Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baby Schedules (Newborn)

Damien @ 3 weeks old

I have started implementing a flexible nursing / sleeping schedule with Damien since last week (just after he turned 2 weeks old), and it has been going relatively well.

I (loosely) use the principles of Babywise, although definitely not all of them. The key elements that I take from this method are:
  • The pattern of eat - wake - sleep rather than eat - sleep - wake. The reason for this is so that baby isn't dependent on nursing to fall asleep.
  • Encouraging full feedings instead of "snacking" (nursing for a suitable amount of time so that the baby isn't hungry an hour later).
  • Encouraging full naps instead of "cat napping"
  • Having a regular but flexible daily routine, for many purposes, but a key purpose being to encourage day time / night time awareness and regularity and to promote nighttime sleep.

I think that this is important to our homeschool program (for both Hunter and Damien) because
  1. It promotes regularity, routine, and habit in our days (and I get 100% more done with routine)
  2. Healthy sleep is essential for the well-being of everyone in the family

Right now, this is our feeding routine:

Nursing at
5:00 - 7:30 - 10:00 - 12:30 - 3:00 
5:30 - 7:30 - 9:30 - 11:30

Sometimes he sleeps straight through until 5:00 am, sometimes he wakes up at 3:00.

The bold feeding times are our day time feedings. After these feeding, he ideally has an awake period, followed by a short nap before the next feeding. 

The non-bold feeding times - 5:00 am, 9:30 & 11:30 pm - are "night time" feedings, after which he goes straight back to sleep. These are the feedings that we will eventually drop, one at a time.

It's definitely not perfect, and the times are loose. If he gets hungry sooner than one of these times, I certainly don't deprive him. I change things up a bit, as needed, without feeling any remorse. A schedule is, by all means, a tool, and nothing more.

During most of the day, he eats every 2.5 hours, but in the evening I feed him every 2 hours. I only found out later that this more-frequent-evening-feeding is actually a technique (called "cluster feeding") used to help babies sleep longer through the night - but we actually started doing it because he wanted to eat more often in the evening and tended to be fussy at that time. However, it really does help him sleep better, so we are keeping it up even if he doesn't necessarily demand it.

He rarely has a "perfect cycle", i.e. staying awake for exactly a half hour after nursing, and then falling peacefully asleep until the next feeding. It's flexible - sometimes he sleeps almost the whole time period between feedings, stays awake almost that whole time period at others, or splits even at other periods.

We'll strive for more regularity as time progresses, but for now he's little and I try to go with his flow, offering only minor guidance and structure, and seeing a regular schedule as something to work towards and gently ease him into.

And, of course, to adapt (or throw out the window) on days when the need is there.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"  
Ecclesiastes 3:1
Damien is 3 weeks, 0 days old

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