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I Don't Want To Put My Baby On A Schedule…But Maybe I Should?

By melissaejordan |

Do I need a set nap time?

I really dislike baby schedules. I have always been of the “don’t let a baby keep you from doing things” camp and up until our daughter was a year old, we never let nap times and bed times rule our planning. From birth, Everly was accustomed to sleeping in her car seat, stroller, in our arms… wherever.

It was great for us as we could still go to late dinners, socialize with friends, travel, etc – because we just brought her along wherever we went. I can’t count how many nights she slept soundly in her carseat in the middle of a dinner table with food plates being passed around her. When she hit a year old, she became less and less able to fall asleep anywhere. Nap time became a real challenge and getting her down at night was taking an hour and half  or more.  She was cranky and irritable and in return, so were we. It was then that we realized that we had to set some routines and schedules in place for her. Suddenly we were locked into 1pm naptimes and 7:30pm bedtimes. Any outings or plans had to take place before or after those times. Giving up our scheduling freedom was well worth it to benefit our daughter.

Now that we have Arlo to consider too, I’m starting to reconsider my “no schedules” way of parenting an infant. 

So far, I’ve followed the same “take him along” mentality. While I do like the flexibility to bring him wherever I go during the day and put him to bed when I go myself, I can’t help but think of how much having a schedule has helped our daughter flourish. Even with his ability to sleep anywhere, perhaps a schedule could benefit our son just as much?

I’ve not even begun to research the different methodologies like but I am really curious to hear from other parents who do follow a set schedule with their young infants. Have you found that your infant naps easier and is happier with a strict schedule? How does your baby react when their schedule is thrown off (such as with traveling)? I’d appreciate some real world perspectives from others on how having a schedule or not has worked for their family.

~Melissa

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About melissaejordan

melissaejordan

melissaejordan

Melissa Jordan wrote for Babble’s Baby’s First Year, where she chronicled the challenges and joys of parenting a toddler and a brand-new baby. More of her work can be found on her blog, Dear Baby, which is Jordan's personal narrative of her experiences with pregnancy and becoming a new mother.

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16 thoughts on “I Don't Want To Put My Baby On A Schedule…But Maybe I Should?

  1. Michelle says:

    We are in the same boat. When he was littler (2-12 weeks) we started put him down for a nap every 75 minutes like clockwork, he would fall asleep after nursing/being put down drowsy but awake, and sleep for 2-3 hours. Trying, TRYING to shift to a 3 nap a day schedule because he is awake so much more, but haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Working on waking up at 8:30, nap at 10, wake up at 12, nap at 2, wake up at 4, nap at 6, wake up at 7, then bed by 8:30. So far.. Lots of ‘going down’ for napa but not a lot of napping. At all.

  2. Gwyn says:

    I found, without having a strong preference for or against schedules, that a regular routine benefits the older baby/toddler much more than the infant. Enjoy the flexibility of the infant without worrying about it, and when that flexibility doesn’t work for them anymore (e.g. can/t sleep anywhere anyhow anymore) go to the routine. I found with baby #2 it to happen faster, and have just realized the next few years are locked into nap and bedtimes. sigh.

  3. Fran says:

    I am all for routine and was pretty much from day one. I don’t know if I dare mention her name on here, but Gina Ford is the way to go! However try not to get bogged down in the detail of her routine as I sometimes got stressed as I wasn’t doing it exactly her way, rather use it as a guide to dip in and out of to make sure you are on the right path. As much as we can dictate a routine to our babies, they too can dictate one to us, they have their own rythm and together you will find your way, the right way for both of you. A 1pm nap doesn’t mean you have to stay at home… e.g. my mummy lives a couple of hours away so when we go there for weekend visits I take my Bear swimming in the morning (to tire!) we have lunch and then we head off, the journey for me being easier with him sleeeping in his car seat. I always try to time journeys with napping. I think a bedtime routine is really important! Especially when you go back to the dreaded work. I work a 4 day week, my hubs 5, and we both have a fairly hefty commute getting home between 6.30 and 7pm. We have a precious 1.5 hours with our Bear, a light snack, a bit of play, blowing bubbles in the bath and cuddling for ‘milky love’ and stories and then by 8.30 we can call our time our own, for dinner, chores and most importantly each other. Then at our bedtime, coz we miss him so, we sneak into the nursery, gently lift a snoring Bear and bring him into our bed for a sleepy cuddle, before returning him, non-the-wiser! Wishing you luck and love of an ‘orderly’ nature! xx xx

  4. chelsey says:

    i’m actually starting my 5 week old on a schedule today. we’re doing the babywise method but more flexible. basically just planning to feed him every 2 1/2 hours. so it starts whenever he wakes up (today 7:20) and i wont feed him again until 9:50. Keeping him awake until he is drowsy and putting him down then waking him for the feeding if he hasn’t already gotten up. Seems flexible enough since he can sleep in a stroller or carseat as well.

