"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Babywise: My Tips on Putting a Baby on a Routine

So I was writing this out for a friend, and I decided to make it available on the WWW in case it helps out anyone who stumbles across it. I know that I have friends that have successfully put their babies on a routine, and I would LOVE it if you would leave your comments with your experiences.

I absolutely believe that Babywise is awesome, and it definitely worked for me, but its NOT magic and it takes intentionality, effort and work. I find that it is worth it, but not everyone does and are happy with their parenting style. It is whatever works for you! I know that people say you can't put a baby on a routine, but I disagree. I had Isla on a routine starting at 3 weeks, and would have had on her on a routine sooner if I had not had so many visitors. By 4 weeks, she really got the hang of it and was doing great! I got plenty of sleep and was happy. The book is technically called "Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep" and I believe that 100% I have given Isla a gift. I think that it is the reason that she is so happy and easy. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important indicators of mental health. All babies are different and will vary some within the routine, but ALL babies benefit from a routine. Also, this applies to NORMAL, healthy babies and not preemies or special needs babies.

In Babywise, your babies day will start out with 5 3-hour Eat/Activity/Sleep cycles plus a dream feed, eventually going to 4 4 hour Eat/Activity/Sleep cycles as the baby gets older without a dream feed. The 3 hours is flexible and may be as short as 2.5 hours for some babies, but probably no more than 3.5 hours for a newborn. For simplicity, I am writing about a 3 hour routine, but it could be less or more for your baby. A routine is key to help regulate your babies digestion as that will help to regulate his/her sleep. YOU are the parent and must help and teach your baby how to sleep. This is the first parenting that you can do. A baby is a baby and does not always know what is good for him/her and some babies will NOT eat even though they need to, just as some babies won't SLEEP even though they need to.

So here are my Cliff's Notes!

  1. If your baby is hungry, FEED her/him! This is a FLEXIBLE routine and NOT a schedule. Babies go through growth spurts where they will not follow the perfect 3 hour routine, and that's ok and increased nursing is key to upping your milk supply. Once the growth spurt is over, return to the 3 hour routine.
  2. For the first 10 days or so, nurse whenever the baby cries.
  3. The one thing to try to be firm on is when the FIRST feed of the day is. You can vary by 30 minutes though, but not 30 minutes either way. So between 7 and 7:30, not 6:30 to 7:30.
  4. Make sure your baby takes in a full feed. This means working to keep your baby awake. The baby will want to sleep after the first few minutes because your milk is made of 3 parts - the quencher, the fore milk, and the hind milk. The quencher has oxytocin that makes YOU and BABY sleepy. If you let the baby nurse and he/she falls asleep after only a couple of minutes, he/she will not get to the good stuff - the hind milk, which makes babies healthy and fat! Also, he/she won't be able to go the full length of time between meals.
  5. It takes newborns a long time to eat, but they get better and more efficient after a month or two and it isn't such a pain to feed them.
  6. Don't be afraid to wake up your baby to eat. Sometimes babies are good sleepers, but they also need nutrients and if they want to sleep for 4 or 5 hours at a time, they will not be eating enough and it could result in a failure to thrive. Newborns should not go more than 3.5 hours between meals, other than at night, even then, no longer than 5 or 6 hours until a month to 6 weeks.
  7. If a baby has nursed for a long time (like more than 45 minutes), but still seems to want to nurse, first check to see that he/she doesn't just want to suckle on something. In that case, give the baby a pacifier. Make sure you insert the pacifier close to the roof of the mouth and away from the tongue as a baby has a tongue thrust reflex that causes him/her to spit it out.
  8. Little babies especially will like to cluster feed in the evenings (nurse ever 1.5 to 2 hours). Not all babies need this, especially bigger babies. Most babies outgrow this by 2 months.

  1. Normally newborns have a very short activity time, especially in the morning.
  2. This will lengthen as they get older.
  3. Yawning, the 7 mile stare, nodding off, eye rubbing, ear grabbing are all signs that the baby is tired and ready for sleep time.
  4. For night waking, skip the activity time.
  5. I do a wind down before naps and bed time. I swaddle Isla, read to her, sing to her, and we say a naptime/bedtime prayer. This helps her transition into sleep. You can't just plop a baby or a child down in bed and expect him/her to go to sleep. This gets more important the older Isla gets.

