I have been asked many times if the twins are on a schedule…and they are but it may not look like a schedule to some. I don’t do rigid schedules, never have and never will. I do flexible schedules that are more of a routine by following the baby’s cues, and form my schedule from that.
First, I’ll list some reasons why a schedule can be so helpful.
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 baby and their needs and be willing to deviate from that schedule if necessary. For example, If they are still sleeping when their feeding time comes, I will let them go up to an hour past feeding time. Sleep is very important for a growing baby.
A schedule helps you learn your baby’s cries.
Having a schedule will help you distinguish what your baby 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. Understanding those cries helps you meet the needs of your baby more effectively and quickly.
A schedule might make you more effective.
If you can roughly predict, based on your baby’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, a schedule can make things easier on a babysitter so you can spend time out with your spouse. Date nights are important!!
*Let me just say with 4 kids under three years finding a babysitter can be difficult!
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.
STEP ONE: EAT
It is usually recommended that you feed your baby every 3 hours, and for younger baby’s it might be every 2-3 hours. 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 internal clock which will help them realize when it’s time to eat, sleep and be awake.
I thankfully have been blessed to have full term babies who love to sleep! For the first 3 months I do the every 3 hour feedings unless they sleep past that and I let them go up to 4 hours between feedings. All my girls picked up very quickly on eating every 3 hours and only during a growth spurt would they want it sooner. It would almost always happen at night starting around 7pm until it was time for bed. It was almost as if they were preparing for the long stretch of sleep!
Now that the twins are 4 months they are getting on a more consistent schedule. As in they are waking up around the same time each morning and wanting their last feeding of the day around the same time each evening.
STEP TWO: PLAY
It is so tempting to nurse or feed your little one to sleep. We’ve all seen that “milk coma” look and it sure does make it easier to put a baby down for a nap! I try to keep my babies awake after feedings, except the one right before bedtime and after any middle-of-the-night feedings. By doing this, it helps them 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. Right now we are actually dealing with the pacifier falling out in the night and having to get up to replace it. So this is a sleep association that we are gradually trying to break until they can put it back in by themselves. The fewer sleep associations you have to wean your baby off of, the better.
When my babies are done eating, I and their older sisters engage and play with them and give them some exercise in the form of tummy time, sitting in the boppy pillow or time in the jumparoo. This allows them to exert some energy which will encourage sounder sleep when nap time rolls around. When they start showing signs they are getting tired after having been awake for a while, that is when I lay them down for a nap. Having a schedule will allow you to more easily recognize your baby’s tired cues, like fussiness or rubbing of the eyes.
*Try and catch on to their cues before they become over tired…that can actually work against you and prevent a baby from falling asleep.
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.
When my babies are newborn-about 3 months I let them sleep anywhere, such as the couch (don’t worry they are in the corner and have pillows around them) or their swing in the living room. That way they get used to sleeping with noise, like talking, tv, older kids playing, vacuum, etc. and when you aren’t home they will still fall asleep. Now that they are 4 months I have been putting them down in their crib, still awake but definitely ready for a nap. Only at night do I have them in a dark room that is quiet.
Make sure your baby’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, try to avoid picking them up when they wake prematurely so that they don’t think it’s time to get up, if it doesn’t work that is when I will go ahead and get them 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. This happens to us with the twins when we are out and about.
Here is a sample schedule:8:30am-9:00am – Wake/Eat – Play time 10:00-10:30 – Nap 12:30-1:00 – Eat – Play time 2:00-2:30 – Nap 4:30-5:00 – Eat – Play time 6:00-6:30 – Nap 8:30-9:00 – Eat 30-45 min of mommy/daddy time 9:30 – Bedtime
*This schedule still varies for us but is pretty close to what we do every day.
Well that is how a schedule looks for us. This is what works for us and it is always best to figure out what works best for you and your family. From day one I have always just followed my instincts and my babies ques.