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If you’ve done any reading about baby sleep training, then you are no doubt familiar with the word ‘Babywise‘. It’s kind of a buzzword in the world of sleep coaching! The book On Becoming Babywise is one of those controversial volumes that some parents love and swear by but that other parents loathe. And this is easy to understand, once you know the jist of the book: essentially, Babywise advocates for letting your baby cry it out from a pretty young age.
Regardless of how you feel, however, about the book itself, there is a nugget of wisdom in its pages that can be useful for all parents, regardless of how you feel about cry it out sleep training. And that “nugget” is what we are discussing today!
Babywise Eat Play Sleep Schedule: What Is It?
This is pretty simple: with an eat play sleep schedule, your baby eats (at the breast or the bottle), then plays for a bit (has some tummy time, listens to a book, enjoys a lullabye, etc.), and then goes down for a nap.
The particulars of this particular sleep and feeding schedule depend largely on unique factors. The length of the feeding, the length and type of play, the timing of the nap (and the length of the nap) all depend on your baby’s age and temperament. But the basic layout is the same: it’s always eating, followed by some playing, and then finally a nap.
Note that I keep saying “nap” here; that’s because this is a schedule designed to be used during the daytime. Your bedtime routine should be different (although you would still, ideally, end the bedtime routine with your child awake and falling asleep without the help of sleep associations). In addition, you would skip the ‘play’ part after any night feedings, and simply put your child straight to bed after night feeds. If you’re sleep training, you’d want to put your child back to bed at least slightly awake after night feeds.
Babywise Eat Play Sleep Schedule: Why It Can Work
So what’s all the buzz about? Why is this particular kind of schedule so popular? Why it is the central theme of On Becoming Babywise? Great questions, and here’s the answer: an eat play sleep schedule is the single best way to teach your baby to fall asleep without the help of sleep associations like feeding, rocking, or holding. This makes sense, right? Your baby eats, and then plays (which prevents your baby from falling asleep during the feeding); then, after playtime, your baby is awake as he or she goes into bed for sleep.
This schedule is a popular one for parents who are working on sleep training because you can scale it up or down, depending on your baby’s age. This is a schedule that can work for newborns on up through older babies, which makes it adaptable (something that we busy, modern parents love, right?).
Finally, this schedule is popular because it’s fairly flexible. You can adjust what happens between the “play” and “sleep” parts of the schedule. You can put your baby to bed wide awake, or you can do a little rocking/soothing to get your baby drowsy before sleep. The beauty of this schedule is that it ensures your baby is awake after feedings; what happens before the next nap (and how awake your baby is going into the crib) is up to you. What’s more, this kind of schedule works well with just about any kind of sleep coaching method. Gentle methods like fading work with an eat play sleep schedule, as do cry it out methods.
Babywise Eat Play Sleep Schedule: Why It Can Sometimes Fail, and When To Avoid It
The eat play sleep schedule isn’t all good all the time, however; there are situations in which this kind of schedule isn’t ideal. Times to avoid (or at least to modify) an eat play sleep schedule include….
….during illness. A sick child needs comfort and soothing, and when your child is ill, it’s perfectly fine to suspend your usual schedule in favor of soothing your child to sleep.
….during times of travel or change. If you are in the midst of a big life transition (like moving to a new house, or having a new baby, then you’ll need to cut your child some slack and be ready to offer more soothing and sleep help than usual. In addition, if you are vacationing, and your child is in a new and unfamiliar sleep environment, eat play sleep may not work as well as it does at home.
….during growth spurts. During a growth spurt (especially a newborn growth spurt), your child will feed for what feels like forever! In the midst of all these feedings, it may not be practical to do an eat play sleep schedule every time your child wakes to eat.
….during the early weeks after birth. While the eat play sleep schedule can be scaled to work for newborns, it’s usually not a great schedule to use in the first 4-6 weeks after birth. Very young newborn babies tend to do nothing BUT eat and sleep, so trying to insert any “play” in there usually doesn’t work well. Additionally, babies this age tend to naturally fall asleep during feeding, so it can feel fruitless to try and wake them for play time.