  1. Put baby to sleep AWAKE but tired. This is important. If a child needs you rocking him/her or nursing him/her or some other sleep prop, he/she will require that to go sleep even in the middle of the night. There is no need to feel guilty, newborns especially find just laying somewhere stimulating enough.
  2. SWADDLE your baby, even the arms. Babies love to be swaddled, they just came from a the womb where everything was tight and cozy. Its adults that hate swaddles, do not impose your own feelings about swaddling on a infant because you think it looks uncomfortable.
  3. CRY IT OUT (CIO). Ok, this one is a tough one. I did not let Isla CIO because I was not comfortable with it. Some parents are, and they are still great parents. I can only write what I did. When she was an infant, I would help her to sleep by either holding a pacifier in her mouth, or turning on a noise machine and patting her rhythmically until she fell asleep. She was always in her bed while I did these things. I did not rock her or put her on my chest or have her fall asleep anywhere but in her own bed. Like I said, it took work, effort, and intentionality. Early on it would take hours to get her to sleep at night, although she usually didn't need much help for her naps. Eventually, she did not need the things I did to help her fall asleep. However, Isla does sometimes have a MANTRA CRY, where she fusses a little bit before she falls asleep. She is not distressed, she does this even when I am holding her or the occasional time where we nap together. She just needs to let off some steam. She does it for 30 seconds and then is done.
  4. Do not let a baby sleep longer than 2 hours a nap, 1.5 hours is the ideal for a 3 hour routine, 2 for a 4 hour routine. A newborn is capable of sleeping up to 5 hours a time ONCE a day. You want that time to be at night. Plus, as I wrote up at the top babies NEED to EAT!!!
  5. Sometimes a baby wakes up 45 minutes into a nap. This is called the 45 minute intruder and a 45 minute nap is NOT enough unless it is an evening catnap. Sometimes a baby is hungry (if so then FEED him/her). Sometimes a baby was over stimulated.
  6. Eventually you may find that babies are waking at night but not interested in food. Try giving them a pacifier to teach them to go longer between meals at night and to satisfy their need to suckle. Also if they wake close to your preferred wake time, try a pacifier then too to stave them off. BUT if they are hungry, FEED them.
  7. If a baby wakes up before his/her nap wake time or in the middle of the night but does not cry, it is OK to leave them. Littler babies will especially coo or talk for a few minutes and then put themselves back to sleep.

Other Things
  1. The Dream Feed. Do this before you go to bed, between 10 and 11 o'clock, but no later. This is the SIXTH feeding, try to make it a dream feed where you feed your baby but don't wake them. Some women are able to do it nursing. I always pumped and had Nick give Isla the bottle. We started with a slow flow nipple, working our way to a fast flow nipple once we got more comfortable with it as Isla got older. We would pick her up, put the bottle in her mouth, it would activate her sucking reflex, she would eat it, and we would put her to bed. Try to drop this as soon as your baby is ready so that your baby really get that uninterrupted night time sleep. Its SO important. Start testing taking away the dream feed once your baby is sleeping from the dream feed to your preferred wake time, it make take a little while for them to be ready.
  2. After you have dropped the dream feed, slowly work to get your baby from a 3 hour (3 naps plus one evening catnap) to a 4 hour routine (2 naps plus one evening catnap). I found that Isla wasn't really ready until close to 5 months. All babies are different, just watch your baby and see how long he/she can stay awake and go from there.
  3. The evening naps will gradually shorten until the evening nap is just a catnap. For some babies, this nap is always a catnap.
  4. Babies can have a witching hour where they cry a lot and want to nurse all the time.

Ok, that is it! I tried to leave out my experiences and just stick to the facts, even though it was hard for me. In some cases, I could not help but include my own experiences.

The Chronicles of a Babywise Mom is a GREAT resource! Here it is: http://www.babywisemom.com/. She goes into detail on each little thing.

I also got a lot of help from the Baby Whisperer books, but I definitely agree more with Babywise where they differ. I think dropping the dream feed early on is very important, which she doesn't recommend. Also she introduced the Mantra Cry to me, and after carefully reading Babywise and the Baby Whisperer, I find that they are both saying the same thing about CIO. Don't rush in, see if the baby can settle himself/herself first, and sometimes a baby just needs to let off some steam and is not distress crying.


  1. These are great cliff's notes. We did babywise with both kids. Easier with CG than with Con, partly b/c of their personality and lack of reflux/colic with CG, but MOSTLY b/c we had a better idea of what we were doing and were more confident doing it.

    I think putting a baby on a schedule makes so much logical sense, but I think one of the most important things to remember, like you said, is that is a "flexible guide," not a hard and fast rule, they are little babies after all. Plus I find even we grown-ups have sleepier and/or hungrier days than others.

    Also, completely concur with your bolded statement. Everyone has to find the style and techniques that work for them and their baby!

  2. We did Babywise with Peyton and it was such a lifesaver/sanity saver! I needed to be able to plan my days and be able to live life and be her mommy and having a vague idea on eating/sleeping was important.

