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How To Do On Becoming Babywise. A full step-by-step guide written by the Babywise Mom.
When you first read On Becoming Babywise, you are pumped. You are so excited to get started and have a perfect, amazing sleeper who is on a predictable routine. Life is going to be smooth-sailing. Yay for a manual!
Then the work begins and you realize that babies aren’t quite as easy and straightforward in real life as they are when we write about them. It can be hard to remember all that you read and know what to do with your little one when he doesn’t respond exactly as you expected to.
9 Steps To Do On Becoming Babywise
The pattern of the Babywise baby’s day consists of three phases: eat, wake, sleep. This means your baby will wake up, eat, have some awake time, then sleep. Then wake up, eat, have some awake time, sleep. This pattern will continue from the time your baby gets up in the morning until the time your baby goes to bed for the night. The basic things to focus on are:
- Have a consistent morning wake-up time
- Follow the eat/wake/sleep cycle
- Have your baby eat at regular intervals
- Make sure your baby takes full feedings
- Time naps correctly
- Put baby down for naps awake
- Have a consistent bedtime
- Do a Dreamfeed
- Always remember you are the parent
Each of these points is discussed in detail below. This post contains affiliate links.
Your Babywise Baby Should Have a Consistent Morning Wake-up Time
This point is listed first because it is one of the most important things for you to focus on. Many people underestimate the importance of this and start the day whenever seems to work on that day. If mom is tired, she wants to let baby sleep in. If baby was up a lot in the night, mom doesn’t want to get baby up in the morning. I get those things. I do. I have had four babies. I know what those things feel like. If you decide to ignore this step, you will not have Babywise success as quickly as you would if you followed it. If your baby just isn’t sleeping as well as you expected or hoped and aren’t following this step, implement it immediately!
In On Becoming Babywise, the authors tell you to have a consistent morning wake-up time within 30 minutes. So if you ideally want baby to start the day at 7 AM each day, you would range from 6:45-7:15 or 7-7:30 or 6:30-7:00…notice the “OR” thrown in there. Pick a range and stick to it. See What Time To Start Baby’s Day if you need help deciding on a target morning wake-up time for your baby.
When I am establishing consistency with my babies, my morning wake-up time is as consistent as possible. To the minute. If I want each day to be predictable and I want baby to adjust to life and get on a routine, I find super consistency works the fastest. You are getting baby’s body used to waking up at the same time and then eating at the same time each morning. Flexibility can come once the routine is well-established.
If your baby is waking too early in the morning, see Sleep Problems: Morning Wake-up Time is Too Early. If your baby is consistently waking in the 5-6 AM hour and you aren’t sure how to handle morning wake-time in that case, see 5-6 AM “Night” Wakings. If you just really want or need your baby to wake up later in the morning, see How To Get Your Child To Sleep In Later In The Morning.
Your Babywise Baby Should Eat, Then Play, Then Sleep
The eat/wake/sleep cycle is central to the Babywise system. Your baby eats and then plays. That means that you are keeping baby awake for the feeding because you aren’t nursing or feeding baby to sleep. This means that baby eats a full feeding because he isn’t just eating until drowsy, falling asleep, and then being put to bed. If baby falls asleep, baby is woken up to continue eating.
This also means that when baby goes down for a nap, baby goes down awake because baby wasn’t nursed or fed to sleep. These are all discussed more below, so for the purose of this section, we will simply state that you want to have baby eat, then play, then sleep. For benefits of this cycle pattern read this post.
Your Babywise Baby Should Eat at Regular Intervals
You want your baby to eat at regular intervals. These exact intervals will change as your baby gets older. With a new baby, you will aim for baby eating every 2.5-3 hours. You might have times baby eats sooner than 2.5 hours. You always want to feed your baby when your baby is hungry, as Babywise points out (literally at least 27 times). Your baby will eat more often when he has a growth spurt or if you do some cluster feeding in the evening. Other than these exceptions, aim for feedings happening every 2.5-3 hours.
As a newborn, your baby will need to eat about 8-10 times per day. Take your morning wake-up time and plan to feed baby every 2.5-3 hours until the last feeding before bedtime.
Your Babywise Baby Should Take Full Feedings
One vital step to ensure baby can make it 2.5-3 hours in between feedings is to make sure baby takes full feedings at each feeding. See Feeding a Newborn: How Long is a Feed for help knowing how long a feeding should last.
Newborns are not easy to keep awake to eat. Read these posts for help with that:
Watch your baby’s diaper output to have a good idea if baby is eating enough or not. In the early days, you want 5-7 wet diapers and you don’t want the urine to be dark yellow or concentrated. You also want to be aware of poopy diapers each day. And of course, baby should be growing and getting bigger over time.
