Schedules. It’s NOT Crazy!

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I just like schedules… and lists… and lists about what schedules I should make…

It seems like moms are always sleep-deprived, confused, and wondering why their 6-month-old isn’t sleeping through the night yet. I was this mom with Hudson, my first.

When I was pregnant I bought “The Baby Whisperer” as well as “Baby-Wise“. This was probably the best thing I ever did! It all made so much sense. However, I didn’t fully read these books until Hudson was 6 months old. I had done the “basic scheduling” from the beginning, so he was great at naps and eating and was always happy – but I had never carried it over to the BEDTIME part. So I wasn’t always happy; I was sleep-deprived. When he was 6-months-old, I immediately started making my own schedule based on these books and implemented it with him and he became a completely different baby.

I sort of took pieces from each book and from experience to come up with what worked best for me. 

THIS IS ALL JUST WHAT WORKED FOR ME, BASED ON RESEARCH AND EXPERIENCE.

The main things I learned from the books that have really stuck with me:

  • Start a schedule at 3 months
  • Your baby is predictable
  • Proper nutrition is half the battle in having a happy baby
  • A Proper sleeping schedule is the other half
  • You won’t be happy until your baby is

The Science Behind It

As adults, we pretty much know when we’ll be hungry or tired. We wake up in the morning and we eat breakfast. Do we wait until we are SO HUNGRY that we start SCREAMING and BAWLING? No. That would be crazy. So why do we do that to our babies? Why do we wait until they’re screaming and crying and then start going through “the list” (dirty diaper, sleepy, hungry, bored, teething)?

By having a schedule, you can feed your baby at the appropriate times and provide your baby with the proper nutrients he or she needs to be satisifed all the time. You are providing the right amount of calories during the day so allow the baby to go longer stretches of sleep at night. You are providing the baby with a routine that allows him or her to get all the sleep needed, at the appropriate times, to stay happy, alert, and healthy. In doing all of this, you are setting the baby to remain happy all day because they are never too hungry or overly tired.

You will hear a lot of, “you are so lucky!” “what a happy baby you have!” “does he ever cry?!” (and sometimes you will get annoyed because no, you aren’t lucky, you researched and worked hard. You go, girl!)

The Books

In short, Baby Wise + Baby Whisperer both recommend a schedule that goes EAT, ACTIVITY, SLEEP and they both recommend having a routine. The main difference is that Baby Wise wants a strict schedule where you work to consolidate feedings and naps, so in the beginning you would feed every 2 hours – no more, no less. This is not negotiable. Baby Whisperer, on the other hand, would have you do basically the same but it’s just a guideline that should be modified as you go, to accommodate your individual baby. I like this approach best.

Schedule

Basically, your baby will eat, play, and sleep. Over and over. What changes as they get older? Pretty much just the interval time. In the first few weeks you will be watching your baby’s signs to determine when he’s hungry or tired, or just has a dirty diaper. This is important if you’re following the Baby Whisperer (if you’re following Baby Wise, it sort of doesn’t matter to watch for cues because you’re more training the baby to get on your schedule.)

Eat

Eating right is important. Whether you breastfeed, pump + bottle feed, formula feed, or some combination of these… make sure you’re providing the proper amount of nutrients. If you aren’t, you’ll never have a baby that sleeps very well because he or she isn’t getting all the calories necessary to get them through long stretches of sleep.

For the most part, baby’s need 24-32 ounces of milk per 24 hours. The amount that they can handle in one setting will change as they grow. In the beginning, they can only drink a 1-2 ounces at a time, whereas by 6 months you’ll probably be serving 4-5 bottles of 6 ounces each.

Make sure to start solids at the appropriate time, too. This plays a big factor in their ability to sleep all night and to be happy! (see my blog about meal prepping for typical food guidelines)

Activity

In the early days, the “activity” part of the schedule is comprised of very simple things like changing clothes, changing diaper, walking outside, looking at a mobile, taking a bath, etc. They don’t stay awake or alert much in the beginning! Later on, real activity will ensue.

Sleep

The most important thing to remember about the sleeping part of these schedules is to put your baby down awake, but drowsy. You’ll know when her or she is drowsy because you have a schedule and it’ll be at the same time every day. For instance, I currently put my 14-month-old down for a nap every day at 9am and 2pm, without fail. She never cries; she knows this is her nap time and she is ready to sleep. It works like a charm.

