How to Have a Consistent Schedule: Start Your Day At the Same Time. If you want baby’s schedule to be the same each day, start each day at the same time.
Many new parents fail to recognize how important it is to wake baby up at the same time every morning.
I get it. If the baby is going to sleep in, you want to take advantage of that and sleep in also!
You are exhausted and you need to sleep when you can.
The reality you have to weigh is how those days might affect your baby’s sleep in many future days.
Keeping things super consistent and getting baby up at the same time each morning will help baby get on a consistent daily routine sooner as well as sleeping through the night sooner.
Waking at the Same Time Brings Consistency
You are on a 3-hour schedule, but it never seems to be the same three hours each day.
You really want some consistency but you can’t figure out how to get there.
Or maybe your child can’t quite make it through the night and consistently eats in the 5 AM hour. What do you do? How do you start the day? What time?
You can’t reasonably expect there to be consistency and predictability to your days if your baby wakes at 6 AM some days and 9 AM other days.
I was there once. One day, when my oldest was about 4 months old, I realized he was on more of a pattern each day than even a routine, much less a schedule. You can read about that here: Tricks for Getting Baby on a Consistent Schedule
If you want some predictability to your day, you need to focus on starting each day at the same time.
What Time To Start Baby’s Day
To get started, you need to decide what is a reasonable time to start your day each day.
You need to find a time that your little one can be successful with and meet consistently. If you aren’t a morning person, 9 AM might sound like a great time to start, but if your baby can’t do that time, you will find yourself frustrated each day.
With my own babies, I have had some variety to when they naturally would wake. Some were 7 AM babies and others would go to 8:30 AM.
The time you pick with a newborn doesn’t have to be the time that your baby has even at 6 months old, but your kiddo will probably stay close to the time you choose if you are consistent about it. However, a younger baby will not be physically capable of sleeping in as late as an 8 month old.
When deciding what time is best for you to start each day, consider things like:
- Baby’s age (younger babies can’t go as long through the night)
- Baby’s natural disposition
- Constraints in your day (do you work? Do you have school drop offs to work around? etc.)
>>>Read: What Time To Start Baby’s Day
Keep a 30 Minute Window
Refer to On Becoming Babywise and you will see that you need to start each day at the same time within 30 minutes. The newest version actually says 20 minutes, but I have always advised 30 minutes and that has worked well (see page 92 for discussion on this).
So what does it mean to have a 30 minute window?
What time do you want to start? Let’s say it is 7:00 AM–a common time for many Babywise moms.
You need to start each day at 7, or within 30 minutes of 7. That is 30 minutes TOTAL, not 30 minutes on each side of 7.
That doesn’t mean 6:30-7:30–that means 6:45-7:15 or 7:00-7:30, etc.
Be Super Consistent in the Beginning
Babywise gives a 20-30 minute window, but when I am working on establishing consistency, I try to be as close to the minute the same each morning as I can be.
Once a baby is established, a 30 minute window can be worked with without a problem (unless your baby is one who needs things super consistent).
Take 1-2 weeks to be super consistent to establish what is “normal” and your baby will be able to get established. Set an alarm for yourself so you can get baby up at the same time each day for 2 weeks.
This is true even when baby gets in that pesky 5-6 AM waking. Stick with your consistency! You can move your “flexible” 30 minutes to be on the other side (so in our previous example, 7-7:30). A consistent wake time will help you move toward no eating at all in the night.
>>>Read: 5-6 AM “Night” Wakings
Morning Wake Time Stays Important
As your baby gets older, this first feeding of the day remains one of the most important parts of your baby having a solid schedule and sleeping through the night.
If your days are unpredictable, make sure your first feeding time is consistent. If your baby is waking in the night, make sure your first feeding time is the same each day.
Other feedings in the day will shift over time (like when you move to a 4 hour schedule), but your first feeding should remain the same.
That doesn’t mean you can’t change it. If your baby needed to start at 7 AM as an 8 week old, but would like to sleep in at 8 months old, you can definitely change the first feeding to be a new time. Just make sure that new time stays consistent going forward.
This consistent first feeding stays important in toddler years and even into teen years. Even adults sleep better overall if they get up at the same time each day.
Will I Ever Get to Sleep In?
That kind of depends on your child’s disposition.
Some children need super consistency. Some don’t sleep in. If your oldest is that way, then you can join me in being a parent who won’t sleep in past 8 AM except for on very rare occasions.
If your oldest is more like how McKenna is, however, you will enjoy sleeping in soon enough.
As your baby becomes predictable, you will be able to let her sleep in at times. You can have the Saturday sleep in and lazy morning.
If you have a Brayden, it isn’t all that bad. Even as a teenager, Brayden is an early riser on weekends and through school holidays. I never have to fight him to wake up. He easily wakes on his own for school each day. There are perks.
A Note on Bedtime
This post is focused on the morning wake up time. A vital bookend to making this a consistent part of your day is having a consistent last feeding of the day and consistent bedtime.
You can’t have bedtime range from 7-9 PM and expect baby to be super consistent the next morning. Bedtime cannot be ignored as you work toward waking at the same time each day.
