"Oh, I can't use a schedule. Why would I starve my child?" "No, you don't sleep train until they are much older." "Use a schedule? You mean cry it out?! Absolutely not!"
These are all phrases I have heard people exclaim over the years when talking about using a schedule for a baby. Have you heard them before? Why do these remarks even happen? I'll tell you what. It confuses me to no end!
I had a friend once who said he read a particular sleeping help book. Upon hearing that I really liked the book, and the ideas in it totally helped my babies sleep early on, he told me he couldn't believe I would starve my baby. Enter the most perplexed face I could make in that moment. Upon asking him what he meant by that, and how I was starving my baby, he proceeded to give his opinion. When I told him that none of that information came from the book, he admitted he had read the BACK of the book, and some reviews. I busted out laughing. Maybe you shouldn't judge a book by it's back cover, yeah?
Babies, kids, even ADULTS, thrive off schedules. Think about it. When you have some things you HAVE to get done, how do you remember to do them? You make a to-do list. Some of you, if you're like me, might even break down your to-do list into a schedule format, so you can make sure you stay on track or have enough hours in the day to get it done.
Or let's say you have a deadline at work or school that you have to meet. You make a schedule to complete certain steps on time, so that the entire project is done by the deadline. Right?
Or maybe you have a calendar that you write everything down on so you know what day something is happening. Maybe you even have alerts set on your phone to remind you to attend certain functions, or complete certain activities. (I'd be shocked if there was anyone in this room who DIDN'T do this.)
Whether you realize it or not, you make schedules in your life all the time. And you need them. You thrive off of them, even if you would peg yourself as someone who doesn't, I would venture to guess you do in some sense.
So why wouldn't you give your baby the gift of a schedule? They thrive off them as well. Step into their little baby feet for just a minute. With a schedule, they know when they get will get sleep, when they will eat, and what is happening in their day every day. They do not have to guess what will happen. They know that they sleep, and when they wake up, it's time to eat. I swear, it keeps them much happier.
Constantly, I am reminded that a schedule is a scary thing to a parent. WHERE does this come from? Why are people so afraid of it? I wish I could answer that! The stigma associated with a schedule is crazy to me. But let's try, shall we? Some people say that a schedule means feeding baby at the same time every day, no matter what their hunger cues are, no matter how they are doing that day. Again, this is completely wrong. Don't forget, a schedule does not mean that baby eats at the SAME time every day no matter what. It just means having a general pattern to their days; they always eat, have awake time, then sleep. Over and over and over. They start and finish their day at the same time every day, but keep the rest of their day fairly flexible, with the same pattern each day. If you've forgotten how a schedule should look in more detail, read this post here.
Some say that a schedule means letting your baby cry it out. We have addressed this one before, and I've provided that link here for your reference.
Lastly, I hear people say that baby is not old enough for a schedule. But, I'm here to tell you that helping your baby get on some kind of schedule not only helps them get the sleep they need, but YOU will get sleep too! And if you're doing it with them from the day they are born, it is SO much easier than correcting a sleep problem later. Just like it's easier to teach our kids to do something right the first time, rather than correcting a wrong action later.
So don't be afraid to use a schedule! You are not starving your baby by feeding them every time they wake up, you are not having baby cry it out, and you are not ignoring their hunger/sleep cues. Using a schedule helps their lives feel regular, and helps you understand what they are need of at that moment. And a happy baby makes a happy mama!
*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 eight 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 calms all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series, and a blog will be published just for you!*