Readers, we have a treat for you today! Stephanie Parker, owner and creator of the Zipadee-Zip and mom to two cutie-patootie kiddos, is sharing some scheduling tips with us today. Specifically, Stephanie shares some of the benefits of creating a flexible schedule, as well as tips on how to create a basic eat-play-sleep schedule that will work for even the youngest of babies.
First – a little background info. 🙂 Readers, meet Stephanie!
Meet Stephanie, Creator of the Zipadee-Zip
Our family’s little business and the invention of the Zipadee-Zip all began when our daughter stopped sleeping so the topic of sleep is an issue that is very close to my heart. Parents that come across sleepingbaby.com assume that because I invented a product that helped our little girl sleep and own a website called ‘Sleeping Baby,’ that I am some sort of sleep guru… oh how I wish that were true! I’m a mom just like you and I’m figuring it out as I go and doing the best that I can to make sure my little ones and my customer’s little ones grow up healthy and happy… and well rested!
I don’t have all the answers, and (as Nicole says) what works for one baby may not work on another. Babies have a way of keeping you on your toes like that! Our daughter Charlotte, and our newborn little boy Maverick, could not be more different if they tried! So in this article, I’d like to focus on the one thing that has worked for both of my children and many of the customers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Today I’m going to tackle the subject of scheduling.
First, I’ll address why a schedule can be so helpful and then I’ll cover what putting a baby on a schedule looks like.
The Benefits of Creating a Flexible Schedule
- A Schedule Helps You Get to Know Your Baby. The reason I say “flexible” is because, although I think it’s good to have a set time when a baby eats, is awake, and sleeps, it’s even more important to listen to your little one and their needs and be willing to deviate from that schedule if necessary.
- A Schedule Helps You Learn Your Baby’s Language. Having a schedule will help you distinguish what your little one needs when they need it. If they are crying when it’s not typical for them to cry based on the schedule you’ve established, it will help you determine that something may be affecting your little one (whether it be a growth spurt, sickness, teething, etc.). A schedule will also help you learn your baby’s different cries. A baby has a different cry for when they are hungry, in pain, or tired and understanding those cries helps you meet the needs of your little one more effectively and quickly.
- A Schedule Can Help Teach Your Baby How to Read Time. A schedule can help establish your little one’s metabolism. A baby doesn’t know how to read time so creating regular times when your little one eats, is awake, and sleeps will allow them to thrive in all of those aspects because their metabolism will start to tell them when it’s time for those things. The sooner you can establish this flexible routine, the sooner your little one will learn to sleep through the night and take longer naps,.
- A Schedule Might Just Make You a More Effective Parent and Spouse. A routine helps provide parents with some sanity! Part of successful parenting is having the energy to be parent… and more importantly… the patience! It’s been said that a mother may lose up to 350 hours of sleep during a baby’s first year of life resulting in irritability, confused thinking, and added stress. If you can roughly predict, based on your little one’s schedule, when and how long they will sleep, eat and be awake, you can try to get rest while they are sleeping. A schedule can also help you plan grocery trips or outings with less worry that your baby will get fussy because they are hungry or tired. When you are well-rested, it gives you more energy to play and be present with your little ones! More importantly, rest makes it much easier to find patience and calm with your significant other. Making your relationship with your partner a priority directly affects your little ones, so being able to have a set time when you can put back into your relationship by being able to go on date nights can make all the difference in the world!
Eat, Play, Sleep: A Gentle Routine That Works For Babies Of All Ages
Now that I’ve addressed the importance of a schedule, I’ll talk about what a schedule looks like in the day to day life of your little one. In my humble opinion, a baby’s routine should consist of eating, being awake, and sleeping…in that order.
STEP ONE: EAT
Whether you breast or bottle feed, it’s important that your little one is getting a full feeding every time they feed, even from birth. This will make it easier for them to establish their metabolism or their internal clock which will result in them more quickly understanding when it’s time to eat, sleep and be awake. If you breast feed, it’s especially important to make sure your baby gets a full feeding so they are able to take advantage of your hind-milk. While some babies are efficient eaters and can take in a full feeding in 5-10 minutes, other babies need longer to eat. This is especially true for newborns and young babies.
Shorter and consequently more frequent meals can be exhausting for momma, but it might also result in a baby not getting a good nap due to their need to wake early to feed. Our little boy falls asleep at the breast which is natural for most newborns. As a result, I have to either tickle his little feet or use a damp rag (not cold but room temp) to keep him awake so he gets a full 30 minute feeding. With a full tummy, babies often are able to take longer, sounder naps.