    It also helps because they need consistency and a schedule more and more as they get older and it helps with them anticipating what is next in their day. She still has a pretty set schedule....eat lunch at 11:30, nap from 12-2, dinner at 6, bath at 7:30, bed at 8:15. It just helps that she knows around what time what is supposed to happen and I believe that since we did Babywise as an infant it helped her see schedules in our day.

    I guess I better start reading all of those books again and refresh myself!

  3. Melissa, it was so hard for me to take it as a "flexible guide". You cannot tell a Type A personality like me to put a baby on a flexible routine but then give me specific times like feed them at 7, 10, 1, 4, 7 and 10 and expect me to take it as anything more than a "rigid schedule", even though the book goes into great detail on PDF verses hyperscheduling. Once I realized that Isla was not a machine, we did much better!!! She is just like me in that sometimes she needs more/less sleep/food! Honestly, she only conforms to the perfect routine 10% of the time, but we just keep plugging at it and it seems to work.

  4. Che - I totally agree on the sanity saver thing! It was so nice knowing what our day looked like, and I was always able to be well rested. For me, having a baby was not an overwhelming experience, although there have been some overwhelming moments. Even now, Isla related things rarely stress me out because thanks to her routine, she is the most consistent thing in my life, its external things that will stress me out.

    Thanks for letting me know how routines affect children as they get older!

  5. Great summary Stori!!!

    We have done babywise since the moment Addison was born! I am a type A personality and even 6 months after she was born i STILL have to tell myself its FLEXIBLE! being out of routine bothers me more than her, ha! The beauty of babywise is it builds confidence in the baby to know what is coming next. For example, if they wake up early from a nap---they know that if they wait---FOOD IS COMING.

    We have a bit of a different experience with Babywise than most (at least at the beginning). Addison was a very sleepy baby and generally happy from the start. We had to start waking her every 3 hours during the day and 5 hours at night from the time she was born, so crying was not our signal she was hungry. It was tough because everyone thought I was crazy to wake a sleeping baby, but the benefits are HUGE now. Addison is confident, content and most of all, thriving!!

    Couple of other thoughts:
    -MILK SUPPLY! If you do Bwise from the beginning it REALLY helps establish a strong milk supply fast and early on. This was KEY for me since I knew I was committed to breastfeeding as long as God provided the ability (or until addison can take cows milk).
    -AMEN, every parent needs to do what is BEST for their family. If it is babywise great, if not---thats great too!!
    -Look at the big picture of babywise. Some people are tempted to only look at the rigidity of the schedule and as a result do NOT feed their hungry baby. Babywise is parent directed not parent dictated.
    -Go with your instincts. Stori has to remind me of this all the time. when in doubt, go with your motherly insticts and how God leads you, even if it is not BW.

    Those are just my two cents...or 15 cents :) The flexible routine of Babywise has given me the confidence I need to be a new mother and still be the wife my wonderful husband deserves.

  6. We did Baby Wise with Jake (still are kind of although he is pretty much is an eating/playing/sleeping machine these days). I formula feed so it is a lot easier to know how much food he is getting and that helped give him enough to hold him over for 3 hours. The key is for them to eat enough and then they will sleep. We just moved Jake from 3 hour to 4 hour (6 months). One day we missed a bottle somehow and he did great. So nice to go from 5 to 4 feedings per day. We never did a dream feed. We started from day 1 making bedtime around 7. I NEVER woke him up after 7. He would wake up usually around 3 then again at 6. At 2 months old his Dr. said to start crying it out. I was so relieved! Jake was a very restless sleeper and it took doing lunges down the hall, bouncing until my arms fell off, etc...to get him to sleep. We started with naps. He missed the first nap of the day due to crying, cried for 30 minutes the 2nd, 15 the third and 10 that night. THAT night he slept 12 hours and has not woken up since. The moniters are gone! I put Jake to bed (nap and night time) wide awake. He talks and sometimes whines if he is too tired but eventually goes to sleep. He now takes a 2 hour nap in the morning and 1.5-2 hour nap in the afternoon. People are always saying how easy going he is. That is because he sleeps. I don't think most babies are naturally easy going. Tired babies are monsters and most babies are tired because they are co-sleeping, need rocking, etc... I would like to send a cake to the Baby Wise people and our Dr. for being so practical and telling us he can cry and will be just fine :).

  7. Kelly - She is a beautiful, thriving little girl! I forgot the point about establishing milk supply.

    Cindy - I completely agree about a tired baby being fussy/difficult. That is the only time Isla gets really fussy! Its also crazy to me how a newborn/baby can be sooo tired, and still fight sleep... its a well documented trend in toddlers, but for most people a newborn has to pass out from exhaustion before they will acknowledge that a baby is tired. They don't believe that a baby can't always put themselves to sleep when they are tired.

  8. boo! I posted a long comment earlier and just saw that it didnt go through!


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