“Put my baby on a schedule? You can’t be serious… like an Army cadet at boot camp?”
Not exactly. I believe in a loose schedule of sorts. More like a structured routine. Why? Because, much like adults, babies thrive on predictability.
I can’t tell you how many moms tell me they don’t want their babies on a schedule because they want them to be able to enjoy the freedom and whimsy that comes with being a child, blah blah blah. BLAH.
I get it. I really do.
But don’t confuse your own personal hectic/stressful work situation or daily schedule with the concept of having your baby on a routine. It’s not the same thing.
You see, when infants grow up in a predictable world, they learn that they can trust us to meet their basic needs. A routine is doing certain things in a certain order at about the same time. Routines create stability, structure and predictability. Over time, this helps build a child’s self-confidence by making it clear what to do and what will happen in a given situation.
Forget about all the books you’ve read, I have an easy method that I use to predict naps fairly accurately. It all boils down to one thing:
Respect Thy Intervals.
Infants tend to demonstrate consistency in the duration of time they’re awake before their next nap. This makes it very easy to predict and schedule your day, all the while giving your baby the sleep she deserves.
A Rough Guide to Napping at 4 weeks – 3 Months
After the first 4-6 weeks have passed (or fairly soon thereafter), your baby should be sleeping a lot (more) at night. If this is the case (and believe me, you WANT this to be the case), he will take about 3 naps during the day which can each range from 45 minutes to 2 hours.
The Morning Interval: 45-60 minutes. Starting when she wakes up in the morning (the first wake-up after sunrise), she will only be awake for a short while before taking her morning nap, typically about 45 minutes to an hour.
So, if your baby wakes up at 7am, you can expect her to go down again around 7:45 to 8am. If you’ve been up a lot the night before, this is a great time for you to go back to sleep too. Stay in your jammies, hold off on the coffee and get some extra shut-eye. I call this the mommy catch-up.
The Midday Interval This varies, but it’s roughly about *2.5 hours. Meaning, 2.5 hours after she wakes from her morning nap, she’ll be ready for her midday nap. She’ll sleep for about an hour and a half (*varies).
The Afternoon Interval: 3 hours. After her mid-day nap, this will be her longest stretch of being awake: about 3 hours. This is your chance to run errands and do things with your baby that require more time: grocery shopping, going to the mall or having a playdate. Your baby will be most alert and playful during this afternoon stretch, so take advantage.
Bedtime: 2.5-3 hours. “Bedtime” will occur roughly 2.5-3 hours after she woke up from her afternoon nap.
In the last hour or so before bedtime, she will be at her crankiest. This is a great time to have a warm bath, a feeding, and some quiet snuggle time before going down for bed. Keep stimulation to a minimum.
Developing a nighttime routine now will serve you well going forward into the future.
** 3 hours is a great rule of thumb for the maximum amount of time your baby should stay awake at this age (give or take). Anything much more than this and you are risking entering the realm of “overtiredness”, a place you don’t want to be. If your baby is turning into a gremlin at night and he’s been up for 4-5 hours at a time during the day, this could explain it…
Ok, so what does this look like? A sample daytime routine for a baby of your age is detailed below. Your baby’s intervals will vary, this is just a rough guideline. You can tailor yours to your baby.
Life is easier for both of you when you have a predictable schedule. You can plan outings, see people, go out to eat… you can get out of the house and live your life. This is when you start to feel really empowered — and soon you’ll learn that there isn’t much you can’t do with this little alien in your life.