Should My Baby be on a Sleep Schedule?
Understanding the difference between a strict schedule and following a natural rhythm for sleep can be hard to do and then figuring out what’s right for your baby can be even harder. A lot can depend on whether or not you have a Type A personality OR if your baby will have one too! You may be happier having your day scheduled out but your baby may not. Or the opposite can be true. I would say parents have the toughest time if they don’t have the same pattern as their baby. First let’s talk about schedules versus rhythms.
For some moms, the thought of putting their baby on a schedule is the worst because they think it will make them homebound for naps and an early bedtime. The reality is that this may be true, but it may also be the best thing for your baby. Although you may want to go out and have late dinners, lunch with friends, or bring them to a gym, your baby may have a different idea. Some babies really thrive when they wake up, take naps, and go to bed at the same time each day. Research has actually shown that adults will have more energy and feel less tired if they put themselves on a schedule. I would say for most babies over 9 months, yes the time of day matters for naps and it is ideal to put them down at the same time each day. A newborn is different.
Newborn babies are beginning to learn whether or not this world is a safe place for them to trust. By meeting their needs quickly and efficiently we are teaching them that this is indeed a place they can trust. Although it may feel like you are doing the same things every single day, over and over, every 3 hours...well, you are. But the beauty here is by doing that, you are establishing the world as a place your baby can trust. And these things don’t need to happen at the same time each day. What is most important here is that the rhythm remains consistent. So if you’re following the Eat, Play, Sleep schedule, then every 3 hours your infant is eating, then they play, then they sleep. That is their rhythm. Perhaps your baby only falls asleep nursing - that’s okay. Their rhythm might be play, then eat, then fall asleep.
The rhythm here is much more important than the time of day schedule. What may drive your rhythm turning into a timed daily schedule will be the baby’s awake window. A newborn is happy to be awake for an average of 45 minutes, and is then ready to sleep. A 6 month old is happy to be awake for an average of 1.5-2 hours before getting ready for sleep. Both can establish a rhythm to their day by being awake for an appropriate amount of time, then sleeping for at least one sleep cycle before waking again.
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