowly before 9 am.
- Get all ready for the day BEFORE nap time.
I used to leave Hudson in his pajamas for his first nap, but recently learned it makes much more sense to get him all cleaned up and dressed before I put him down for his nap. Part of the reason I do this is out of necessity. He usually is a complete mess after his breakfast. Quinoa cereal is usually smeared all over his little body. Bananas are stuck in his hair. Prunes cover his face. The other reason I get him all clothed and ready is that I don’t want to waste the time once he wakes up from his nap. When he wakes up, all I have to do is quickly nurse him, grab the diaper bag, and we are out the door!
Afternoon Time: 11:00 am-2:00 pm
- Schedule an outing.
Typically, right when Hudson wakes up, we leave the house. This outing will vary based on the day. As of recently, it usually is a trip to the park to play with friends in our MOMS Club or a grocery store run at Trader Joe’s or a run in the jogger on the strand. Sometimes the outing is fun, like baby yoga; and sometimes it is more practical, like running errands. Especially at this age, what seems to really matter is that we are getting out of the house and he gets the chance to interact with other people and babies. Anytime I have to go to the grocery store or go to an appointment, I know to schedule it during this time slot. I also try to have specific outings for certain days of the week. For example, Wednesdays are usually story time or yoga, Thursdays we always go to Trader Joe’s, and Fridays we usually go to the park or beach. I find it really helpful to have these weekly patterns.
- Be home for nap time.
Just as important as the outing is the nap time. I used to be out during nap time and Hudson would often take his second nap in the carseat. There are definitely certain days where there is no getting around that, but as much as I can control it, I plan to be home for that 2 pm nap time. The afternoon nap is a really important time for me to get some rest and get a few things done around the house before Lance gets home. Also, I find that Hudson gets an overall better rest when he naps in his crib. I always try to cap our outing to around 12:30-1:00, so we can get back home, feed Hudson lunch, and allow him some freedom to play before he has his last nap of the day.
Evening Time: 4:00-7:00 pm
- Allow for independent play time.
Hudson typically wakes up around 3:30. By the time I’ve nursed him and changed his diaper and read a book with him, it is time for me to start dinner. I use this time to give him some alone time to play on his own. Hudson is around people a lot of the time, so I really want him to learn how to also be adaptable and learn how to entertain and play on his own. Usually, I will put some toys in the pack ‘n play for him to play with as I begin to make dinner.
- Eat dinner together.
We are early dinner eaters. We usually eat around 5 pm or sometimes even earlier. Since Hudson has been in a high chair, eating together at the dinner table with all three of us is very important. It can be hard especially when it takes a lot of energy to get Hudson to eat anything at all, but I think this routine is an essential one for our family. No matter what happened in that day, we will find ourselves together again around the table. We pray. We eat. We slow down.
- Create a bedtime routine.
After the dishes are cleared, Lance usually takes Hudson and Nala for a walk around the block. This is another important part of our routine because it gives Lance some alone time with Hudson, which they both enjoy. It also gives me time to clean up or take a shower. Once they return, the bedtime routine officially begins. This is going to vary from family to family. Create a routine that works the best for your baby and family. For us, we give him his bath early. We used to bathe him right before bed, but found that he needed to play between bath and bed to get fully tired. Lance is in charge of everything bath-related. He is the master bath giver. Again, this time allows for me to just watch Lance be an amazing dad or get a load of laundry folded. Did I mention that Lance is the best? He really is. This is a slight side note, but it is so helpful to find routines and parts of the day that your spouse can be in charge of. Lance and I function as a team. For the days and weeks to work, we both need to hold our weight. After bath time, the rest of the evening unfolds with pajamas, a little more play time, a story read, prayers, and milky. Sound machine is on. Night time teddy bear is playing music. Hudson is snuggled up in his sleep sack. And I tip toe out of the room. Unfortunately, even at 9-months the day does not end here and he typically gets up 3-5 more times until the next morning. But we’re working on that, aka praying he sleeps through night soon!
Obviously, no day is exactly the same. Some days we hit this routine spot on. He naps perfectly. He plays perfectly. He sleeps soundly. But, there are days, many days, that just don’t look like that. This is our routine for the most part, but the fact is, when you have a baby, sometimes you need to let go of routines on those days that are just a struggle. You have to be okay with that short nap. You have to be okay when you cancel the outing. Routines are good. Actually, they are great and incredibly helpful, but at the end of the day, they are just a guide. They need to be adjusted, changed, and added to.