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