Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas: The Schedule is Messed Up!
Cubby reader Kenzie followed some of my advice and now has a 9-week-old baby sleeping through the night! Do you know how much I love to hear that? When I hear that people's babies are still waking up at night when they are ONE, or even older, I feel so sorry for those moms! The last time they slept through the night was a year ago? Or even more? I get to six weeks postpartum, and I just keep thinking, I'll sleep 8+ hours soon...very, very soon. Ha.
Anyway, Kenzie had some additional questions, so I thought I would answer those here in case any of you have the same ones!
First, what DOES happen when the schedule gets messed up? GO WITH IT. The schedule is made to be very flexible. It is actually very important that the schedule changes with baby so that you can see the cycles merge, see when they are able to extend their wake times, or when they don't need as many naps in a day. Just stick to the general rules--each cycle is eat, awake, sleep, and 2.5 -4 hours between feedings--as much as you can, and that's good enough!
The most important thing here is that baby's schedule isn't different and "off'" EVERY day. Once a schedule is established, if the schedule gets messed up every once in a while, don't even worry about it. Babies like consistency. With an established schedule, they will get right back on it in the next day or so, so try not to worry too much. However, if your baby gets off schedule for a bit, and STOPS sleeping through the night (if she was already), then it's time to make some changes.
To supplement her question, Kenzie asked, "Are there specific things I can do when it gets thrown off? Like when she has a bad night or we are out in the evening, so she isn't in bed at a normal time or maybe we are traveling."
This is such a GREAT question. I know this will be hard to implement if you're anything like me; I'm the person that gets anxious when I'm late to things, starts freaking out if I can't get my kids food when they need it, sleep when they need it, etc. BUT, I'm here to tell you, it will be okay. Don't make it a regular habit to stay off schedule, and it all works out. And when you just can't control it (you're on vacation for the week), just stay as close to your schedule as you can. If you're out late, try to take baby's pajamas with you so you can change her wherever you are. And think about places she could sleep while you're out and about. Just do what you can to stick to baby's schedule, and everything will be fine!
If it isn't a whole day that's off schedule, just one cycle at a time, just try and repair the next cycle. For instance, if your baby woke up at 2 hours, instead of between 2.5 -4 hours since she ate last, and would NOT go back to sleep no matter what, then feed her, have awake time, and put her down to sleep. Just start your cycle at that 2 hour mark, and forget about it. It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Most of the time, your baby will get right back on track in the next cycle.