I often get asked by my expecting friends how we put Aiden on a schedule. While I was pregnant I read a bunch of books including Babywise and decided that the feed, wake, sleep cycle made a lot of sense for our family. This post is all about our experience with how to put a breastfed baby on a schedule.
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The biggest advice we took on how to put a breastfed baby on a schedule was the 2.5-3 hour cycle outlined in Babywise. This schedule worked really well for our family because it helps Aiden feel secure and happy, and it helps us to actually be able to plan our day and have some kind of expectations. Usually, he eats for about 30 minutes and then stays awake for another hour to an hour and a half before he gets tired and needs a nap. He will sleep for 30 minutes to an hour and then be ready for his next feeding.
We started this schedule when Aiden was about four weeks old. Before that, we fed on demand and basically just followed whatever he did. The most import thing to keeping a baby on a schedule is a consistent wake time so that is where we started.
According to Babywise, this wake time must be followed every day and there is only a 15-minute window on either end for wiggle room. For the first few days I would actually wake Aiden up at 6:30 am. It did not take long before he would wake up on his own (give or take 15 minutes on either end sometimes) at 6:30. The rest of his day was in the 2.5-3 hour cycles and varied slightly each day/week. One important thing to note is that the “cycle” starts when the baby wakes up and you start feeding, not after you feed.
Why did I choose 6:30am for my wake time? Well, I knew I would be going back to work at some point and he would have to wake up around 5:30-5:45 am so I wanted to prepare him for that, but since I didn’t have to go to work for several more weeks I didn’t want to wake up at this time so soon.
At this point, he was still waking up for at least one, and usually two, feedings per night (every 3 hours). It worked best when he would wake around 2-3am and then again around 4-5am. Occasionally he would wake up later than that, and I usually did not feed him but rocked him back to sleep then he would wake up right on schedule at 6:30. It was definitely tough sometimes in the beginning when he didn’t wake himself up to go in and wake him up, especially when sleep is such a precious commodity, but I wanted a happy baby and I knew sticking to his schedule would make him happy!
As I prepared to go back to work at nine weeks, I slowly started moving his wake time up by 15 minutes. By the time I went back to work, his wake time was 5:45am. He adjusted well to this new schedule. He also started to go to bed earlier, but he did not have a set bedtime. It was really whenever the six feedings were complete. He usually only woke up once during the night around 3-4am.
At around 12 weeks he dropped his late night feeding completely and started sleeping through the night. This was expected per Babywise. His wake time has stayed consistent, but his bedtime fluctuated between 6-8pm.
Now, at 16 weeks, we are working on a consistent bedtime routine. We start the “going to bed routine” between 6:30-7pm after his last feeding. Around 16 weeks, Babywise has the baby drop another feeding. I have noticed that Aiden’s wake time has increased in between feedings which means it is harder to fit six feedings between his consistent wake and sleep times. Aiden still usually fits six feedings in, but sometimes he will only have five and still sleeps through the night. When he does have six it is because the last two are only two hours apart and the last feeding is not as long. We will probably drop that last feeding in the next month or so dropping to five bottles per day.
Aiden turns four months next week so we will see if he has any sleep regression issues!
Do you have a baby schedule? What tips do you have for how to put a breastfed baby on a schedule?