Yesterday we talked about breast feeding. So now we are moving from an awkward topic to a scary topic. Hmmm…. When I became a mom, I never knew that there was such a thing as “scheduling” your baby…or that it would be so controversial. I was told in the hospital [very firmly I might add] NOT to schedule my baby but to let her nurse whenever she wanted, for however long she wanted. It didn’t take me long to feel like a walking pacifier. And luckily, we were surrounded with a lot of families who had braved the newborn frontier before. They all told me the same thing. Get that baby on a schedule! I did, and I am forever grateful.
Now I want to add all my disclaimers here: I know many families who decided to “on demand feed” and not to schedule. I respect their decision and love their families. I do not believe whether or not you schedule is going to affect the outcome of your kids. I do not believe there is a right way and a wrong way, the wrong way forever scarring your baby. But for us, scheduling brought a measure of peace and predictability to our household during a time when it felt like all the cards got tossed up in the air.
I am going to switch from the word schedule to routine. And here is why– I am not promoting a rigid structure of feedings and sleep times that do not take into account the baby, the mom or anything else. I’m not into the “live by the clock” thing. When I say schedule, I mean a general routine. This routine helps the baby settle into a rhythm of eat/sleep/awake times that can help them sleep through the nights earlier, eat full meals at regular intervals instead of snacking “on mom” all the time, and give you a chance to rest. Judith Owens, a pediatric sleep expert, puts it this way:
Regardless of your baby’s tendencies, there are a couple of things you can do to encourage him to sleep longer at night so that his pattern becomes more family friendly: Keep naps short, about one to two hours. And add as much predictability as possible to his day. Give him meals, baths, walks, visits to the park, and bedtime on a consistent schedule.
At the same time, if he seems hungry again before his usual feeding, go ahead and feed him. And if he’s out of sorts, perhaps he needs to get to sleep a bit earlier than planned. Your goal should be to provide your baby with a consistent schedule that respects his natural patterns and personality, too.
Sooner or later, your baby will probably settle into a fairly predictable daily schedule. Even then, don’t count on its being permanent.
This type of predictable routine helped our family, well…be a family. Babies thrive on structure. And as much as us parents love the adventure, simply having a baby is adventure enough, why not make it easier on everyone in the everyday?
So, what did our routine look like? Well, for the first week, we tried to 1. survive and 2. get as much sleep as possible. After about a week we realized it was time to find a happy routine we could exist with for the long haul. I started by noting [yes, writing down] the times my baby got hungry for a few days. Then gently applied a routine. Starting with the baby eating in the morning, the routine went like this: baby eats, baby is awake [sometimes for only 5 minutes, they are so sleep at this stage], baby sleeps. Repeat. After about a week I realized we had settled into a daily schedule that was pretty predictable. Often the baby would eat at the same time every day, making outings doable.
I also started a night time routine immediately. Some people have elaborate night time routines that include singing, books or baths. That is fine. Ours was simple. We’d walk into her room, turn the lights off, say “It is time to go night-night” [use the same words every nap or night] and put her in the crib. With our third baby the night time words somehow became “It is due time.” [Don’t ask.] This was an invaluable tool. One day my parents treated us to a day skiing and we dropped her off at the nursery at the ski area. We told them, “At nap time just say, ‘its due time’ and give Ezzie her blanket. She’ll go to bed.” [They stared at us blankly.] When we got back at the end of the day, the staff was amazed. She went right to sleep without a fuss. And she still does to this day. [Knock on wood.]
I cannot go into the specifics of how to schedule your baby, when to let them cry,and all the rest. But here are a few resources that I loved, in order of how much I love them:
Lastly, I want to caution those who do schedule – don’t let it rule your family! I was this person with my first child- refusing to miss a nap time, stressing about breast feeding times. Babies are more flexible then we give them credit for. For a good article on this from one of my fellow bloggers visit Bring the Kids: Naptime is NOT Sacred.
What about you? Do you have thoughts or questions? Please share! Continue to join us for the Newborn Chronicles as we discuss battling loneliness, body image, and heaven forbid…my husband weighs in on the topic.