  5. Lydia Collins says:

    I was very anti-schedule with my first too. He went EVERYWHERE with me and my husband no matter of time of day…and we traveled and had a lot of freedom. Then one day when he was around 9 months old he started getting very cranky and irritable all the time. I took him into the doctor cause I thought maybe something was wrong and she told me a bit of advice I’ve never forgotten: when it comes to babies/kids, “sleep begets sleep”. If they’re taking a good nap during the day, its easier for them to sleep well at night. If they AREN’T getting a good nap, it can actually cause them to have a restless night which just starts the cranky/bad sleeping cycle all over again. From that point on I submitted to a “schedule” (I like calling it a “routine” better though).

    I started paying more attention to his “I’m tired” cues and realized he usually liked to take a 2-3 hour nap after lunch, then bedtime by 8pm. So that’s what we did! Everything revolved around those naptimes till he turned 4, when he gave up a nap. When our 2nd baby came along when my oldest was 3, I was pretty flexible with him for a few months, but then quickly got him into a 2 nap routine: one in the morning, then one at the same time as my then 3 yr old after lunch. They go to bed at the same time everynight. Now that my 2nd is 15 months he’s dropped the morning nap, and they nap/rest at the same time everyday. It’s heavenly! And I have the best sleepers from following this routine.
    If you have anymore questions ask away! My sisters always ask me for sleep advice for their kids cause they’re amazed at how my boys have such a great sleep routine.

  6. Amanda P says:

    I am of the “schedule” school of thought. When my son was very young there was obviously no real schedule. But as the weeks and months passed he really made a schedule on his own. He would eat and nap roughly around the same times each day. He is now in daycare full time and they live by schedules there. All in all, it makes for a happier baby and a happier family. Sure, you have to alter the times you can be gone from the house, going out to dinner, etc. But I think it helps him as much as it helps us. He’s 17 mos old now and is/pur day is like clockwork. On the days or times when we’re away or his schedule is off, you really can tell a difference in his mood and attitude. All in all, I say stick with a schedule. Also, with 2 kids, once they’re on the same schedule it will give you all some free time and not be dealing with 1-2 hours of trying to put them to bed, etc.

    PS – I don’t know if this helps, but with our 17 month old his schedule is as follows:
    wake up 7am
    breakfast 8am
    lunch 11:30/12
    nap 12:30-2
    bedtime 7:30/8pm

  7. Jennifer says:

    My daughter had a very hard time, from birth, without schedule and routine. A friend recommended the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I devoured the book; it has made our lives peaceful. Everyone is happy when they know what to expect and are well rested. I think all kids are different. My sons are a little more flexible, so we can have a more flexible schedule. However, outside of the random special occassion, we are home for afternoon naps at 12:30 and bed time at 7. Everybody wakes up happy and ready to play. I get a head start on dinner or clean during naps and have some hang out time with my husband after bedtime. It just worked for us. I think you have to do what works for you.

  8. Camiece says:

    My boys are really close in age (13 months apart), and both happened to fall into routines pretty easily. In fact, the reason I started to use a routine for my older son was because I was due in a few months with the second one, and knew I needed to do all I could to save my sanity :) For the first few months after #2 was born, I just let him nap on the go because I knew my older one would need to get out of the house. Around 4 months, #2 wasn’t sleeping as well outside of his crib, so I knew it was time to start watching his days to see what sort of routine to start. Now, he usually sleeps around 1.5 hours in the morning and afternoon, and #1 sleeps 2ish hours in the afternoon also. Although I am tied to the house a bit more, I get one-on-one time with each of them everyday, which I love. I also know this is a short time in the scheme of things, and that their sleep is better because of it. Oh, and regarding traveling – we haven’t found routines to hinder our travel much. In fact, I think the boys do better because it’s not such a huge change for them if they stay semi on routine. We’ve traveled to Hawaii (a 8th flight and 4hr time difference!), and the mountains multiple times, and they’ve done wonderfully, and I’ve never felt restricted! The kiddos will be fine no matter what you decide :)

  9. Larita says:

    I know my sister-in-law has strictly followed the Babywise scheduling methods with all three of her babies and they’ve all slept SO WELL from birth. She became more relaxed with her schedules as the babies got older. With my first, I definitely considered following her example, but, as a newborn, my son was constantly changing how often he needed to eat and sleep (depending on his growth) and it seemed a lot more natural to just follow his cues. I did try getting him on a really tight schedule a few times, but it ended up making both of us cranky and totally stressing me out. I’m with the commenters above who say follow the baby’s cues. As infants, they’re so flexible; but my son definitely hit a point at about 4 months where he needed more routine, and wanted to sleep in his own bed, and has only become more set in his ways the older he’s gotten. HOWEVER: he is almost 15 months and still does not sleep through the night. Naps are great and always have been, but nighttime sleeping has been a fight for almost all his life, with patches of blissfully peaceful nights occasionally. I’m due with my second in about 6 weeks and while I don’t think I could ever handle keeping as strict a schedule as my sister-in-law has, I will be taking a few more ideas from her “routines” (I like that word much better!) in hopes of this 2nd baby sleeping better at night.

