Babywise Eat Play Sleep Schedule: Pros and Cons

eat play sleep babywiseIf 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. Some parents love and swear by this book, and others strongly disagree. This is easy to understand, once you know the gist of the book. Essentially, Babywise advocates for letting your baby cry it out from a pretty young age.

Regardless of how you feel about the book itself, there is a nugget of wisdom in its pages. This info can be useful for all parents, regardless of how you feel about cry it out sleep training. This “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 lullaby, etc.), and then goes down for a snooze.

The particulars of this sleep and feeding schedule depend largely on unique factors. The length of the feeding, the length and type of play, and 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. 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. 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.

….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. 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.

Your turn, parents! See if you’d like to try the Babywise eat play sleep schedule!

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12 thoughts on “Babywise Eat Play Sleep Schedule: Pros and Cons”

  1. My LO put himself on an eat, play, sleep schedule. He is 14 weeks and he will wake in the morning, eat, play for a little while, and then nap. This goes on every 2.5 hours until bedtime. There is a whole separate routine for bed that includes swaddling, white noise, and a final feeding. This head worked great for us so far! I personally don’t believe in crying it out. I also have not encountered a situation where it was necessary.

    • @Jessica T – Thank you for sharing with us! Sounds like your little guy is doing great! Please keep reading!

    • Our 10 month old thrives on an eat, play, sleep schedule…. We had to incorporate things our self as she got older and dyring growth spurts and incidents due to teething it doesn’t always work out as planned, but she always jumps right back on when it passes. The only REAL downfall for me as a first time parent is that it makes me feel semi-anxious if we get off schedule. So, we dont tend to go out much due to the nervousness of throwing her off schedule. She was born extremely alert and loves to know whats going on at all times and that can really mess up her sleep when were out. She’ll end up staying up hours and hours and has trouble sleeping once we get home. But, the schedule itself works like a charm at home!!

      • Hi Steelo,
        Thank you so much for sharing your experience with other parents! It is very much appreciated 🙂

  2. I have twins who about 4 months now. They sleep 6 hour stints through the night and only wake up once to feed. We tried the feed, play, sleep schedule but i find that when we play my babies spit out a lot. We lay on the tummy time mat on our backs, sit in our bumbo seats. I think it is too much for right after eating.
    My babies eat after every nap but I put them in their bouncers so they are on an incline for a while before playing. We also play a lot after a nap before we eat again.

    Does anyone else find that playing roght after they eat, they tend to spit up a lot?

  3. As a Grandmother of 13 and having 4 children whom I breastfed for a year, each one of them and after about 4 months they slept through the night of about 5 hours, I don’t understand the need of this schedule. My children and my grandchildren sleep well through the night. But having a newborn be woken up during the day to put them on YOUR schedule is not good for their bodies nor their digestive system. They will wake up when they need to eat and having them play before eating…then eating and going to sleep is a much better schedule. Where and who decided this program? Babies and children need schedules, but we have been raising children and setting schedules for many many years….what study showed that this site a great system? Parents who want to have everything on THEIR schedule. I find this very damaging to put an infant throughave. As I am watching my daughter in law follow this and then wonder why the newborn is so restless and uncomfortable and throws up…projectile throwing up. The baby is 6 weeks and they wake her up to eat every 3 hours and force her to eat 5 Oz and if they can keep her up long enough then she is so uncomfortable which is obvious and she is gasy and then throws up sometimes everything they just feed her. I believe this is truly not healthy as it is the bodies job to digest and heal the body during these sleeping moments. And if they sleep 5 hrs at night, even better!

    • Hi @Wanda S Levy, thank you for writing to us, and congratulations on having so many wonderful children and grand babies – your heart must be so full! I totally understand how the Babywise method can be very off-putting, if you scroll through the comments you’ll see it is definitely a hot button issue for some families. Our mission at Baby Sleep Site is to educate families on healthy sleep and to remind everyone that there’s not one solution for all babies. Because we want to educate, we do cover all popular sleep training methods out there, Babywise being a very popular one out there these days. I have heard of many families that it works like a charm for, others not so much. I never tried it with my kids because I also breastfed on demand, it was what worked best for us and I chose other methods to help them sleep longer and get on a good schedule.
      We also offer sleep consulting here and our consultants are well versed on many sleep training methods and they create plans for families based on the age and temperament of the child, as well as the family preferences to create plans that work well for that baby. We have also worked with families that need one thing for one child, and something totally different for their next! I know I can’t answer why this method came about, since we did not create it, we are just outlining the pros and cons of a very popular method that many parents let us know they’ve tried. I hope this helps and your granddaughter starts sleeping better soon. If your son and daughter-in-law need any help with her, please have them contact us and we would love to help. You can read more about our consulting online here: and they can contact us directly anytime at [email protected] as well!

  4. Has anyone done !ong term studies on the babywise method? I know of two children, ages 5 and 9 who have behavioral issues and wonder if it can be from the babywise system. I feel letting them cry it out too long can lead to temper tantrums in older years and find the system uncompassionate.

  5. Hi! Our daughter will be five weeks on Monday. We breastfeed, with the occasional bottle of expresses breastmilk, and even more rarely, we use a few ounces of formula. I’d like to get her more on a routine as she gets older. She typically falls asleep after a feed. If she isn’t asleep, she typically wants to be eating- she’s rarely alert without also wanting to eat, though it sometimes happens. Also, if we don’t hold her upright for at least 15 minutes after eating, she spits up and this wakes her up. So she is technically always falling asleep while being held. How would be able to train her to self soothe if we are technically required to hold her upright each time after she feeds, and each time she feeds, she falls asleep.

    • Hi @Diana,
      Thank you for writing to us and congrats on your new arrival! Keeping baby awake after a feed can certainly be tough, especially at this young age! If you haven’t yet, you can sign up to receive our free guide written just for families with young babies, “15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need to Know” here:
      This free guide should be really helpful right now, and as your baby continues to grow. : )
      We do offer a few more in-depth solutions for parents who need more help with young infants too. Our e-book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, may be a good option for you. In it, we give you a complete tool-kit to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits today and throughout the first year.
      You can read more about our wonderful newborn options here:
      Hopefully as she grows, things will smooth out and she will be able to stay awake for a bit after a feed if that is how you schedule her day. And hopefully this information helps, if things do not go as smoothly as we’d like!
      Good luck Diana!

  6. Hi there,
    Love your website and advice!
    Like almost everyone I’ve heard of the Eat,Play, Nap schedule and it works a charm for me–once a day! We wake up in the morning, my two-months-old son eats, plays happily and then goes down for a nap. The rest of the day he gets very fussy after a feed and will only agree to be carried in his wrap. Bedtime also works for us with a bath, a feed and a lullaby. But I’d love to have the rest of the day sorted. He’s a big boy now (almost 12 pounds) and my back hurts from carrying him constantly.

    Any piece of advice would be sooo appreciated!!

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