More Thoughts on Infant Scheduling

In response to some questions at my other Infant Scheduling post, I’ve been emailing a mother of an almost three week old baby girl this week. Here’s a slightly edited version of my letters to her. Wanted to make this follow-up info available here on the blog…

Dear “Mother” of two-three week old infant,

So daytime naps are the issue. She is still very young. My girls didn’t always take their naps in the crib at that age. I varied the places they slept. Another thing to think about is if you’re returning to work and need to have your daughter accustomed to sleeping in a variety of places…not just in her own cozy crib at home. KWIM? At 2-5 weeks old, I let the baby swing have one nap session, the bouncy seat another, and even a cushioned (w/several blankets) area on the floor be another.

I think wearing her in a sling is fine for a nap now and then, but it’s a little different than the other “sleep aids” because she’s being held by one of you guys. She just might get to liking that a whole lot and fuss for it eventually. Not to say you can’t hold them and love on them, or even rock or bounce them to sleep once in a while. The danger is in them getting used to it, having it done consecutively to the point that they expect it and feel that they need it. Because typically they don’t need it “to get to sleep”…they DO need it during their wake times, to know that all is well in their world and they are loved muchly!

Here’s my first thought. When is her first feeding of the day? If it is in the early morning/still dark hours, I’d lay her back down to sleep. When my babies started sleeping through the night, they slept anywhere from 10-12 hours straight through. So if I put them to bed at 9 pm, they’d wake up for their first feeding sometime between 7-9 am. That’s when I’d start the feed-wake-sleep cycle. Since your darlin’ is still too young to make it through the night, I’d still treat her early morning feedings (anything while it is still dark outside) as middle of the nighters, which would mean you feed her and lay her back down in the bassinet. Maybe her biological clock is telling her she needs more night-time sleep before starting the scheduled part of her day.

On to daily nap times:

If you’ve put her down for a nap, and you know all the obvious things are taken care of (dry diaper, full tummy, no diaper pins poking her, no bubbles needing patted out of her!) then going in to comfort her at intervals is all I can suggest, and you’re already doing that. I’d start by just patting or lightly rubbing her back as she’s lying in bed.

[Explaining why back and not tummy: in my case, our babies never slept well on their backs–somewhat okay propped on their sides but they drifted off best on their tummies! My doctor reassured my concerns by saying that it’s the high-risk infants whose mothers smoked, or who had low birth weights that are at risk for SIDS]

Anyway, first try comforting her without picking her up. If this doesn’t work, then go ahead and pick her up, do whatever you need to do to get her on the edge of sleep and lay her down again…or put her in the bouncer seat or swing, etc. She should outgrow this phase and adjust to normal naptimes in her crib by 5 weeks, I’d think?

The typical 3-5 week growth spurt would cause her to be more hungry, ie: less time between feedings, but it shouldn’t affect her naptimes, unless she doesn’t need many. It could be that she takes after her mama, you indicated that you like to be on the go a lot. You might try only waking her during the daytime when she’s gone four hours from the “beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next”. Four hours was the longest I waited while they were that age. I didn’t “make” them wait that long, but if they were sleeping, I let them go up to that point. Just be careful of your milk supply. Probably up to this point you still have an overabundance, but as she goes longer and longer w/o feedings, and starts sleeping through the night, you might need to add pumping to your routine, so that your milk supply stays up to her needs.

Maybe TMI: Just an extra caution…two weeks postpartum seems to be the time when most women develop mastitis, from a plugged milk duct, so don’t forget to massage/press down on your breasts while baby is nursing, to get every last bit of milk out of each duct. Mastitis is HORRIBLE. I thought I was going to die, I’ve never hurt so badly that I couldn’t keep from crying/moaning out loud, but I was in so much agony and had such a high fever, and with my first daughter I had no idea what was happening to me! I learned my lesson, and came close to getting it with one of my other daughters but caught it in time.

Difference between overstimulation and sleep cues:

Overstimulation always hit my infants hard after they’d been at big gatherings and passed around from person to adoring person! They would cry and cry upon reaching home, and dh and I thought it was no wonder, can you imagine how sore we’d be if people passed us around constantly, and adjusted how they held us and positioned us? Talk about too much for a brand new baby and thank God for baby carriers! I think that’s why infants so often sleep when they’re around groups of people. Could be their natural way of shutting all the brightness and activity out.

Sleep cues would include fussiness, droopiness. Do you let her suck her thumb, or use a pacifier? Sometimes they seem to want to suck on something as they drift off. You could try swaddling her really tight in her receiving blanket, with her arms tucked next to her.

How many naptimes?

If she’s on a 3 hour schedule, say starting at 7 am, she should be napping 4-5 times during the day at this point. Eventually she’ll nap early-to mid-morning, then again right after lunch, once in the late afternoon and then another short nap around 6-6:30 pm. Her naps will gradually spread out but she might still be napping 3 times a day at 9 months old. Depends on how much sleep she needs. Of course, when they get that last nap, they usually stay awake/alert a little later with the last feeding being around 9:30-10 pm. And it’s so variable per infant.

The main thing to remember is that if you can keep the feed/wake/sleep cycle the key thing, she should end up very well-adjusted and sleeping through the night by 8-10 weeks. Barring health problems, that is. The sleep part will work itself out eventually. I remember stressing a lot over wanting mine to always go down in the crib, and my firstborn slipped into that routine with no fuss, but she also refused to nap at church or at Grandma’s house because she became reliant on her own bed! The other two I made sure could sleep anywhere!

And please don’t take my comments on the sling wrong. We never got into sling wearing, but I’ve observed it to be a wonderful thing for other mothers. I had a baby frontpack, but somehow never owned a sling–so I’m really the wrong person to give advice about it. I do know that my girls slipped into “ruts” easily when they got used to dh or I holding them to sleep. That’s not to say they didn’t get their fair share of chest time on daddy while he snoozed in the recliner–and I counted it as a naptime!

One last important thing. Pray for wisdom! There will be times when you’re exhausted and have no new ideas on things to try to help your little one settle in and sleep. New mommyhood is a beautiful and stressful time of adjustment. If you’re unsure about any of it, pray for a breakthrough, and God will give it. He’s told us to “be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication, let our requests be made known to Him”…

It’s really awesome, having children that go to bed happily. That even initiate the bedtime process! That’s the reward at the end of all this second-guessing of sleep-training.

So hang in there and when in doubt call upon God for what to do next. No doubt there will be times when the fussing is legitimate, maybe they’ll be tangled in their blankets or have a leg stuck through a crib slat…baby monitors are great for helping you determine what kind of cry it is before you actually open the door and let them know of your presence!

God bless,
Mary

For everyone else’s information, the importance of the feed/wake/sleep schedule is flexibility. There will be times, during growth spurts and such, when your baby will need to eat more often than every 3 hours. Go with it. My own personal rule of thumb was no more often than every two hours, from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.

This method worked for us, it worked amazingly. I don’t rant against attachment parenting, or assert that this way is the “only way”…I share what’s worked for our family and encourage all of you to do what’s best for yours, whatever that may be. We moms need to be on the same side here. The side of healthy, thriving infants, however we may approach reaching that objective.

God bless us all as we try to do our best with our babies, and to Him be the glory!