You Need to Time Baby’s Naps Correctly
Your Babywise baby needs naps in each cycle. Eat, wake, sleep. Most naps should be 1.5-2 hours long. Some babies will take 2.5 hour naps. Some naps will be only 45-60 minutes (this is often true for the evening nap).
In order to have naps last long enough, you need to time naps correctly. See How To Calculate Waketime Length to know how to track how long your baby is awake. It isn’t always easy figuring out the exact length of time your baby needs to be awake. It is usually less time than you would guess. I have a cheat sheet for you in The Cornerstone for Good Naps. If you can get naps timed correctly, your baby will take nice solid naps.
Your Babywise Baby Needs To Self-Soothe
You want to put your baby down for naps when he is awake. A huge part of the success of Babywise is that Babywise babies can self-soothe, meaning the baby can fall asleep without being rocked or using other sleep props. Every 45 minutes, a baby transitions to a new cycle of of sleep, and at that transition, a baby easily can wake up. A baby who can self-soothe will settle back to sleep unless there is some other factor that wakes baby up (hunger, loud noises, discomfort, sickness, etc.). Read What is a Sleep Transition (and How Does it Impact Naps for more on the topic.
This does not mean you have to do cry it out in order to be successful at Babywise (read Sleep Training According to Babywise for more on that). It just means you need to somehow get your baby to be able to sleep on her own. My personal favorite way to sleep train a baby is not a cry it out way. I use the Four S’s for sleep training. I have done cry it out and have great tips for you if you want to go that route. Here are some helpful sleep training posts:
Also, there are times you will forego falling asleep alone in order to get the nap in so you can preserve the eat/wake/sleep pattern. Red up on My Sleep Hierarchy for Newborns for details.
Your Babywise Baby Needs a Consistent Bedtime
A consistent bedtime is almost as important as a consistent morning wake-up time. When choosing your bedtime, aim for it to be 10-12 hours before your morning wake-up time. I personally go for 12 hours. So if we are waking up at 7 AM, I go for bedtime to be between 7 PM-7:30 PM. In setting your goal times for daily feedings, make sure they are spaced through the day so you can land at your desired bedtime.
If you are cluster feeding, bedtime might be a little later than 12 hours before. If you cluster feed at 6 PM and then 8 PM, with a Dreamfeed at 10 PM (see that section below), treat either 6 PM or 8 PM as your bedtime. Bedtime is not your last feeding of the day. It is your long-term bedtime goal. For more on bedtime, see:
Your Babywise Baby Needs a Dreamfeed
Most Babywise babies will need a Dreamfeed, or late evening feed. Before we get too far into it, let me say that some babies just don’t respond well to the dreamfeed. If that is your baby, it is okay. The dreamfeed is mostly there for your benefit. It is so you can get one last feeding in before you go to bed so baby will sleep longer at night. If you want to go to bed at 8 PM or the dreamfeed just isn’t helping things, don’t stress it. Just don’t compare your non-dreamfeeding baby to the dreamfeeding baby. Let me add, I find the dreamfeed so valuable that I put a lot of time and effort into getting my babies to do it even though it wasn’t easy. It is worth putting some effort in to see if you can make it work.
The dreamfeed is beneficial because it gives baby one last feeding before you go to bed. That means baby sleeps more when you are also sleeping.
The dreamfeed is also beneficial because it helps you make sure you get enough feedings in during a 24 hour period. When you get baby up this last time for the day, you can be sure you have enough feedings. This helps the following day be more predictable. If baby didn’t get enough feedings the day before, she might wake more often the next day seeking more food. A dreamfeed helps you keep things more consistent.
Please note, the dreamfeed should be treated like a night feeding. There is no waketime after this feeding. You try to keep baby as sleepy as possible while still feeding baby. Read more about the dreamfeed in these posts:
Remember Babywise is Parent Directed
One of my favorite things about Babywise and what sets it above other similar books for me is the focus on it being parent directed. Each baby is different and an individual. There are guidelines that work for most babies, but there are always outliers and always tweaks your baby might need. Your baby might have a faster metabolism and need to eat more often than the average baby. Your baby might have reflux and need intervention to sleep well. Your baby might have really high sleep needs and need to take longer naps than the average baby. There are countless caveats that can come up. Babywise can work for every baby because you can change things as needed to make it work for your individual child. You are the parent. Understand the why behind the guidelines given and find ways to accomplish that why that works best for your little one.
Do You Need the Book?
Click here to buy your own copy of the On Becoming Babywise Book.
Related Babywise Posts:
- Your Babywise Baby First Year Overview
- Any Honest Babywise Book Review
- The Gist of Babywise
- Babywise Theory and Information