Routines, patterns, systems, processes, and yes, sometimes even schedules are the thing that make our house run smoothly. Routines for when I move laundry, how we put the baby to bed at night, what we do every night before we get ready for bed, and more help us keep Louise well-rested and us sane. Here are a few of our favorite (ok, some are tedious, but they are so important to help our days run smoothly) routines throughout a typical day.
My Nine Month Old’s Nap Time Ritual
- Look for one or two tell-tale sleep signs that Louise is ready to go for her nap, while also keeping an eye on the clock. She usually naps around 9:30 and 1:30, but depending on how late she slept in or if she’s in the middle of a new major development, her nap may vary 20-30 minutes either direction. These signs include rubbing her eyes, tugging at one of her ears, fussing at her favorite toys, crawling up my front to rest on my chest, cuddle and suck her thumb, or a general quieting/slowing from more rambunctious play.
- At these signs, I start talking in a more mellow, soothing voice, letting her know it’s ok to start getting ready to rest.
- We go upstairs to her nursery and change her diaper.
- If she’s up for it, we’ll sit in the glider and read a short board book to mimic the nighttime ritual she has with her dad. Sometimes she fusses at the book and it’s a clear signal she’d like to go straight into her crib. Other times, she likes one more activity with mom before sleep.
- After the book, we stand up, Louise in my arms facing me. I pull the cord on her fan to flip off the light and hum her a lullaby. By following this routine for just about every nap, those two sounds trigger an immediate reaction. At the start of the song, she puts her thumb in her mouth and drops her head to lay it on my shoulder, breathing deeply and calmly.
- At the end of two (or occasionally three, if either of us needs some extra cuddle time that day) verses of the lullaby, I lower her gently into the crib (always on her back, even still at this age), tell her I love her and to have a good nap.
- I turn on the white noise machine and walk out of her room, blowing a kiss at the door before closing it.
Occasionally Louise cries out a couple times. Usually she’s just going from her back to her comfy position on her stomach and finding just the right sleep spot before she’s out for 60-90 minutes. We are very fortunate that our baby still enjoys taking her naps, and we believe this consistent nap time routine will help her continue to take good naps for as long as possible.
Bedtime Routine for Baby
Louise follows a variation of the Moms on Call bedtime routine that works for us. After an evening walk, our typical order is: bath, bottle, book, bed. The exact start time has varied some in the past several months, but we usually start her bedtime routine between 5:45 and 6:15, depending on how tired she is. This usually puts Louise in her crib, going to sleep, between 6:30 and 7:00.
- 5:15 – Before the typical bedtime routine starts, Louise’s evening begins with a walk. This was a great habit we got into to go for a family walk almost every day. For better or worse, now Louise expects to go for a walk, either riding in her stroller or being worn in the ErgoBaby carrier (we use the Omni 360). We do about a 2 mile stroll most days, around our neighborhood.
- 6:00 – Bottle goes in the warmer and Louise goes for a bath. We give her a ‘real bath’ (with soap and hair washing) every other night (unless she has sunscreen on, in which case we always wash it off), and we do a ‘fake bath’ on the other nights. Fake baths consist of filling her baby tub with warm water, letting her relax or plan in it for 5-10 minutes, and gently washing her face, hands, armpits, and diaper area with a wet washcloth. She doesn’t need a soapy bath every night, but we think the routine of the bath helps her get into the bedtime mindset. It also helps us delay her while the bottle warms up. James and I used to both bathe Louise together, especially when we were brand new parents and terrified of a horrific accident, but as she got bigger, sitting up on her own, James often does the bath himself, while I take care of a few little chores. During this time, I’ll move a load of laundry, pick up any toys in Louise’s room, and begin pumping for tomorrow night’s bottle. I use the Ameda Mya breast pump, which is very small and battery powered, to allow me to move through the house and take care of simple things
- 6:15 – After the bath, James will dress Louise with a fresh diaper, often some A&D cream for a protective barrier overnight, and a footed sleeper. We give her a vitamin D drop and some probiotic drops (discuss with your pediatrician before beginning a regimen like this), while I bring her warmed bottle upstairs.
- 6:20 – James feeds Louise her bottle, while I pump. Sometimes I wait to pump until after she goes to bed. If that’s the case, this is a good time that I can fold and put away a load of Louise’s laundry while James and I talk softly and Louise drinks her bottle.
- 6:45 – After Louise finishes her bottle, I usually kiss her good night and leave the room. James reads a story to her, turns on her white noise machine, and gets her to bed, humming his own lullaby to her before lowering her into her crib and leaving the room.
Recently, she’s been learning how to stand up on her own and starting to cruise (walk while holding onto things). Because of this new skill development, Louise is sometimes more difficult to put down. She stands by instinct and then is tired and upset that she’s standing and has to find her way back down to a comfortable sleep position. If she can’t seem to figure it out on her own after 20-30 minutes, we’ll do what we call a reset, mimicking the larger bedtime routine:
- Very quietly (not talking and engaging, but soothing is ok) pick up Louise, leaving the light off and the white noise machine on
- Check and change her diaper, if wet
- Check the sheets aren’t wet from spit up (or anything else, for that matter)
- Hold her facing my chest, humming her favorite lullaby — ideally, she snuggles back into it, sucking her thumb
- Lower her into her crib (on her back)
- Tell her I love her, blow a kiss from the door, and leave
Nighttime Routine to Prep for an Easier Morning
After Louise goes to bed, James and I get to enjoy the evening to ourselves, but there are a few steps we take every night to keep us well-prepared for the next day.
- Pumping, storing breastmilk, and washing pump parts – I keep my pump parts in the fridge and I don’t wash it after every use. There. I said it. When I had returned to work and I was pumping at the office every day, I did wash and sterilize my pump parts every evening since I was using it so much each day and traveling with it back and forth. Now that we’re home and I only pump in the evenings and occasionally in the morning, I wash and sterilize the parts every other day, along with the bottles she uses for her bedtime feedings. After I pump in the evening, I put the milk into a bottle for her for the next evening, and break down the pump parts into plastic bin in our kitchen reserved for this purpose. I add hot water and dish soap, let it soak for a few minutes, and then often while dinner is cooking, I’ll wash these items, load up the sterilizer baskets (we use the Phillips Avent sterilizer), and turn it on. Washing the pump parts can be pretty mind-numbing, but some days I make a game out of it and time myself. With practiced hands and the right tools, I’ve gotten the usual load of breastmilk dishes down to about 5 minutes.
- Make our dinner while getting the rest of the pre-dinner dishes done – There’s always some waiting in cooking. My dad always says you can’t cook from the living room. He’s a firm believer that you avoid burning food or other mistakes if you stay in the kitchen while prepping meals. And while he doesn’t advocate watching tv or non-kitchen multi-tasking while cooking, he taught me the art of cleaning as you go. So, we try to put away items as we use them for dinner prep and find moments of waiting in the cooking process to load the dishwasher to minimize after-dinner clean up.
- Prep for the next day – Before we go up to bed, we do a few more things to make the next day easier. These things take 5-10 minutes in the evening, but make all the difference the next morning when we come downstairs to a clean kitchen and are trying to quickly feed a hungry baby while getting coffee into our systems ASAP. We:
- Wash the dinner dishes
- Empty the sterilizer to the drying rack
- Prep the coffeemaker, and
- Move baby food from the freezer to the fridge to thaw.
These routines are not always locked to a specific time or schedule, but consistently taking these steps has enabled our baby to sleep better and helped us feel less rushed in the mornings. I hope they give you some ideas of how you can turn your regular patterns into consistent routines for a more optimized, happy day!