8 reasons a baby schedule is awesome along with tips for successfully setting up a schedule for your little one. Learn when to start and how to do it.
To some people, a baby schedule sounds heavenly. That is right in their wheelhouse and fits their personality perfectly. They can’t really imagine parenting any other way.
There are others, however, who are not so sold on the idea. It sounds confining and sounds like a prison sentence.
Whether you are the former or the latter, this post is for you.
This post is for you because it will give you compelling reasons to have baby on a schedule. If you can’t decide if you really want to go with a baby schedule or not, this post will let you know the benefits so you can make a fully informed decision.
If you are already sold on the idea yourself and plan to parent that way, you will still have those in your life who are not in agreeance with your situation. You can either just send them this post to read for themselves or be equipped with a list of reasons so if they start to question your decision, you can explain it well. Not that you need to; it is your baby and you are the parent. And if those questioning you are a relationship you care about, it can be handy to get everyone to at least a place of understanding and acceptance.
- Do Babies Really Need a Schedule
- A schedule brings predictability.
- Consistency makes sleep training easier.
- A schedule exposes any issues quickly.
- Moms with babies who sleep are less depressed.
- A schedule removes the guesswork out of your day.
- You can plan your days.
- Baby will sleep through the night sooner.
- Starting a schedule as a baby makes it easier to have one as a toddler.
- When Can You Put Baby on a Schedule
- Newborn Sleep Schedule
- Baby Schedule
- Tips for Establishing an Awesome Baby Schedule
- Understand Wake Time
- Understand Sleep Cycles
- Sleep Train Your Baby
- Helpful Sleep Training Books
- Use Props Sparingly
- Have a Solid Sleep Routine
- Track Everything
- Addressing Schedule Difficulties
- Sleep Regressions
- Growth Spurts
- Pain or Sickness
- Older Siblings
- Sample Baby Schedules
Do Babies Really Need a Schedule
You may be asking yourself “Should I put baby on a schedule?” You might be wondering, “Why is a routine important for babies?”
There are many benefits to a schedule. There are many reasons to have a schedule. Let’s list some:
A schedule brings predictability.
This is beneficial to both the parents and the baby. That means it is beneficial to the whole family. You know what to typically expect in any given day.
Consistency makes sleep training easier.
If you want great nighttime sleep or long naps, you want to teach your baby to be able to sleep independently. Keeping to a schedule will help you get there easier.
A schedule exposes any issues quickly.
If your baby is on a predictable routine, one day of being thrown off will grab your attention quickly. When my second child was only a few days old, I quickly realized she had something going on with her medically. After some time with the doctor, we realized she had reflux.
When my fourth child was an older baby, she suddenly had a night where she woke up crying one night. This was so out of character for her that I made a doctor appointment the next day. She had an ear infection. She had no fever and no other symptoms. She just didn’t sleep like herself. I knew that because she had a normal that was off.
You can also quickly notice if you have a supply issue, a gassy baby, colic…your baby is thrown off and you know something is going on.
Moms with babies who sleep are less depressed.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child states that babies who learn to sleep have less depressed moms (see page 272). Read some great sleep tips from Marc Weissbluth here.
A schedule removes the guesswork out of your day.
When you have your little one a predictable routine when your baby is upset, you have a list of things you know isn’t the problem and a list of things that could be the problem.
You can plan your days.
When you know what time baby will nap or eat, you can plan your days. You can make playdate or lunch plans with confidence. You can make a doctor appointment without throwing your child’s day completely off. So while a schedule can seem confining, I find it quite freeing because I can still get out and be social since I know what the day will look like.
Baby will sleep through the night sooner.
Having a baby sleep schedule will really help you get baby sleeping through the night sooner. Yes, there are babies out there who will sleep well no matter what. Conversely, there are babies who are difficult to get to sleep no matter what.
When you cut out your outliers, however, you will really see that sleep schedules help babies sleep better faster overall. This is a huge benefit for the whole family.
Starting a schedule as a baby makes it easier to have one as a toddler.
Toddlers thrive on schedules and predictability. Having a routine with a toddler greatly lessons tantrums.
Read up on the Benefits of Structure and Routine for toddlers and older here
When Can You Put Baby on a Schedule
Do you feel a little more convinced? Wondering what age you can put a baby on a schedule?
You can start from birth.
Now, when I say that, I might have a different vision of a schedule than you do. You can start a simple, eat/wake/sleep cycle. You can wake your newborn up every three hours to eat. For my last two babies, they did not wake up to eat on their own all day OR night. I woke them up for every feeding for quite some time.
Looking for a newborn sleep schedule? Read my post Babywise Sample Schedules: The First Month
Newborn Sleep Schedule
A newborn sleep schedule should be very flexible. Feed baby. Baby probably won’t stay awake much longer than feeding time for most of the day. Put your baby down for a nap. You are still getting to know your baby so you will need to adjust your plan to fit your newborn’s needs.
