Tuesday, March 4, 2014

So you want to get your baby on a schedule… sleep training and scheduling tips

When I first thought about getting pregnant I started talking with all of mommy friends about what really saved their lives. Over and over again I heard about getting your newborn on a schedule. At first, I thought scheduling wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I mean, who’s baby is really predictable? Well, as it turns out, pretty much all babies follow a schedule. Even for those moms that didn’t really schedule their days out, their babies ended up on an approximate schedule. It just took them a few days (even weeks) before they noticed it. So after gathering my information from many credible Mommys, I decided to read a few books on sleep training and scheduling.

                My ultimate dream was to be a stay at home mommy. I did not have my mom home with me, and wish that she would have been, but hey, she had to bring home the bacon. I totally understand that, and find myself in the exact same situation. While we are a double income family—we just couldn’t afford for me to not bring in an income. I am very blessed, instead, to be able to work from home. I like to think that I have the best of both worlds. However, at the moment, I am finding it really hard to do both. Anyone who tells you being a stay at home mom with a newborn isn’t a real job is full of it. You’re lucky that I think it’s tacky to curse in text.  So when I got pregnant I knew that I would only be taking a 6 week maternity leave, and therefore, would need that bambino on a schedule pronto.

                I am happy to announce that baby P is successfully on a schedule. Does this mean that she doesn’t occasionally deviate from the plan. No—she isn’t a robot—she’s a baby. However, I believe that she is about as predictable as a baby can be. I would be willing to set my watch by her—sometimes. It’s because of this fact that I am able to stay sane most days. Here is why: when I leave the house I am able to predict pretty successfully how she will behave. When I need to schedule an appointment—I know about what time to schedule it. I don’t fret when I have her out in public that she is going to cause a scene. I can leave her with someone, anyone, and be fairly confident of how she will react. I can do all of these things because I know she will be asleep.  My baby is on fairly regular 3 hour feed, wake, and sleep cycles. I prefer living in the land of the know. Ain’t nobody got time for guesswork.

                If you find yourself in a similar situation, and think that a schedule might work for you, then feel free to read through what I have found to work for me. By all means, I am not an expert. I am just a mommy who likes to share the wealth.

1.       When do I start trying to get them on a schedule?
a.      This is kind of a trick question because the baby will put itself on a schedule relatively early. It may take you awhile to realize that it is a schedule, but I promise that there will be a pattern there. Let’s face it—the first two weeks home with a newborn are survival mode. You will be exhausted—and quite possibly covered in throw up. You don’t have time to worry about schedules. So relax—and stare at that beautiful baby. You just made a human being! Look at you!

b.      What you CAN do during the first two weeks is try to get your baby used to the feed, wake, sleep cycle. You want your baby to eat as soon as they wake up (or you wake them up) then to play or have wake time, and then sleep. This is the feed-wake-sleep cycle. You want your infant to get used to doing these things in this order. The typical cycle should be 2 ½ to 3 hours long. This is measured from the BEGINNING of the feeding. So if baby wakes at 10 and eats, then they will eat again at 1, and then again at 4.

c.       Also you should note that for the first 2 weeks that your baby’s waketime is usually only as long as it takes them to eat. They are too sleepy to really do much more after they eat. As they get older you will want to try to get them to stay awake longer. I suggest stretching it by 15 minutes. My 7 week old wakes and eats at 10 and then goes down for a nap at 11:15. At 9 or 10 weeks she should stay awake an hour and a half before going down for a hour and a half nap.

d.      Once you have got the 3 hour cycle down, then comes the hard part—getting them on your schedule. This involves setting a concrete morning wake time and night bedtime. This will tell baby that they are a slave to your schedule and not the other way around. You rule this roost mom!

                                                               i.      Your baby should be ready to do this at about 4 weeks of age. Don’t feel bad if it takes you a few days to get it down. You may have to push the morning wake time back in 15 minutes increments until your baby can make it to that time consistently. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU WAKE YOUR BABY IN THE MORNING! Remember—you are the boss!

2.       Am I really going to wake a sleeping baby?
a.      Girl, you better wake that baby up! My husband was horrified when I first started waking Baby P up from her naps. He too believed in the “never wake a sleeping baby” mantra. Here is why I think that is bull!

                                                               i.      If your baby sleeps long periods of time during the day, then they will not sleep at night.
                                                             ii.      Allowing your baby to sleep long periods during the day may affect how long it takes them to normalize their circadian rhythms. This is your internal alarm clock that tells you the difference between day and night. Many babies are born with these mixed up.
                                                            iii.      Once you learn how to soothe your baby, then you should be able to soothe them when you wake them from naps. Baby P had me wake her from the beginning, and she has never pitched a fit because I woke her from a nap. This is her normal.