  10. judi says:

    we actually did about the same thing w/ harley that you did w/ everly… not all that much of a strict schedule until close to a year. maybe a little before, but in the infant stage we definitely just let her guide us PLUS the fact that they’re so easy to go to sleep almost anywhere made it seem silly to not take advantage of that fact.
    i think w/ #2 i’ll probably do the exact same thing we did w/ harley w/ the only exception being that since H already has an established nap & bedtime, we’ll obviously be home at those times, so the 2nd child will (hopefully) just gravitate to that schedule too.

  11. Cameron says:

    We did a routine from about 6 weeks old on. But I didn’t confine myself to napping in her crib right away. I sort-of let her show me what she needed. I did try to stick to a nap routine, where it was similar times each day, but that nap sometimes was me holding her and rocking her while we shopped or her in her carrier at a restaurant for lunch or something like that. She was really flexible in the beginning as far as where she would sleep. I did try to keep bedtime really consistent from that point on because I did notice that if I did nighttime right, she would be incredibly flexible during the day. But as she got older, she would nap in the crib & that’s it. If we were out, she was just too excited to see everything. So by the time she was about 10 months old, she was at consistently naps at home and nighttime around 7:30 in the crib. I was like you, I was okay with having to be around the house for a little while each day for naps because she was so much happier & well-rested & content all the other times of the day & it was easy for me to just be out & about with her. But we’ve also loved our pack n play! I’d take it to a friends house or family’s house or something & she would nap in that, too if we wanted to go visit someone.

    But I think you’ve done great at just reading your kids & seeing what is working & what isn’t. I’ve found that even with a routine, things come up, stuff happens, there’s teething, milestones, events, growth spurts, etc. You’ve just got to find that rhythm that works for all of you. I liked a routine that was able to be flexible when needed. But I listened to my instincts, I watched my daughter, and I found what fit my personality, her personality & our family’s needs & I think that’s what’s important – schedule or not.

  12. M.G. says:

    Babies thrive on a routine. We used a schedule from birth and it saved our sanity. Does it mean you have to schedule outings around naps? Yes, but it’s an unselfish approach because it isn’t in the best interest of the baby to try to adjust to different times every single day. We balance our strict nap, meal, and bedtime schedule with the fact that our kids have different people caring for them and places to go each day. I think babies get bored and understimulated if they do the same thing every single day- but if activity is balanced with routine- it is a recipe for a well adjusted, well rested baby.

  13. Julie Thompson says:

    Babywise gave me something to hold on to when I had my daughter. As a first time parent I had no idea what to do. I knew I would be going back to work and needed a goodnights rest. I highly recommend picking up Babywise and Happiest Baby on the Block. The combination of those books gave me piece of mind and the know how to care for my daughter. She is now 17 months old and sleeps 12 hours at night and takes a 2-3 hour nap. My husband and I have time at night for our relationship and plenty of sleep.

  14. Voice Of Reason says:

    It sounds to me like your baby is the one setting her own schedule and that by responding to her need for routine, you are doing exactly what we’re always being told we should be doing – being more child-centred, especially in the early years.

    I agree with the above poster that children do thrive on routines (that’s certainly been my experience anyway) and if you find that going along with this notion gives you happier children, as you have indicated, then I think it’s a win-win.

  15. laura says:

    I’m a schedule person and it’s actually a big part of what I do for a living, so it came pretty naturally to me. But I keep it flexible. As of 3-4 months, my little guy was having 3 naps a day…we fell into it by just following his natural patterns. Once that was well established (about 2 weeks), I just tried my best to follow it but didn’t make into a strict rule. If we were home, we had 3 solid naps…if we needed to go out, we might have 2 or even 1. If we had 2 kinda off days in a row, I’d make sure to have a 3rd home day where he could catch up and have his 3 naps. Bedtimes are the same, most of the time he’ll hit the sack at 7pm but if we’re out he can stay up later and if we could find a comfy place for him to go down (at a friends place or something) then we’d do it.

    I think schedules are really important to keep a baby happy and healthy. But I also think being flexible is key to keeping us parents sane. If you’re obsessed with the schedule, you’ll just end up resenting it.

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