I highly recommend you have as consistent as possible of a morning start time each day and consistent bedtime each night. It is wise to be consistent with a dreamfeed if you are doing a dreamfeed also.
As your baby gets older, you will find your full groove, get to know your baby better, and have a better understanding of what your schedule is. Once my baby hit one month old, I really focused on having something that was quite predictable each day. There are plenty of days that are thrown off because of growth spurts, but you can be quite predictable.
By the time your baby is three months old, you can expect to feel comfortable with where your schedule is and what your schedule is. There will always be difficulties come up (more on that below), but you will know your baby’s needs and will have super predictable days if you have put effort into Getting a Consistent Schedule.\
Tips for Establishing an Awesome Baby Schedule
If you want a really great schedule, there are some things you can do to accomplish that.
Consistency is so important for having a solid schedule. I always advise people to have two weeks of solid consistency with your schedule at home before you start trying to be flexible with your routine. Flexibility can come, but you have to be consistent before you can be flexible.
Understand Wake Time
You need to know what optimal wake time is and how to track it. Your baby will sleep better if you know optimal wake time length, which means you can stick to the planned schedule better.
Understand Sleep Cycles
The body has a natural sleep cycle and rhythm to it. Make sure you understand that so you can help your baby sleep as well as possible.
Sleep Train Your Baby
If you want your baby to sleep well, you need to have your baby able to fall asleep independently. Then when your little one goes through a sleep transition, she will be able to fall asleep again rather than need your help. This helps you stay on your desired schedule.
Read all about my favorite gentle sleep training method here. If that doesn’t suit your baby, I have other options listed in that post.
Helpful Sleep Training Books
Use Props Sparingly
Sleep props lead to sleep disruptions. Some sleep props are okay for a time and others are just something to avoid. Read all about the distinction here.
Have a Solid Sleep Routine
You will want to have a bedtime routine and a nap routine to keep baby sleeping well. A routine does so much for setting the stage for sleep. I like to keep nap and bedtime routines a little different from each other to help signal to baby what type of sleep is coming up. You can find my Sample Nap Routines here.
I can’t stress enough how powerful it is to track all of the details to establish and maintain an awesome schedule. Pick up my Babywise Mom Book of Logs to get your own printable copies of tracking sheets I used for my babies.
Addressing Schedule Difficulties
I love having a schedule. I absolutely love it and would recommend it to anyone who asks me.
But that doesn’t mean it is always easy. There are definitely difficulties associate with a baby schedule that come up at times.
Most of these difficulties are issues that exist no matter if you have baby on a schedule or not, but you notice them because of the baby schedule.
Oh sleep regressions. All babies have them, schedule or no, but if baby is on a schedule, you definitely notice it is going on because sleep gets thrown off.
One of the most noticeable sleep regressions is the four month sleep regression. This one really disrupts sleep quite a bit and for quite a length of time. You can read all about it in this post. This is associated with the 19 week Wonder Week and often starts around 16 weeks old.
There are also some sleep problems that creep up somewhere in the 5-8 month old range. You can read about the reasons for that here.
I hate to list this as a “difficulty” because it is so okay and normal. The reality, however, is that a growth spurt disrupts your normal schedule. Your baby will need to eat more often for a while–anywhere from 3-7 days. This will mean you have shorter naps and feedings closer together than usual. Always remember to feed baby when hungry. When the growth spurt is over, baby will go back to the schedule.
Pain or Sickness
If your baby is on a great schedule, you will quickly notice if your baby has gas pain, teething pain, or is sick. This is a huge benefit, but you can easily get stressed out that the schedule is off when your baby doesn’t feel well. Do not stress. Your baby will bounce back to the schedule once the pain is managed or sickness is over.
The life and schedule of older siblings can be a difficulty with the baby schedule. You can either feel like you can’t get your older kids where they need to go or you can feel like it is impossible to establish a routine with your baby because of all of the running around with older siblings. I have some posts to help you with this:
- Babywise With Baby Plus Older Child
- Managing Baby Plus Older Kids’ Activities
- Meeting Needs of Each Child
- Baby Feeding Schedule with Older Child(ren)
- Older Children While Baby Naps
- Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children
Sample Baby Schedules
Sample schedules are always super helpful as you work to set up your baby’s schedule. See these posts to get ideas for what your baby should be able to do and see schedules that worked for real moms.
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The First Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Second Month
- Sample Babywise Schedules: The Third Month
- Sample Babywise Schedules: The Fourth Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Fifth Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Sixth Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Seventh Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Eighth Month
- Babywise Sample Schedules: The Ninth Month
There are many compelling reasons to have a baby schedule. It really can make your life so much easier. These tips can help you be super successful with your baby schedule and really thrive with it!