If you’re anything like me (I‘m a project manager), I planned as much as I possibly could before the birth of my son. I planned what days I would do laundry and which days I would do grocery pickups, but when caring for a newborn, many of those plans came crashing down. Okay, who am I kidding? They all came crashing down. Things don’t often go as planned when there’s a new little person who is relying on you for every single need they have. About three weeks after my son’s birth, I realized that I was going to lose my mind unless we figured out a schedule— and fast! He needed a schedule, and truth be told, I desperately needed one, too.
I did a lot of research and realized that some babies don’t respond to schedules well until they’re a bit older, but I decided to try anyway and I’m so glad I did. Those first few days were such a challenge, but after day 3 or 4, we started to get the hang of it — together. He was able to predict nap times and feeds and he started sleeping longer stretches at night. This also helped me plan our days a little better. I still had to stay flexible, but the things that needed to get done around the house slowly started happening.
My top three suggestions for scheduling may seem simple, but they were the keys to success as we figured things out:
Eat, Wake, and Sleep
There are so many suggestions surrounding baby’s wakeful periods, but one thing that this helped us do was not associate feeds with sleeping. We wake him to feed, have some awake time (maybe read a story or sing some songs) and then put him down for a nap. In the beginning, it was hard to keep him awake for any amount of time after he ate because babies tend to naturally get sleepy after eating. Sometimes it was all we could do to keep him awake for a diaper change, but we kept working at it and now play time after feeding is some of our sweetest time together. He’s not fussy (because he has a fully belly) and is generally pretty happy and alert. It’s also easier to see his sleepy cues now (rubbing his eyes, yawning, etc.).
Light, Dark, and Noise
From the very beginning, we really tried to enforce the concepts of day and night. During the day, we keep lights on and at night, we do as little light as possible. For daytime naps, we leave the blinds open to let in a little sunlight. At night, blinds are closed and we usually have a lamp on until he is ready to go down. We also use the sound machine for every “sleep” window — naps and bedtime. This seems to function as cue that it’s time for rest and he usually starts showing sleepy cues pretty quickly after the sound machine goes on.
This has by far been the hardest part for me to adjust to but it has been a great life lesson to me, too. Flexibility always wins. Rigidity in a baby’s schedule doesn’t get you much more than extra fussiness in your babe and constant clock-watching for the parent. Flexibility on the other hand allows you to really enjoy your time with your baby while ensuring their needs are met. When we started our schedule, we had day feedings at 8am, 11am, 2pm and 5pm but if he started to show signs of hunger at 1:30 instead of 2 and I tried to wait it out, he would just get more agitated. When I leaned into his signs (instead of keeping to a rigid schedule), he was not only happier, but I was able to stop watching the clock!
If you’re a new or expecting mama and thinking about a schedule, give yourself a few weeks to adjust to your adorable, tiny new human and then start slowly. We started with and focused on daytime feedings first for a few weeks and then introduced the dreaded sleep training (which wasn’t actually too bad!). Our little man is 12 weeks old and is thriving — taking naps and eating Nature’s One Baby's Only Organic® Dairy Whey DHA & ARA Formula around the same time every day and sleeping at night like a champ!