There’s so many blogs and articles out there about what to do and what not to do for your baby. Don’t give your baby a pacifier. Give your baby a pacifier. Don’t rock your baby to sleep. Rock and cuddle your baby as much as possible. Don’t give your baby purées. Only give your baby purées… blah blah blah. Sorting through all of that can be so overwhelming, especially to a new mom who’s already overwhelmed with caring for her new baby, not to mention the constant state of exhaustion from lack of sleep and the emotional rollercoaster from all of the hormone changes. And after you read all of those articles you start to feel like your a terrible mom and you aren’t doing nearly enough.
Dear mommy friend, listen to me very carefully. You are an AMAZING mommy! You are doing your best and you love your baby! So please don’t get caught up in all of the do’s and don’ts and lose sight of what really matters.
With that being said, I want to share with you something that has been a total life saver for me and Naomi. Please know that you can take it or leave it and I won’t judge you or think you’re a terrible mom if you don’t do this. You know your baby, you know yourself, and you know what works best for your family.
I knew even before I was pregnant that I wanted to follow the Babywise scheduling when I had kids. My sister-in-law and sister both did it, and as I watched them in the trenches of new mommy-hood, I watched them succeed and have babies that slept, and slept well.
So what the heck is Babywise? In a nutshell, the foundations of Babywise are full feeds, eat-wake-sleep (EWS) cycles, age-appropriate wake times, and independent sleep habits. These four elements work together to create predictable daily schedules to help meet all of your baby’s needs. The goal from beginning Babywise should be to offer full feeds and not feed to sleep. The appropriate wake times of the EWS cycles increases as baby gets older. For newborns, it is often just the feeding and diaper change (just avoid feeding baby to sleep – unless it’s a middle of the night feed), but the amount of wake time grows as baby can handle more. Appropriate wake time helps baby not be over- or under-tired so they can fall asleep independently and take a full nap. Wake time amounts include the feeding.
- Birth-6 weeks : 45-60 minutes
- 6-12 weeks : 1 hour
- 3-4 months : 1.5 hours
- 3.5-5 months : 1.5-2 hours
- 6-12 months : 2.5-3.5 hours
- After 12 months, waketime will continue to increase as baby transitions to one nap between 12 and 18 months.
Nap time Troubleshooting
+ If your baby wakes up early but happy from naps, increase waketime.
+ If your baby wakes up early but grumpy from naps, decrease waketime.
+ If your baby takes too long to fall asleep before nap, increase waketime.
Here are sample schedules for the first year. Naomi has been following these pretty consistently, although she tends to transition to the next schedule a little later than when the book recommends. Remember that every baby is different and may have higher or lower sleep or waketime needs. Choose a consistent daily wake time (DWT) to start each day so your daytime schedule is consistent. “Feed” refers to a liquid feed (nursing or bottle).
Newborns (0-8 Weeks)
Start on a 2.5- or 3- hour schedule with waketimes of no more than 45 minutes. If there are no health issues, most moms allow baby to wake themselves to eat overnight once baby is back to birthweight. Keep middle-of-the-night (MOTN) feedings full but boring.
I didn’t get Naomi going on a schedule until around 4 weeks or so. I was doing on-demand feeding since I was breast feeding and trying to build up my supply. Plus it was a little overwhelming adjusting to a baby, so I gave myself some time to adjust and then started her on a 2.5 hour schedule.
7:00 feed and bedtime
10:00 dream feed (we did the dream feed until she was about 2.5 months old and then I found that it was actually disrupting her sleep -which happens as they get older- so we stopped doing it.)
3 Hour Schedule
7:00 feed and bedtime
10:00 dream feed (optional)
Baby is on three-hour feeding cycles. Waketime is one hour at this age, often increasing to around 1.5 hours at 12 weeks.
Waketime then bedtime routine
7:00 feed and bedtime
Naomi had a hard time with naps starting out. She was the queen of the 45-minute intruder (where she woke up after 45 minutes of sleeping) so instead of 2 hour naps in the schedule I opted for shorter naps, and did a little longer wake times to try to get her to nap longer.
Baby is on a three-hour schedule with 1.5-hour waketimes. Naomi followed this schedule pretty much to a T.
3 hour schedule
Waketime then bedtime routine
7/7:30 feed and bedtime
This age has the largest range of “normal.” Some babies stay on a 3-hour schedule with 1.5-hour waketimes for a while. Some extend to a 3.5-hour schedule with 1.5-hour waketimes and 2-hour naps or 2-hour waketimes and 1.5-hour naps. At some point in this range, babies will move to a 4-hour schedule with 2-hour waketimes. Watch your baby’s cues to see what is appropriate for him.
Naomi stayed on the 3-hour schedule for a while, and we did the 3.5-hour schedule for maybe a week and a half and then she was ready for the 4-hour schedule.
Around 6-7 months, most babies need to drop to two naps for a total of 3-3.5 hours daytime sleep. We start naming schedules by their waketimes at this age (2.5-3-3.5, 3-3-3, and 2-3-4); different waketime combinations work better for different kids, though the 2.5-3-3.5 is a good place to start because it distributes waketime well without disturbing feeding cycles too much. “Feed” still refers to liquid feedings, though most children have started solids at/by this age. The great news is that you’ll probably keep this schedule until your child moves to one nap!
10:30 or 11 feed
Baby’s usually are starting solids around this time, so where do you put those feedings into the schedule? They usually recommend that you give baby solids at least 30-45 minutes after a bottle. That way they are still getting their nutrients from the milk. Here is Naomi’s schedule with baby food added in:
There are things in the book that we have yet to implement, like not rocking to sleep for naps… spoiled baby. Naomi falls asleep on her own for bedtime, I’m just too scared to try it for naps, plus we need to get some snuggles in there somewhere! She also still goes down, with what the book would consider sleep props, the pacifier and her zipadee zip. We’ve limited the pacifier to sleep time only though, so it makes it easier to get rid of, hopefully in the near feature. We also don’t do cry-it-out ((CIO) where you let the baby cry to learn how to self soothe when they wake up in the middle of a nap or are going down for their nap) for very long. I just can’t listen to her cry and I’ve tried letting her cry and she just gets more worked up. So we’ve figured out that if she doesn’t calm down in 5 minutes then we go in and offer her her binkie, or rock her some more.
What I’m trying to say is, we aren’t perfect! We still do some things that the book would consider not the best things to do. So play with it and see what works best for you and your baby. No judgement from this mama if things don’t go exactly how the book recommends!