Read more about that here: Importance of Consistent Bedtime
As you work to get your schedule down and get baby sleeping through the night, you need to focus on having a consistent morning wake up time. As you do so, the rest of the day can be predictable and baby can settle into a predictable schedule or routine.
- Importance of Consistent Bedtime
- Why an Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle Works to Get Baby Sleeping
- Tricks for Getting Baby on a Consistent Schedule
- Let Your Schedule Serve You, You Don’t Serve Your Schedule
- Sample Babywise Baby Schedules
- Parenting on a Schedule Can Be Hard
- Sleep Routine Ideas to Get Your Baby Sleeping Well
- Understanding Baby Hunger Patterns
- Breakfast Time Will Affect Morning Wake Time
- Meghan said…
Hi. I have a quick question regarding the start of my child’s day. My child will be 5 weeks old tomorrow. I would like for her her to start her day at 6:30 a.m. but she usually will wake anytime between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. depending on what time she wakes for her MON feeding. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do to get her to that 6:30 time? Should I feed her a snack to hold her over until 6:30 or should I pacify her until 6:30?
Babywise Mom said…
At her age, I would feed her when she wakes in the night, and then adjust the morning in the way you see best.
- Susanna said…
Valerie-I’ve read your comments regarding waking earlier than waketime. My soon to be 8 week old woke up this morning at 5:30 a.m. (our established waketime is 7 a.m.) He had a dirty diaper but I knew that if I just laid him down after that, he would cry so I went ahead and fed him. (He took a full feeding). Would you suggest doing a 2.5/3 hour combo schedule to get back on schedule for the rest of the day or would you have just given him a smaller meal? I’ve got other questions but I’ll tag it under the appropriate blog.:) Your site is SO helpful!!!!!
Babywise Mom said…
I would have fed at 5:30 then fed again at 7:30 (within 30 minutes of waketime). I then would have gotten him up at the normal time for second feeding. The 7:30 feeding likely would not have been a full feeding since there was one only 2 hours earlier, so they are usually hungry at normal time for the second. A smaller meal at 5:30 is also an option, but you would likely still need to give that extra 30 minutes for first feeding.Without knowing what your exact schedule usually, I will just say to try to tweak it to get back on normal by the afternoon sometime, or at least so that bedtime is the same time. It is a good idea to have a game plan for this sort of thing; it can happen quite often 🙂
- Cristine said…
I need some advice. In about 3 weeks I will be starting to work again, and since I will have to leave my 4 month old with my mother-in-law I will have to wake up at 5:30. He is still waking around 5 to eat, so I thought of trying to extend his eating to 5:30, making this his first feeding. He will probably stay awake a little while since I will have to change him and drive him to my mother-in-law’s. I will put him to sleep as soon as I get there (around 6:15) and hope that he sleeps till 8:30 (for his next feeding). Should I put him to sleep earlier every night because of this early start? What time do you think? Also, the last couple of days he has been eating well for one feeding (average of 15 min), than at the next he’ll eat for 5 min. and will start looking around, talking, etc and wont eat..then at the next he’ll eat a lot again (up to 30 min. – something rare!)! Does this mean I should start extending to a 3 and a half or 4 hour schedule? He is still only sleeping around 6-7 hours during the night (he eats at 22:30 and wakes again at around 5).Thank you so much for all your help!
You could put him down early, though it might be unnecessary since he isn’t sleeping very long at night yet. I would still be doing a dreamfeed around 10ish. Maybe 9:30 since you will be getting him up early. You could track the feedings he eats well and feedings he doesn’t for a few days and see if there is a pattern. If there is a consistent feeding that he doesn’t eat well and extend that one. I wouldn’t extend the schedule to the point of dropping a feeding until he is sleeping at least 9-10 hours straight at night. Remember that you can do a combo schedule of 3-3.5 hours. See these posts: Nursing Woes and Combo Schedule is Okay
- Brittany said…
My son (9 months old) has been sleeping through the night since 3 months thanks to babywise. However, ever so slowly his morning wake up time has gotten earlier and earlier. He is now waking up at 5:00 (was 6:30-6:45) and that is just to early for me! He is on a 4 hour schedule and gets his last bottle at 6:30. How do I get him to start sleeping in later?
Babywise Mom said…
Brittany,There are a lot of possibilities. One is he might be waking from the sun. There are also the possibilities listed in this post: 5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions
- ShawnaBunch said…
I just want to start out by saying your blog is SO helpful! I need help with my 6.5 month old. He has been waking 1-1.5 hours early in the morning. Sometimes he will go back to sleep sometimes he is just AWAKE and happy. I have found that if he naps more than 3-3.5 hours during the day he will be up earlier. Right now he is on a 3.5 hour schedule as follows:8:00 diaper change and eat10-11:30 nap11:30 Diaper change and eat1:30-3:00 nap3:00 diaper change and eat5-5:30 nap6:00 Diaper change and eat8:00 eat8:30 bedtime
Also, Do you have any suggestions about changing the schedule when the time changes in November? Thank you so much! I apperciate it!Shawna
Babywise Mom said…
Thanks! I would work on dropping that last nap. See this post: 5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions see this for the time change: Time Change Strategies
This post originally appeared on this blog in November 2007