After having 4 babies with totally different personalities and varying levels of “easy baby” to “hard baby,” (is that a spectrum??) I’m convinced you can get almost any healthy baby trained to sleep through the night and on a predictable schedule during the first few months (even weeks)… if you want to.
I’m also convinced that life with a baby is easier if he/she is on a schedule. The earlier you start implementing a baby schedule, the easier it is to establish.
Here are 4 reasons we have loved using a baby schedule and a few tips to get started on creating your own baby schedule.
As is the case with all my “how to” posts and my articles that share our personal experience, no system is perfect. I’m giving you a teeny tiny glimpse of what works for us in hopes it may be helpful to you! Everything is a principle. Trust your instincts with your own children. In terms of my tips – take what works for you and ditch the rest! You are the mother of your children. And if you’re new here, welcome. Please say “hi,” and join the conversation in the comments to encourage one another in this space.
WAIT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SCHEDULE?
Let me clarify. When I say “schedule,” I’m referring to a predictable rhythm or pattern to when your baby will need to eat and sleep. Think of a baby schedule and baby sleep training as part of the process to train your baby’s metabolism and rhythms of eating/ being awake and being asleep.
I am NOT saying your day should look like this:
7:02 – eat
7:18- diaper change
7:25 – tummy time
7:30 – play time on his back
7:45 – play time in his swing
Good gracious, no.
The phrase “baby schedule” refers to a routine or rhythm the baby follows. “Schedule” means you generally know that the baby will follow a basic pattern of eating and sleeping that is relatively consistent.
sometimes often interferes with a routine you create (kids get sick, you go on a road trip, Grandma comes and spoils baby… as she well should!), a baby schedule means your baby generally follows a routine that is predictable, healthy, and determined by parents.
That’s what I mean by “baby schedule.”
Now we can get on with 4 reasons why creating a baby schedule is awesome!
#1 – SCHEDULING YOUR BABY MAKES DAY TO DAY LIFE SO MUCH EASIER.
Think about the feeling of getting home after a long day of work. You come home exhausted, open the fridge, and ugh! You have no idea what to eat! You could throw together a few things, eat a bowl of cereal. Maybe do takeout.
But in that moment, you don’t really want to spend time and energy trying to figure out what to eat.
Now multiply that tired + stressful + hangry feeling by 100 because you just picked up baby from the babysitter, and you have no idea whether he is hungry or tired or both.
He won’t stop crying, and you were supposed to go to this evening event in a couple hours, but there’s no way because you and baby are both tired and hungry and…. On and on it goes.
Listen. Every mom will be in that situation at some point. Even if you schedule your baby.
Because that’s life, and we’re raising tiny humans and neither the tiny humans nor we are perfect after all.
BUT, the frequency you feel overwhelmed by the basics of feeding, sleeping, and caring for baby will be greatly diminished if you put your baby on a schedule from the very beginning. I promise.
Not to mention, it’s easier to schedule appointments, play dates, and life in general if you know when your baby will need to eat and sleep.
For example, I generally plan the baby’s doctor’s appointments and grocery pickups for right after I know my baby will need to eat. That way, I can wake the baby up from a nap, feed him, and go off to the appointment or store without worrying the baby will become famished or exhausted during that appointment or errand.
#2 – SCHEDULING YOUR BABY MAKES IT EASIER TO LEAVE HIM/ HER WITH A CAREGIVER
Obviously, if your baby is in daycare, you and the caregiver will likely work together to figure out what baby needs, and how his sleeping and eating patterns seem to change as he grows.
But even if you just want to leave the baby with a babysitter for a couple hours, or drop him off at the gym while you workout, it is SO much easier if you know when your baby will need to eat and sleep.
Rather than just dropping baby off and hoping for the best, you can say, “He just ate, so if he’s fussy, he might need to burp, but I know he’s not still hungry. And, at 10:30 he’ll be ready for a nap in the swing.”
As opposed to, “Thanks for taking my baby. If he starts screaming, he might be hungry, or tired, but I’m not really sure.” (Not that you’d actually say that… but you get the point.)
#3 – SCHEDULING YOUR BABY TO EAT DURING THE DAY HELPS THEM SLEEP MORE AT NIGHT
People often notice that their newborn has his days and nights mixed up, meaning he sleeps all day and wants to eat all night. Of course this leaves mom feeling exhausted.
A lot of newborns are confused about days and nights and this is a baby sleep training issue you can help them straighten out with relative “ease.” (Not that ANYTHING about a newborn is truly easy!!)
So, here is my number one baby sleep training and scheduling tip: wake up your baby DURING THE DAY to eat every 3 hours and do not wake them at night. (Unless your pediatrician says baby needs to wake to eat overnight.)
I guarantee that if you wake your tiny, squishy, sleeping-all-day baby up every 3 hours to eat from the day you bring him home from the hospital, he will adjust to eating during the day and sleeping at night.
Babies under 12-16 weeks old will likely still wake throughout the night, but if you feed them every 3 hours during the day, they’ll gradually stretch out those night time feedings too.
The potential for 5, 6, and 8 hour night-time stretches in the first 3 months should be reason enough to get baby on a feeding schedule!! All of our babies have stretched their night time sleep to 8+ hours in the 8 weeks and to 10-12 hours by 12-16 weeks old.
#4 – SCHEDULED BABIES SEEM HAPPIER
I have absolutely no science to back this up, so take this for what you will. But, in my observation, babies on a “parent-led” schedule like I’m proposing seem to be generally happier babies than babies with no routines/ schedules at all.
Babies without a relatively predictable schedule or rhythm tend to get overtired more frequently, nap less, and be fussier because their bodies and metabolism don’t adjust to a rhythm that they’re familiar with. It leaves the baby more confused.
On the other hand… Babies whose parents put them on a healthy baby schedule that is, of course, determined by the parents’ observation of what the baby needs seem to be happier in general than babies whose schedules are all over the place.
There is a subtle difference between mom reacting to baby’s demands versus trying to be more “proactive,” by implementing a routine based off of what the baby clearly needs.
Of course you, as the mom, pay attention to what the baby needs and make decisions based off your baby’s unique cues and personality, and off of what works for your family during your current life season.
GRACE UPON GRACE
Clearly, we believe that it’s best for our children to have a routine from early on. But let me be very clear about something else: this is not a matter of being a “good” mom or a “bad” mom.
One of my good friends and I were pregnant together a few years ago – she with her 1st, and I with our 3rd. And when she asked, “hey what did you do for feeding,” or, “what was your favorite gear,” or, “Any tips to get baby to sleep” I passed along some things we’d figured out.
That’s what this post is meant to be like!!
If you came to Google or Pinterest or the interwebs or whatever searching for: “How should I schedule my baby?” Or “is there way to get my baby sleep trained?”
This post is my answer to that… And the sleep training section of my site has several helpful articles for you to read if you want more info.
The first few months with each new baby are so hard and tiring, and it helps to have someone who’s been through it to point you in the right direction.
People used to live with multiple generations of mothers in one home or community to help them out. We don’t always have that setup anymore, but now we have the internet! Ha! So here we are.
When I write on my blog, I imagine you’re over for coffee with your new babe or super cute baby bump, and I’m sharing with you what’s worked and hasn’t worked for our 4 kids.
At the end of the day, God gave your children to YOU, not me!
And I truly believe that He is rooting for you– giving you wisdom for your particular kids so you can do the best you can with what you know. And I believe He has the ultimate answers to figuring out not only the big stuff in life, but the little things like what works for your children and family in various seasons of life.
Seek His wisdom in prayer for your specific needs and He will give you answers + peace + endurance!!