I am trying to decide if I am giving “old” advice when I am talking to new parents about their new baby. Here’s the dilemma…”when can I get the baby on a schedule?” This has become one of the first questions I am asked, sometimes even before the baby has left the hospital.
I know there are differing opinions on many things “pediatric”, but schedules for a newborn just is a hard thing for me to understand. This tiny new baby is not a robot and has not been programed to eat at 8, 11, 2, 5, 8, and 11 and to sleep all night. But….many new parents begin to try and get their baby on this schedule right away (I can name a few books that advocate this). That is all fine by me if I thought it worked….but I think it actually leads to many of the new parents coming in for their visits at 2, 4 and 8 weeks totally stressed out! They seem to spend a great deal of time trying not to feed their baby any sooner than 3 hours and doing all sorts of things to try and get their baby to sleep thru the night without eating, which may actually be keeping them up longer than if they just fed their newborn based on their cues to eat every 2 -4 hours.
A new baby is really very immature neurologically (think startle reflex, no smiling), and at times may want to eat in 2 .5 hours rather than 3. Not because they are thinking about how long until their lunch break or how they want to wake their parents up at night to mess around with them, but rather because they are hungry!
For most babies, not all, after 6-8 weeks of more “on-demand” feeding ( but no more often than every 2 hours during the day), with regular awakening between feedings during the day, a baby will suddenly begin to develop a rhythm and schedule. The idea that your baby will eat, “play and stay awake” and then sleep routinely beginning at birth is absurd to me. I know that sometimes they will stay awake longer than you want, and at other times they are so sleepy you can barely awaken them, but with practice and patience it will change.
Trying to keep a newborn from eating at 1 am or 4 am, just makes you the parent more sleep deprived and your baby hungry. As their tummy gets bigger and their body starts to figure out circadian rhythm, life becomes easier. But an APP that tells me that “now is the time to feed the baby” is just NOT NECESSARY.
The struggle to “get a baby on schedule” seems to be a favorite topic….but one day looking back and after the baby begins to sleep longer periods of time at night, you may realize it was actually easier than the next phases of parenting….when your child does walk and talk!