If you're wondering why a schedule for your baby is worth it, read this post. It's worth it! I promise!
Now, I'm going to teach you the beginning of HOW to do it. Newborn babies NEED to eat every 3-4 hours (says Bree's pediatrician). Because not all babies are the same, and some really do want to eat sooner, I find that 2.5-4 hours is a better range to cover MOST babies. I will call this time slot a "cycle."
From the time the baby eats to the time the baby eats again should be 2.5-4 hours. Eat. Awake time/change diaper. Sleep. Eat. Awake time/change diaper. Sleep. Repeat over and over.
For newborns, awake time is generally very short. Sometimes they only stay awake just to eat and then they are right back to sleep. This is why it is so important to feed your baby the moment they wake up, then change their diaper and put them back to sleep. I repeat---this should ALWAYS be eat, awake, sleep. NEVER awake, then eating, then sleeping. No, no. Always eat, awake, sleep.
When you do your schedule, you need to be flexible. Your cycles should last 2.5-4 hours. Your schedule won't be dictated by the time on the clock, but rather the length of cycles. You'll see though, that with your baby on a schedule, your eat/wake/sleep times will roughly be the same time each day.
Choosing a time frame instead of the same time every day gives your baby the flexibility to adapt to the schedule while keeping their needs in mind. If you go ahead and decide to wake up your baby at 9, 12, and 3 every day no matter what, then your baby will never be able to merge their cycles together, making it so your baby never sleeps in long stretches, or never stays awake longer during awake time.
A schedule for a newborn would look like this:
7 a.m.: Eat
7:30 a.m.: Diaper Change
7:45 a.m. (probably sooner): Sleep
2.5 to 4 hours later... If it is 2.5 hours later, we'd be at 9:30 a.m. and if 4 hours later, we'd be at 11 a.m: you wake that baby up and feed that baby.
Are you thinking, "did you just say wake a sleeping baby????" If you are... then I'll repeat myself, WAKE THE BABY UP. Your baby needs to eat. Your baby also needs to change their sleep habits to being awake during the day, instead of at night. Most of their life (unborn and now) has been spent sleeping during OUR day, and awake during OUR night while in the womb. Well now, it's time to make their day YOUR day, and their night YOUR night. You'll thank me for this--I promise.
Now here's the other side of the coin... if it's not quite 9:30 a.m., help your baby go back to sleep. Babies have a sleep cycle of about 45 minutes. Eventually, a baby learns how to put their cycles together. Just as we do when we sleep. If you think really hard about it, you probably would notice that you do wake up several times during the night but the difference between you and a baby? You know how to go back to sleep. You learned to connect your sleep cycles at some point in your life. Hopefully, for your mother's sake, it was when you were very, very young. So, if it's not quite 9:30 a.m., get that baby back to sleep... with a binky, re-swaddle, rock the baby back to sleep... but get that baby back to sleep. And then do it all over again, and again, and again...and again.
And now you must be thinking, do I still wake up my baby during the night? Until about three weeks of age, yes, the doctor says wake up your baby. The concern here is that your baby needs to keep his or her blood sugar levels up. The doctor said that if their levels drop too low, they won't be able to wake themselves up.
However, a little secret for you folks who love their sleep, get a breathing monitor. I can not tell you how many times this has kept my sanity, and lets me sleep soundly (like a baby? Well yes, like YOUR baby now after implementing these great pieces of advice) without worrying about the baby breathing or not. I let my babies sleep as long as they want to during the night. But I also take extra precautions to make sure they are all good.
As you continue to keep these cycles going, your baby will eventually extend their nighttime sleep through the night. Around four weeks of age, instead of waking up twice at night, they will wake up once. Between 7 -10 weeks of age, a baby is fully capable of sleeping about 8 hours, and on this schedule, will. :) You're welcome.
- Mama Jackie
*Sleep is essential. We need sleep to function, to take care of our children, to keep up on every single task life throws at us, to keep our sanity. Are you getting your 8 hours or do you have a baby who is keeping you up? Let's remedy that! In the "Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas" series of our blog, sleep expert Jackie answers all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series and Jackie will address your specific issue!*