Before I begin this blog post I must write this disclaimer. You know your baby best. Throughout raising your baby you will receive countless pieces of advice, if you know that the advice you are being given won’t work for your baby then don’t take it. This goes for everything that I write as well, if you know that something is not true for your baby, then go with your gut. No one knows your baby better than you. With that being said, I wanted to give my two cents about how to put your baby on a schedule.
When I was pregnant, one piece of advice I was given was to make sure that we put our baby on a schedule. It was explained to us that when a baby is on a schedule there is less crying and better nighttime sleep. This sounded wonderful to us so we started researching how we could do this as parents. We ordered a copy of Babywise and placed it on our bookshelf with plans to read it later.
Finally our little man arrived and we spent the next 8 weeks enjoying everything that came along with having a newborn. I would feed him (usually every two hours), change him, and then he would pass out, either on our chest or while we were holding him. We would place him in his Rock ‘n Play or glider and then feed him when he woke up in about a hour and a half later. This routine was going pretty well for us……until it wasn’t.
Sometime after the two month mark we were left with a baby that cried for hours at a time and was not napping anymore. He wasn’t happy. We couldn’t sit down because we were constantly walking with him or rocking him, doing whatever we could to calm him down. So we grabbed our Babywise book and started reading. There is a lot of great information in this book but I just want to discuss a couple of key points that saved our sanity.
We had no idea what the term “wake time” was or what it meant. Basically, depending on a baby’s age, they can only stay up for so long before they need to rest (take a nap). We learned that our son should have only been staying up for about an hour at a time (including feeding time) before needing a nap. We knew he was staying up far past that, even hours past the one hour mark.
Once we learned what an appropriate amount of wake time was for our son we then started keeping an eye out for signs that he was tired. Once we saw him begin to yawn or rub his eyes we knew it was time to start our process for putting him down for a nap. Now, you may be asking yourself “Why didn’t you notice those things before?” Well prior to this our little guy would fall asleep by himself so we never needed to look for signs. Also we were first time parents and we had no idea what we were doing.
Once we saw those sleepy signs we immediately started our new nap routine. This was basically a shortened version of the nighttime routine. We would swaddle him and turn on his white noise machine, then rock him until he drifted off. Another BIG change we had to make was making sure that this nap routine happened in the same place where he slept every night, which for us was his crib in our room. We had become so accustomed to him sleeping in other parts of the house, so the thought of him napping in his crib didn’t cross our minds (I mean we just loved having him around to look at all the time).
What About the Schedule?
While Babywise and many other books go into more details about schedules, I will share what worked for us. For one week I tracked every time our son needed to eat, when he went down for a nap, and when he woke up. At the end of the week we realized that he was putting himself on a schedule and we needed to adjust according to it.
Remember what I said at the beginning? You know your baby the best. Everything I read said how babies were supposed to take over one hour naps. Once we figured out his schedule, we realized that our son only naps for 30 minutes. He is a baby who takes cat naps, so I now know what to expect. At 4 months old our guy needs to eat every 3 hours and take a nap after he has been up for 2 hours. While we don’t have our son on a set schedule (i.e. he eats at 7:00 am every day and naps at 9:00 am) we do know roughly what to expect throughout the day and he is usually pretty consistent within an hour of what we had planned on. With this information we are now able to plan out our days and avoid a screaming child who is overtired.
I won’t go into all the details about a baby being overtired but I would recommend reading more about it in Babywise if you are interested. We realized that our son was overtired which caused all the crying and made it harder for him to sleep.
There is a lot of information and theories out there regarding putting, or not putting your baby on a schedule. Do some reading, and get to know your baby. Before you plan out their schedule or decide upon not having one at all consider these tips.
- Figure out what the appropriate amount of wake time is for your baby.
- Get to know your baby and watch for their signs (sleepy/hungry).
- Decide upon your nap routine.
- Record what you notice and see if they are making their own schedule.
- Be prepared for things to change as the months go.