3.       It’s all interconnected
a.      If your baby doesn’t eat well, then they won’t sleep well. If they don’t sleep well, then they might not eat well. If they don’t have enough awake time in the day, then they won’t sleep well at night. Everything your baby does during the day can affect how they will sleep that night. There are also a million other factors that can affect how your baby will sleep at night, but these three are the biggest ones.

4.       She needs a full feeding, every feeding
a.      I am a full believer that a full tummy leads to a happy baby, and a happy baby sleeps. So it is very important to work on getting your newborn to take full feedings. You do not want your baby to get used to snacking every hour. You will be exhausted, and it will be quite hard to take her out anywhere.

                                                               i.      Many moms give up on the full feeding because their baby falls asleep. This is the biggest issue that I have with baby P even today. It is very common for babies to fall asleep while nursing or taking bottles. When nursing, I have tried the following: tickling, swiveling the head, massaging my breast while feeding,  and a cold wash cloth on the face or feet. While this may be a little extreme—I think that a full feeding is that crucial.

5.       What if my baby wakes up before it is time for the next feeding?
a.      Try to get her to go back to sleep, and if you cannot, then feed her! You can adjust the next cycle accordingly. No baby is going to do what they are supposed to do all of the time.

6.       At times you may need to let her cry it out
a.      This is the most controversial thing about Babywise and other sleep training and scheduling books. They tell you to let your baby cry it out. By all means, if your baby is hungry, then feed them. I am not advocating starving your child. What I am advocating is piece of mind for you and all in your household. So, if you know that your baby has eaten well, has a clean diaper, and is safe—then you may just need to let them cry.

b.      Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on their own. They also need to learn how to soothe themselves. If you do not allow them to learn these skills, then you may have a very hard time in the toddler stage. Baby P is learning these skills still today. However, I feel fairly confident most of the time that I can put her down in her crib, full, dry, safe, warm, and awake. Yes—I said AWAKE. She may be fading fast with heavy eyes, but she will be awake and she will fall asleep on her own.

7.       Your baby needs their own space
a.      I know many a mom that is horrified when I tell them that my daughter has slept in her own room since she was three days old. Believe me, I get it. You have this tiny baby that you have carried for the last 9 months, and you are terrified that she will stop breathing in the middle of the night. I totally understand, and I sympathize with those feelings. I had them as well. However, I also had a husband who was adamant that we needed our sleep, and we could not get it if she was in the room with us. I am a firm believer now that in order for your baby to learn how to self soothe—they need to be in their own bed in their own room. They need to be aware that they are alone. If they are not, then you will be breaking this nasty habit in the years to come. Take it from a girl who slept in bed with her mother until she was 7. You do not want to try to teach a 7 year old how to fall asleep on their own. It was a skill that took me years to master. Hopefully my little P will not have the same problem.

So in conclusion, I hope that this post has shed some light on scheduling and sleep training your little one. If you are unsure of what you want to do when your baby is born, then consider my ideas, and pick up a copy of Babywise. You don’t have to follow it religiously, but it does include sample schedules and information on waketime and nap lengths per your child’s age. I truly believe that my schedule has saved my families sanity, and I wish that for your family as well.


Baby P’s Schedule 5-7 weeks
7:00 am Wake, feed, diaper change
7:30 bath time and baby massage. Dress for the day.
8:15 down for nap
10:00 wake, feed, diaper change
10:30 wake time
11:15 down for nap
1:00 wake, feed, diaper change
1:30 wake time
2:15 down for nap
4:00 wake, feed, diaper change
4:30 wake time
5:15 down for nap
7:00 wake, feed, diaper change
7:30 wake time
8:15 down for nap
10:00 wake, diaper change, feed
10:30 Down for night
*** after 10:00 feeding let the baby wake you during the night. She will probably wake around 2:30 or 3:00. Feed her and put her right back down. Do not change diaper unless it is a dirty one.


  1. As she gets older, will you slowly let her starting sleeping longer and adjust the schedule accordingly?

  2. Yes! She is now at 9 weeks sleeping through the night. SO this means that her nap times are shorter during the day and her wake times longer. She now has moved to only 7 feedings in a day. So she wakes, eats, and then plays for 1 1/2 hours and then naps 1 1/2 hours. I do a dream feed at 11:30 and then she sleeps until I wake her at 6:30 am.