Are you pregnant and hearing horrible stories about how you’ll never sleep again after the baby is born? Are you a parent struggling to get your baby on a schedule and sleeping well at night?
When I was pregnant, a co-worker of mine who had a young boy suggested that I read a book. He said that if I followed the suggestions in that book and got my child on a schedule, she would learn to sleep well and others would just assume that I have one of those ‘good babies’. And you know what? My little girl did learn to sleep well!
In reality, it is the methods described in the book that deserve the credit. The book I’m talking about is called ‘On Becoming Baby Wise’ by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam. It’s an oldie but a goody (their method has been around for more than 20 years, but the book has been updated within the last few years). I mean, why reinvent the wheel if it works, right?
The schedule that I’m referring to is the Eat/Play/Sleep cycle and I will discuss it a little bit below and how I used it. I’m grateful to have been referred to the book and that’s why I’m referring it to all of you!
I understand that the Baby Wise method may not be for everyone but I can tell you that I believe it worked for me and my little girl. I highly recommend all expecting parents read this book.
Establishing a Daily Routine
The bottom line is that babies and children love routines! The Babywise method encourages this type of scheduled routine:
Wake up in the morning, change a diaper and have your baby eat. Try not to distract your baby during this process, focus solely on just eating.
The goal is to have your baby drink enough to fill his/her belly for a couple of hours. You want full feedings, not just snacks if possible.
Full feedings will allow you to go through a full cycle before having to feed again and will mean that your baby is not waking up in the middle of their nap because they are hungry.
After feeding, you have play time. Obviously a newborn can’t play much but this is the time to read a book, show them around the house and talk to them about the objects they see.
Other suggestions are to sit them in front of a window to look outside, sing to him/her, make funny faces and sounds with a stuffed animal to see if you can get a smile, play music and move their hands to the beat, etc. This is your time to really engage your baby and stimulate their senses.
Then, it’s time to sleep. Infants need a lot of sleep and by interacting with your baby, they should get tired fairly quickly.
Signs that your baby is tired include tugging on their ears, rubbing their eyes, crying or becoming fussy, arching their back, or having difficulty focusing. Those are all queues, along with the time schedule to have them sleep.
The Babywise method does not believe in just looking at the clock and allowing that to determine your babies schedule though. They think that should be a guideline, but the parent should also use judgment based on their babies cues. That method is called Parent Directed Feeding (PDF). It is kind of the compromise or middle ground between Attachment Parenting (the parent has a constant presence and need to soothe which means a constant offering of food) and hyperscheduling (strictly going by a clock schedule).
Using the Babywise method, the 1,2,3 pattern described above repeats itself over and over every 2-4 hours throughout the day and night. This method provides consistency and a comforting feeling of knowing to some degree, what to expect next for both you and your child.
Sleeping through the Night…
My little one was sleeping well at 9 weeks old, waking just twice a night for feedings. For an infant, this is considered sleeping through the night. Don’t be confused by that though because I thought that meant the baby would sleep the entire night. It is important that you do not let the baby sleep more than 5 hours at a time during the first month and possibly longer depending on their weight because they have small stomachs and need to eat frequently.
I’m sure since you are on this site that you are not having that issue but keep in mind that that is not the goal. The goal is to establish a routine, stimulate the baby during the right times, and allow them to sleep afterwards. Consistency is key and by following this method I believe your baby will be sleeping 1-2 hours at a time during the day and 2-3 hours at a time during the night.
Note: At night you should not play with your baby – just cuddle or rock instead, then lay her back down to sleep. If possible lay your baby down when he/she is still awake. I know this seems hard, especially if they are crying but it’s important that they fall asleep on their own. I do not recommend the Cry It Out method until they are close to a year old but a little crying/fussing can happen.
Not napping well? Try cutting back on the wake time by 15 minutes. A baby may get over stimulated during their wake time and not be able to settle down at nap time.
Sample Schedule – for Infant 2 wks – 8 wks old
This was my schedule for my family… what we aimed for. Wake time activities varied.
6:30am 1. Diaper change and Feeding (took about 45 minutes since I breastfed)
2. Wake time – Rock and talk to her, then put her in crib with mobile (about 1 hr.)
3. Nap time at 8:15 (about 1 hr. 15 min.)
9:30am 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. Wake time – Take a walk or run errands (about 45 min.)
3. Nap time at 11am (about 1 hr.)
12:00pm 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. Wake time – bath or in infant seat near a window talking to her (about 45 min.)
3. Nap time at 1:30pm (about 1 hr.)
2:30pm 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. Wake time – Play with her or read her a book (about 1 hr.)
3. Nap time at 4:15 (about 1 hr. 15 min.)
5:30pm 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. Wake time – Family time since my husband came home. (about 1 hr.)
3. Nap time at 7:15 (about 1 hr and 15 min.)
8:30pm 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. Wake time – Bed time routine (only about 15 min.)
3. Bed time at 9:30 (about 1 hr.)
10:30pm 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. No wake time – lay back down to bed (about 2 hrs. 15 min.)
3. Bed time for Mom & Dad
1:30am 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. No wake time – lay back down to bed (about 2 hrs. 15 min.)
4:30am 1. Diaper change and Feeding (about 45 min.)
2. No wake time – lay back down to bed (about 1 hr. 15 min.)
12 wks old – we dropped the 1:30am feeding and woke just at 4am
16 wks old – we dropped the 4am feeding and slept entirely through the night! We also transitioned to 3 naps during the day (morning, noon, afternoon)
9 months – went to 2 naps during the day (morning and afternoon)
18 months – went to just 1 nap after lunch
Now that you’re familiar with the daily routine, click here to read more about the sleep routine. It’s important to have a good and consistent bedtime routine and to try to make them as comfortable as possible so that they can fall asleep as best they can without assistance.