Look at that gorgeous sleeping baby. Her chubby cheeks slay me; she’s just too cute. It makes me laugh when I look back on this picture of her, fresh and new, and think about how I thought that I was going to have her sleeping through the night by six weeks old!
When you are an expecting mom, you have a lot of ideas about what kind of parent you will be and what kind of parenting techniques you will use. You’ll probably have some pretty strong opinions on topics such as crying it out vs. cosleeping, attachment parenting, bottle vs breast or whether or not you want to use a pacifier. When I became pregnant I made regular trips to buy books on the topic of pregnancy and babies. The information I got from these books helped me develop assumptions about my own parenting style. In particular, I was certain that I would get my newborn settled into a schedule by 6 weeks old.
I am a ‘type A’ obsessive organized planner. I have a bullet journal, I track my habits and sleep patterns, and when I decided to put my newborn on a schedule I wrote up a graph to keep track of baby’s progress. The schedule that I decided to use came from a book I picked up called Cherish the First Six Weeks by Helen Moon. This schedule absolutely did not work for me. I would still recommend this book because it has a lot of other content on general baby care that made my first few weeks so much easier and made me feel much more confident in my ability to take care of my child. This schedule however, didn’t work for me because the feedings are just too far apart; newborns eat way more often than she suggests. My six week old still eats more often than every 2.5-3 hours during the day.
When Charlie came home I started her on the schedule right away. This is the graph I drew up for the first 2 weeks;
For the first week, she didn’t really adjust to the schedule. I always fed her ‘on demand’ (when she shows signs of hunger). If she was eating in between the scheduled feedings I would top her up in between to get her eating at the scheduled times. This did start to work. If you look at how to schedule began to adjust between Monday and Thursday of the second week, it seemed like Charlie was eating pretty close to the scheduled feeds. BUT THEN… we had visitors (dun-dun-duhhhh)
See the schedule didn’t seem to take into account that I wanted to have a life during the first six weeks. Once we started to have company over and go out places, she would skip naps, have longer ones later, or be too stimulated by new people or places to feed at the normal times. And then the cluster feeding began. By the middle of week 3 I dropped the schedule completely. I was actually scared to do so. I thought I had to control her eating and sleeping patterns to have any time to myself to work or sleep. That notion was misguided. I have more time and I’m less stressed about trying to adhere to a schedule that really didn’t fit us.
Having tried and failed, here are 5 ways to help successfully get your newborn on a schedule.
1. Let your baby set her own schedule
Every baby is different and will have their own needs and behaviours. If you are patient and attentive, you will notice after a few days what your baby’s natural inclinations are. For example, my girl Charlie is a little piggy during the day, cluster feeding in the morning (between 7 and 10) and around dinner time (between 3-6) and will have nice long naps after filling herself up for those periods of time. Knowing that, I could now design a schedule with fewer, but longer naps, and expect that she could follow that routine.
2. Be realistic and flexible
As I mentioned briefly before, expecting you’re newborn to eat every 2.5 hours on the dot, isn’t going to work. Some days he will be hungrier than others, maybe because he is working harder and growing faster. Design a schedule that actually makes sense. Schedule feeds that are only 1.5 hours apart. Don’t expect your newborn to sleep 4 hours straight. At 6 weeks, I’m still lucky to get 3 hours of sleep at a time. Its great to have goals, but focus your energy and take baby steps to achieve those goals.
3. Factor in your own needs
My schedule probably would’ve worked a lot better for me if I was a homebody, but I’m not. I like running errands and taking my baby everywhere with me. We go shopping, swimming, to coffee shops and even restaurants together. Having my baby take one long morning and evening nap means I can run around anywhere I like midday. She can sleep in the car seat/stroller/wrap, or hang out awake. Baby Charlie’s needs are met, and I’m able to get out of the house. It’s not your job to fit into baby’s world. Its your job to teach them how they fit into our world, so leave time in the plan your you!
4. Be strict in your bedtime routine
New parents dream of the day that their little ones sleep through the night. The routine helps your little one know what to expect next; ‘after bath time comes story time, and then I’ll be laid down to sleep’. Design a routine that is easy to follow and works for you and your baby. You can give them a bath, read a book, put on pyjamas, or play a bed time game. The routine will also help your child differentiate the difference between naptime and bedtime. It will help them prepare for the long sleep until morning.
5. There’s no such thing as ‘perfection’
We can only do our best as parents. We will never be perfect in any of it! Sometimes the schedule will have to take a detour; for a family holiday get together, a sudden illness, or maybe a vacation away. These detours are inevitable but it’s easy to get yourself back on schedule even after a short break. Growth spurts happen frequently, babies get sick, and doctors visits and immunizations will have your baby acting weird for a day or two. Things happen, life gets in the way, and there will be days where you’ll have to just let it go and try to get back on track the next day. And thats okay! Don’t stress the small deviations, just do your best and enjoy your baby!
Thats it! My 5 tips to help with getting your newborn on a schedule