Nicole’s Note: Remember that during the newborn stage, short feeds are normal – newborns often cluster-feed in the evening, for example.
STEP TWO: PLAY/WAKE
It is so tempting to nurse or feed your little one to sleep. We’ve all seen that “milk drunk” look and it sure does make it easier to put a baby down for a nap! I would, however, encourage moms to keep their little ones awake after feedings, except the one right before bedtime and after any middle-of-the-night feeds. By doing this, it will teach your baby learn to fall asleep on their own without the help of the breast or bottle. The earlier you can instill self-soothing skills, the better. This will also reap dividends down the line when feedings become less frequent and are eventually replaced with more solid foods. The fewer sleep associations you have to wean your baby off of, the better.
When your baby is done eating, wake her up if necessary and engage and play with her and give her some exercise in the form of tummy time or time in the exersaucer. This will allow a baby to exert some energy which will encourage sounder sleep when nap time rolls around. When your little one starts showing signs they are getting tired after having been awake for a while, that is when you want to lay them down for a nap. Never put a baby down to sleep when they are overtired…that can actually work against you and prevent a baby from falling asleep. Having a schedule will allow you to more easily recognize your baby’s tired cues, like fussiness or rubbing of the eyes.
STEP THREE: SLEEP
If you have established a regular and consistent feeding and wake time routine or schedule, putting your baby down for a nap will prove to be much easier because your little one will learn to expect it. Try to create a soothing environment by darkening the room, turning a sound machine on or swaddling your baby…and if they are past the swaddling phase, zip them up in a Zipadee-Zip! These will become sleep signals which will help in the way of teaching your little one to self-soothe to sleep. I actually have customers whose babies will crawl to or walk to their Zipadee-Zip as a sign they are ready to be put down for a nap!
Make sure your little one’s naps are long enough. If your baby is waking up at that 30-45 minute mark or earlier, help them learn that it’s not time to wake up yet and encourage them to go back to sleep by doing things like rubbing their tummy and making the “Shhh” sound loudly or other methods that work well to soothe your little one (every baby has different preferred soothing methods). Try to avoid picking them up when they wake prematurely so that they don’t think it’s time to get up. If a baby is taking short cat naps, they may not be getting the restful sleep they need to make it through the day, which will result in a baby becoming cranky and exhausted. Try to push for at least an hour nap, if possible.
Nicole’s Note: 30 minute cat-naps are okay when your baby is going through a nap transition – in those cases, the last nap will usually be a 30-minute catnap, until your baby or toddler transitions away from it altogether. Also, remember that as your baby gets older and takes fewer naps, the naps themselves should become longer. A toddler who takes just one afternoon nap, for example, should sleep for at least an hour – some will sleep for 2 or even 3 hours!
One Last Tip: Focus On Being A Great Mom, NOT A “Perfect” One!
So that in a nut shell is my take on scheduling: feed, wake/play, sleep. As you can see, one aspect of a routine has a direct effect on the other parts of your baby’s routine, so it’s important to take that into consideration. Having a schedule for my son and daughter was a life-saver!
For anyone who is struggling with establishing a good schedule or routine, my best advice is to pick something that works for you and be as consistent as you can with it. Babies love and rely on consistency as it helps them discover their new world in a more manageable way. Don’t beat yourself up if your baby is struggling to adapt to a schedule or routine. It can take a couple weeks of consistent feeds, wake times and naps for your little one to get into the swing of things. Take one day at a time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Be a mommy first and a time keeper second.
Don’t forget to enjoy those little moments… even the moments of sheer exhaustion. When I’m exhausted and don’t know if I can go another moment, I’m reminded that one day my little ones won’t always need me to kiss their booboos, rock them to sleep or put that pacifier back in for the thousandth time. My hope for all you sweet moms, regardless of what schedule or routine you put in place, is that you understand that there is no way to be the perfect mom but there are a million ways to be a great one!
Stephanie is the wife to her best friend and husband, Brett and the mom of two little ones, Charlotte and Maverick. She grew up in Illinois and has fostered her love for anything creative since she was little, ranging from musical theater, to languages, to art and now designing prints for her Zipadee-Zips! Through all of the triumphs and trials she has experienced in her life, one thing has remained constant: her faith in God. The knowledge that all of her gifts come from above has given her the drive and motivation to make the most of them. She considers it an honor a privilege to own this little business and help parents and babies get the rest they need and deserve.