Preparing for Motherhood: Scheduling Newborns

Guest post by Mary Jo from Covenant Homemaking

Scheduling babies is a somewhat controversial topic these days. And, at the risk of being controversial, scheduling our baby loosely was one of the best things we did when our (now one-year-old) was a newborn. I loved the predictability that routine gave us and enjoyed the peace of mind knowing my new baby was getting enough milk when I fed her every three hours regardless of whether she “asked” for it. By about a month, Katie went down for naps and bedtime without crying, and she slept seven hours straight at 5 weeks and 2 days. As they say, you know a tree by its fruit–and the fruit of a loose schedule from early on has been very sweet.

One of the key books on infant scheduling is Baby Wise. I had heard several people at our church talking about Baby Wise, but when a lady that I greatly respect advised me to read it at least twice before Katie was born, I got to reading. I don’t think I read it all twice before I gave birth, but I had a basic idea of the principles, and felt comfortable implementing them with my newborn.

These are some basic steps I followed that worked really well for us:

::Nurse at least every two to three hours throughout the day, making sure your baby gets at least 7-10 feedings per day in the early days. If Katie was asleep when it was time to eat, I woke her up. However, if baby gets hungry before sooner, feed her. This is key–you always feed a hungry baby, regardless of when the last time she ate was.

::Work on getting full feedings every time. For a newborn, shoot for at least 20 minutes. Katie was an incredibly sleepy baby, so I had to work hard to keep her awake long enough. There are several reasons this is important, but the main one is that the richest, fattiest milk comes out last. It will keep baby full the longest, and also provide the best nutrition, but she has to nurse long enough to get to it.

::Strive for a routine of eat-wake-sleep. At the beginning, your baby may go right back to sleep after nursing, but by a couple of weeks, try to encourage baby to stay awake for a little while after feedings. At first, it will probably only be a few minutes, but the length will grow over time.

::Avoid sleep props. The skill of putting herself to sleep will have to be learned, but it is so wonderful once it is. Try not to nurse or rock baby to sleep. There may be quite a few tears at first, but if you know baby isn’t hungry, in pain, or wet/dirty, you don’t need to pick her up. She will not be scarred for life by crying. Be sure to snuggle, rock, and sing a lot; just not while baby is going to sleep. I found it helpful to get Katie sleepy and then lay her down.

::Write out your desired schedule and work towards it. Keep in mind that baby needs 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime, plus naps throughout the day. At the beginning it will probably look somewhat like this (times are only suggestions):

  • 7 AM: Morning feeding, waketime, nap
  • 10 AM: Late morning feeding, waketime, nap
  • 1 PM: Lunchtime feeding, waketime, nap
  • 4 PM: Early evening feeding, waketime, nap
  • 7 PM: Evening feeding, short waketime (optional), bedtime
  • 10 PM: Late night feeding. For us, this was the last predictable feeding of the day.
  • Middle of the night feeding-we let Katie wake up on her own for this, though in the first couple of weeks, I did not let her go longer than 5 hours to make sure my milk supply was adequate. This was the first feeding she dropped–around 6 weeks. Sometimes baby will wake up hungry again before your desired waketime. What I found best was to nurse and put her right back to bed, and then just go ahead and get her up to eat at her waketime.

Keep in mind the importance of being flexible. Once you think you have it all figured out, baby will have growth spurt and want to eat every hour. She’ll get a tooth or a cold and start waking up in the night again. Thankfully, these seasons will pass. Enjoy your newborn, and work towards being able to enjoy a predictable day and a good night’s sleep!

For more information on scheduling, be sure to check out Baby Wise. Another book I found quite helpful was The Moms on Call Guide to Basic Baby Care.


Mary Jo blogs at Covenant Homemaking about her “ journey towards being wife, mama, and homemaker unto the glory of God!”

9 Replies to “Preparing for Motherhood: Scheduling Newborns”

  1. I used the principles in Baby Wise and they really helped. My hubby teased me about the schedule I posted on the fridge, but my little guy slept through the night by 7 weeks. I would definitely say that there is room for flexibility, but the basic ideas work! By the way, you are one of the cutest pregnant ladies I’ve seen! =) Won’t be long now!

  2. Just wanted to throw in another opinion here.

    I’m a mom who has always been opposed to feeding schedules and crying babies (I happen to think they often go together.)

    I served as a parent educator in Missouri, and frequently visited homes where mama wanted her new baby on a schedule (as educators, we often cringed when we noted a copy of Babywise in the home) and where, in her tired state/desire to do good, she was existing with a screaming infant because it was not “time” to feed him.

    I would examine the positives and negatives of a program like Babywise closely before attempting anything of the like with a new baby. In addition, you want to look to the Lord and your spouse (not Gary Ezzo!) for advice on child rearing. When I try to imagine Jesus advocating cry-it-out for a newborn, I actually start laughing. God gave you a tool– breastfeeding– that is the perfect nourishment and soothing instrument for your child.

