Having your baby on a schedule will make life easier and more predictible for you and your family. Not only that, but having your baby on a good eating and napping schedule during the day will help your baby sleep through the night. Set up a successful schedule based on the baby's needs and her overall sleeping and eating patterns.
Ensure the baby is at the right age. If your baby is too young, he may not be ready for a schedule and you may have a difficult time establishing a routine. If your baby is too old, he may be set in his erratic ways, making it equally difficult. Consider putting the baby on a schedule when he's between 2 and 4 months old. A baby who is at the prime age for starting a schedule is usually sleeping longer stretches at night, and going three and four hours between feedings during the day.
Observe your baby for a few days, writing down his natural sleeping times and eating times. You will have a much easier time if you build your baby's schedule using his natural patterns.
Establish a first feeding time. This is extremely important because it will be the starting point for the rest of your day. If you feed your baby at 6 a.m. one day and 8 a.m. the next, it will be difficult to establish consistent feeding times throughout the day.
Try to follow a feed-play-sleep cycle. Many parents do a feed-sleep-play cycle, which teaches the baby to be dependent on food to put himself to sleep. If a baby doesn't have the bottle, he won't be able to go to sleep. Or, if you give your baby a bottle and he doesn't fall asleep, you will run out of options. Teaching your baby to fall asleep on his own will help him build healthy sleep habits for a lifetime. It will also help the baby learn to put himself back to sleep if he wakes up early from a nap or in the middle of the night. It usually only takes a few days to teach him, and is well worth the effort.
Establish a naptime and bedtime routine. Even though you don't want to feed your baby to sleep, you may want to give her clues that it's time for a nap or bedtime. This might mean reading a story and then singing a lullabye, taking a bath or giving your baby a massage. Just make sure you put your baby in the crib when he is drowsy, but awake. If you put him to sleep in your arms and then place him in the crib, he will startle when he wakes up, and may not sleep as long as he should.
Be consistent with your routine. Even though it's impossible to feed and put your baby down at the exact same time every day, try to stick to within a half hour of your baby's feeding and sleeping times. For example, if your baby's afternoon naptime is 1 p.m., try to put your baby down between 12:30 and 1:30, taking into account the cues your baby is giving you. His body clock will then become naturally tired around that time each day.
Be flexible. While you will want to be extremely consistent the first week of establishing a schedule, once you have it in place, you can certainly be flexible as things come up. If you're traveling, the baby had immunizations or you're running errands, it may throw your schedule off for a day or two. Just take into account your baby's needs during those times, and know that you will get back on schedule soon.