Let Your Baby Set Her Own Schedule

Eat, play, sleep” has quickly become the mantra of new mothers everywhere. Commonly known as the ‘EASY’ method (Eat, Activity, Sleep, and time for You), there are several advantages and very few disadvantages of choosing this method.

Doesn’t every parent spend the few hours they’re asleep dreaming of a baby who sleeps through the night? One drawback of this ‘EASY’ process is many parents worry that their sending their child to bed hungry. Newborns and younger infants need to be fed during the late evening and morning hours, but starting at around 4 months, babies have the stomach capacity to last longer hours without needing a refill.

Consistently feeding your child right before they go down for a nap often results in the child relying on that bottle in order to drift off to sleep, while separating the eating and the feeding you eliminate this risk. Babies subsequently learn how to fall asleep on their own (with a little help and perseverance from a loving parent) and are able to self soothe themselves back to sleep if they happen to wake during the night.

Getting your child to the point where they can self sooth and drift off to sleep is no easy feat. It will likely take a lot of rocking and back patting, but all of your hard work and dedication will pay off once your child is regularly sleeping through the night. Another benefit of this approach is your baby gets into a structured routine and finds comfort in knowing what will come next.

While I was a nanny, the family I worked for chose to establish the eat, play, sleep routine with their daughter, Isabelle, since birth. In the very first months, the eat, play, sleep scenario played out much quicker as infants typically don’t stay awake very long and sleep only until they become hungry. However, when Isabelle was about 4 months old we could truly see the positive effect this strategy was having on everyone involved. Isabelle was sleeping through the night, generally about 10 to 11 hours. At well under 6 months old, she already had a strict schedule that she followed nearly every day:

Around 9:30 am: Wake Up, Eat (about 7 oz)
9:45 am – 10:30 am: Play
10:30 am – 12:00 pm: Start sleep routine, Nap
Around 12:00 pm: Wake Up, Eat (about 5 oz)
12:15 pm – 1:45 pm: Play
1:45 pm – 4:00 pm: Start sleep routine, Nap
Around 4:00 pm: Wake Up, Eat (about 7 oz)
4:15 pm – 5:30 pm: Play
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm: Start sleep routine, Nap
Around 7:30 pm: Wake Up, Eat (about 5 oz)
7:45 pm – 9:45 pm: Play
9:45 pm: Start sleep routine, Sleep until morning

After sleeping through the night, Isabelle would wake up gradually in the morning, smiling and happy as ever. After getting a diaper change and dressed for the day, she would be more than ready to eat and devour her first bottle. Normally, Isabelle would only be awake for around an hour before she started showing sleepy cues (yawning, tired eyes, crankiness) which would signal that it was time to get ready for her morning nap. Her sleep routine consisted of rocking her to sleep in a rocking chair, transporting her to her crib, and then patting her back to settle her if she woke up in the process of putting her down. Once she was done napping, the eat, play, sleep process would repeat itself with a longer nap in the afternoon, and another short evening nap. One of the things that stood out to me was that if Isabelle woke up before she was ready for her nap to be over, she would start fussing and be able to calm herself down and drift back off into dreamland. Unfortunately, Isabelle would self soothe by sucking on her fingers, which was a hard habit to break, but having a baby who is happy, healthy, and sleeps through the night with regular naps is priceless!

Ultimately, the benefits of ‘eat, play, sleep’ outweigh the risks. Schedules, routines, and structure are three things that are revered in all facets childcare and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get a head start.