Try to put your baby down in the crib for naps, in the same manner you do for bedtime. A dark room with a sound machine, no blankets or pillows, with a short ‘sleepy time routine’ (sleep routine ideas, coming up).

See sample schedules below.

The Atmosphere

I know it’s easier to have your baby sleep with you during those first few weeks while you’re breastfeeding and they’re waking every few hours. This is not a problem! To each their own! As soon as you move them to their room, though, you will be much happier and get much better sleep. These books recommend doing this at 3 months old. Also, make sure you don’t have crib bumpers at a young age because they are a high strangulation risk and suffocation risk. Same goes for blankets & pillows. It’s not worth it!

Make sure you have a perfect environment for your baby to sleep. This means a dark room (use blackout shades! I purchased this at Home Depot for $6! Turn a sound machine on. This is what keeps the baby from hearing all the little noises that may happen, even just the AC kicking on/off. I like the Munckin one the best because has a simple “white noise” feature that is perfect. The others are too much… I also like that it has the projector option because it’s perfect for my 2-year-old who needs a night light.

The recommended room temperature is 68 – 72 degrees and to dress babies in cotton with long sleeves, pants, and socks (there are a lot of baby monitors that tell you the temperature in their room). Personally, we keep the AC on 70 during the summer and we keep the heat on 72 during the winter. We never turn the ceiling fans on because they seem to cause runny noses more often!

Sleep Routines

Start a sleep routine from the very beginning. This doesn’t mean just for night time. Follow your routine for naps, too. Basically, ours looks like this: milk, bath, story, bed, song. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Give their bottle or milk sippy BEFORE bath time. This is a good time to do any medicines, too, since they’re sometimes messy. This step is really important… don’t give them their milk in their crib. Two reasons: First, it can causes cavities or ear infections because the milk sits in their mouths when they fall asleep with it. Second, it causes a sleeping crutch and they will eventually not be able to sleep without it.

Give baby a bath every night! You don’t always have to wash their hair, but a warm, relaxing bath is part of the routine that seems to work the best. I like the lavender washes because it relaxes me, so surely it relaxes them… if not, well, at least I’m relaxed!

BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS. Don’t skimp on reading to your baby. It sounds silly in the early days, but I promise you this is what enforces a rich vocabulary! Read a book every night. (Once your baby becomes a toddler, you may have to put a limit on books or you’ll be in there all night!)

After you read together, put your child in their crib or bed and sing a song or two. If your baby is old enough to understand, make sure you tell them how many songs you’ll be singing so you don’t surprise them when you leave after 2 songs.

End your routine with your nighttime prayers and a “Good night, sleep tight” or something else equally as cute. I don’t recommend the “don’t let the bed bugs bite” thing, unless you want a scared toddler sleeping in your bed for the next few weeks!

Baby Logging Apps

When you’re in the hospital, your baby’s nurse will be writing down everything on a note pad for you, and she’ll expect you to do the same when the baby is in your care. You and them will both log diapers and feedings. This is important because it lets you each know what has recently happened with the baby. It only makes sense to carry this on when you get home – especially if you’re going to have other caregivers!

My favorite application by a long shot is “BABY CONNECT“. You can use this from any phone or computer. It has more options than you could ever imagine. I love that people can log a photo of a cut and write an explanation so that when I get home they don’t have to worry about remembering everything – I’m able to see it in real-time on the application.

This best part is that when you go to the doctor you can easily look back on it to answer their questions. “When did this cough start?” – well, her caregiver noted on 3/1 that she coughed during her nap, so… there you go! Or “how much formula does she drink each day?” – you can see a report of formula logged per 24 hours. Easy.

The importance of this to the SCHEDULE, though, is that you can easily keep track of when your baby last woke up, ate, or drank so you know when to put them down for their next nap. Also, if you pick your baby up from daycare and they are FUSSY you can check first to see if it’s because they didn’t get their 3rd nap, or if it’s because they fell down today, or if it’s something more serious like an ear infection.

Common Problems

Here are some problems I had over the course of the first 2.5 years with my children!