    NONE of my four children have been on a schedule. ALL of them fed loosely on routine, without much prompting from me, at about 6 weeks. Had I started with a book like Babywise, the feelings of failure and disconnect with my baby would have been HUGE.

    In contrast, I now have four obedient, respectful, good-hearted children who had a responsive mama from birth.

    If I were to offer advice, I would encourage a new mother to give herself wholeheartedly to her newborn in the early days. ENJOY IT! It won’t last!! A routine will emerge soon. In the meantime, you will grow to “know” your child and experience a “dying to self” that it takes many mothers YEARS to discover.

    ALL BABIES sleep through the night eventually. ABSOLUTELY do not tie your worth as a mother to your child’s sleep habits. Your baby will not turn into a demanding, tantrum-throwing machine because you fed on cue.

    Your baby is crying to COMMUNICATE with you. He has no words to do so. Imagine, if you will, that you personally are upset and that your husband sends you to bed, closes the door, and ignores you. No matter how you call, he does not return. Heavens! Do we really imagine that babies are so different? Love, love, love your little person! Teach him that loves means sticking with someone, even when you are tired/they seem unreasonable.

    I encourage young mamas to WEAR OUT your mothering instincts! You’ll be so glad you did!

    For other approaches to baby care, I strongly encourage reading of books such as: The Baby Book (Sears), The Natural Child, The Continuum Concept (Liedloff.) Do not be swayed by methods that call themselves “Christian.” Read your Bible, consult your husband (and other older, wiser women!) and your own intuition. Your instincts are God-given! Use them!

    Finally, I would be especially wary of any method that seems to be “easy” or “foolproof.” Parenting is not easy. Your baby hasn’t read the book. 🙂 Think, think, THINK! Pray, pray, pray! And, as a default, ALWAYS love. LOVE!

  3. I tend to agree with Kansas Mom. I read Baby Wise before having Ridley and it didn’t seem quite right to me.

    Maybe it was just that I wanted to do things differently. I’m a blend of many different parenting styles, so I pretty much fed Ridley on demand. I never woke him up to eat. 🙂

    We had a very loose eat-wake-sleep routine and he was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks. We didn’t have any cry-it-out sessions until he was much older.

    I’ve nursed him “almost” to sleep since birth and I still do to this day (now he’s 15 months old). I love and cherish these sweet times with him.

    With all that said, each family, mother/child has to do what works for them individually. I don’t think that one way is better than the other. 🙂

  4. Thanks! Great information to consider and to share with new mommies. The best part is, is that you are nursing your babies. What better food for your little one is there? I could have used a few pointers on feedings, and schedules, but very few mommies were nursing 20 years ago when my little one was born. She turned out fairly well with the Lord’s help:)

  5. I have not read the book Baby Wise, however, I do not like the idea of trying to place a newborn on a tight schedule. I also do not like the idea of not rocking babies to sleep, I have rocked both of my babies, and would not trade that for anything. I could never let my children “cry it out”. I also have The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and love it.

  6. I just came across your blog and I’m so glad I did! I love reading your Preparing for Motherhood posts! My husband and I are expecting our first child May 8th and we could really use some advise.

  7. Hi Rachel!

    I have been enjoying your blog for about a year now and am looking forward to your big day! I pray that everything will go smoothly with your labour and delivery!

    My oldest child turned 10 on April 1 and I would just like to encourage you as Paxton’s arrival gets closer. God chose you and John David to be his parents and you will know him more closely than the authors of any books. Babies are sooo individual and I let trying to follow the books steal a significant amount of my joy and self-esteem in those early days. I always joked that if my infant daughter had read them it would be easier. 🙂 It is one of my regrets that I was more concerned with doing it right than enjoying her for who she was (yes, she was awake for 8 hours in row(and happy)at 4 weeks and I thought I was a failure as parent.

    So, while I think a routine is a positive thing let Paxton be your guide. It’s going to go so fast, yet seem like an eternity while your in it.


  8. Children need routine for security. I firmly believe that. I had a preemie baby and feeding every 3 hours was needed. I found cutting out that 3am feeding made him eat more during the day. He was sleeping all night 10-6 within 6 days. The biggest problem I found with my grandchildren, was they weren't being burped enough. I rarely had a problem with them spitting up. I worked to get those air bubbles out. 1 grandson was on meds for acid refluxe, I never needs the meds because I actually burped him. He was the type of baby that would try to suck down an entire bottle in 2 seconds. Slowing him down, working those big air bubbles from his belly way the key. He didn't eat less, he actually ate more and kept it down. We all live by some sort of schedule, whether it be work at certain times, dinner or meeting friends. So I don't think there is any harm in starting from the beginning.

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