My baby won’t go to sleep without being rocked.
Quit rocking your baby unless you want to keep rocking them to sleep for the next few years. If you do want to do that, then go ahead, but keep in mind that when they wake up at night they’ll expect you to rock them back to sleep because that’s the only way they know how to go to sleep. You’re not letting them learn to self-soothe, which is a skill every adult needs. If you want to stop this, you may try cold-turkey or you could rock for shorter and shorter periods of time.
With my son, I had to do this at 6-months-old because I fell into a bad habit when he had gotten sick at 5-months-old. I did it over the course of 7 nights. I stopped rocking and would just hold him in the chair. Next I stop sitting in the chair and would just stand, holding him next to the crib. Next I laid him down and sat in the chair without him. Finally, I was able to just lay him down and leave.

My baby won’t go to sleep without her milk.
Quit giving your baby milk at night. It’s bad for their teeth and can cause ear infections, but also it’s a sleep crutch that they’re developing and again, it’s something they’ll require to go back to sleep if they wake in the middle of the night. I would cold-turkey stop doing this and you may have to let them cry for a few minutes the first night. Alternatively, you could start putting less and less milk in the bottle until it was just empty – and then you could remove it all together. You might substitute a pacifier, because that would be a better alternative.

My baby cries so much he throws up.
This isn’t harmful to them, but I personally wouldn’t let this go on… I would slowly transition into letting them fall asleep on their own. First, rock to sleep. Second, hold until they fall asleep but don’t rock. Third, hold until they’re very tired and then lay them down, sit next to the crib & place your hand on them until the fall asleep. The next night, lay them down and stand in the room until they fall asleep. Finally, lay them down and simply walk out. If they do cry, it shouldn’t be for but a few minutes.

My baby pee’s in the bed every night.
The only solution here is to quit giving drinks within 1.5 hours of bed and to get “nighttime” or “dry” diapers. We had this issue and these two solutions fixed it. Also, sometimes if your diapers are too big or too small they’ll cause leaks.

My toddler wants one more song, one more snack, one more drink.
We had this problem recently. What we did was when gave him the plan before we started. After bath, we would say “we are going to your room and are going to read 2 books and sing 2 songs, and then after prayers we are going to go night-night.” This worked amazingly and he understood perfectly well.

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Sample Schedules

You can start logging things as soon as you feel up to it. I started from the beginning because I wanted to keep track of how much breast milk (I was an exclusive-pumper) Everleigh was drinking. If you do this, you’ll see a schedule start to form on it’s own and you can begin by following that. It makes the transitions easier!

With these schedules, baby would eat every time he or she wakes up from a nap.

3 months – total: 15 hours
9 hours a night
4-5 naps (we were doing 4 naps, at 8:30am, 11am, 2pm, 4:30pm)
6-8 bottles of 4 ounces each

4 months – total: 15 hours
9 hours at night
4-5 naps (we were doing 4 naps, at 8:30am, 11am, 2pm, 4:30pm)
6-8 bottles of 4 ounces each
[if you start cereal now, twice a day is what we did]

6 months – total: 14 hours
10 hours at night
3-4 naps (we were doing 3 naps, at 9am, 12pm, and 4pm)
5-6 bottles of 5 ounces each
[start solids now, 4 times a day]

8 months – total: 14 hours
10 hours at night
3 naps (we were doing 3 naps, at 9am, 12pm, and 4pm)
4-5 bottles of 6 ounces each
[consolidate solids into 3 regular meals per day]

10 months – total: 14 hours
11-12 hours at night
3 naps (we were doing 3 naps, at 9am, 12pm, and 4pm)
3-4 bottles of 8 ounces each

12 months – total: 13-14 hours
11-12 hours at night
2-3 naps (we were doing 2 naps, at 9am and 2pm)
3-4 bottles of 8 ounces each

15 months – total: 13-14 hours
11-12 hours at night
2 naps (we were doing 2 naps, at 9am and 2pm)
2-3 sippy cups of 8 ounces each, of whole milk

18 months – total: 12-14 hours
11-12 hours at night
1-2 naps (we were doing 1 nap, at 12pm, for 3 hours)
2-3 sippy cups of 8 ounces each, of whole milk

2 years – total: 12-14 hours
10-11 hours at night
1 long nap
2-3 sippy cups of 8 ounces each, of whole milk

2.5 years – total: 11-13 hours
10-11 hours at night
1 long nap
2-3 sippy cups of 8 ounces each, of whole milk

3 years – total: 11-13 hours
11-13 hours at night (if doing no naps)
1-2 sippy cups of 8 ounces each, of whole milk

 

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