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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: The Baby Years - Schedules/Routines

Since I wasn't blogging when my kiddos were babies, I thought I'd take a stroll down memory lane with you for a moment and reminisce about those years. I am going to spend a few Wednesdays looking back at what worked for us when our kids were babies.

Pardon me if I get a little bit on my soap box here for a minute, but I'm a little tired of always reading posts about how bad it is to have a schedule with a baby. OK, so maybe "always" is a bit of a reach, but I definitely see more posts against it than for it.

I have even noticed that when I see a post about how bad it is, people won't even mention the name of "the book" where they read about scheduling like it's too awful to utter.

Get real. OK?

I read the book "Babywise" and I used a schedule/routine with my kids when they were babies.

I can hear the collective **GASP** right now.

You'll get over it, I promise.

Anyways, I'm here today to tell you that it worked for me and for us as a family. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for us, and I think there are several reasons why.

For one thing, both of my kids had jaundice when they came home from the hospital. Not so bad that we had to use the lights or blankets or anything, but noticeable.

With jaundice, it is my understanding from my lactation consultants that the bilirubin in the bloodstream acts like Valium to the baby and makes them very sleepy. In other words, neither of them ever woke up to eat in those very early weeks. They would sleep right through, if I would have let them.

So, take a dopey, sleepy newborn and add in a mom whose milk won't come in until about 5-6 days post partum and you have a potentially disastrous mix. Except that we stayed on a schedule.

I woke them up every 3 hours to eat around the clock that first week. After the first week, I still woke them every 3 hours to eat during the day. If I had not done this, there is no way either of them would have gotten enough calories to flush the bilirubin out of their systems, the jaundice would have gotten worse, making them even more sleepy, and we would have probably ended up in a "failure to thrive" situation as things spiraled downward.

I tell you that first week was a beating. No milk was in yet, so each feeding cycle consisted of me trying to get them to nurse, then passing the baby to someone to bottle feed while I pumped, and then starting this process over again almost immediately it seemed. This went on for weeks with both of them, but that may be a different post altogether. A what didn't work for us kind of post.

But I digress.

My point is that the schedule was hard at first, but I believe it was absolutely necessary and the key to what helped both of my kids thrive from a feeding perspective when they were babies.

Another reason why the schedule worked for us was that both us and the baby knew what to expect with respect to sleeping. This is where calling it a routine seems more appropriate to me.

As both of my babies got a little older we were getting out more. Having scheduled times for naps helped me feel confident that when we did go out during wake times, my baby would be in a generally good mood and well rested. It allowed me to schedule appointments and outings during my baby's best times of the day because I knew when those times were, consistently. And I knew how long I could stay out before things would start going south.

I think it also put them and I in a rhythm of a nap-time and bedtime routine which I think eased the transition into sleep-time. Going down for a nap wasn't always a snap, but most of the time, my babies looked forward to it and I remember that both of them smiled a lot when they got in their crib for naps.

Both of my kids took a minimum of 2 naps a day until they were well over a year old. They both transitioned to one nap per day in the 15-18 month time frame. Even still, my 3 1/2 year old still takes an afternoon nap. He is showing signs of beginning to transition out of naps, but he still needs them and loves them - despite his verbal protests.

Really what it boils down to is that the schedule/routine gave me confidence that I was doing everything in my power to get my baby fed enough and enough sleep. That's not to say that we didn't have our off days, hiccups, and special occasions when our routine was altered. Because where there is routine, there must be flexibility. However, our routine was just that, a most of the time scenario. It gave our day a framework and something to build upon from the beginning.

I will also say this... it helped that I am the youngest of 3 sisters. So I had the added benefit of seeing baby routines and schedules in serious action for several years before my first was born. To this day, I don't know how my sister would have survived the triplets without a schedule.

My guess is that many of you, whether or not you subscribed to the "Babywise" routine, had or have some sort of routine with your baby. I'd like to hear about it, if you would like to share in the comments.

And for more Works for Me posts, head on over to Rocks in my Dryer.


Kay said...

Yes! We did 'the schedule' and had wonderful results as well. We would have lost our minds had we not done that routine. I had two excellent sleepers that went down well and easily and woke up happy and ready to play. On a regular schedule too,like you said, so we could all live our lives around the best times of their day.

Everyone laughed at me when I told them I was going to put my baby on a schedule. I made believers out of every one of them. lol

Brittany said...

I read the book before Lauren was born. I didn't know anyone who did it, so had no support or help with it. She was a SUPER easy baby, though.

With Brookelyn, my sil had twins the year before and used it pretty close to the letter as they were 28 wk preemies and the hospital had them on a schedule before they ever came home 9 wks after birth. So, it gave me the chance to try a very modified form of it. I did cio w/ her and hadn't with Lauren. It was great as she was a much harder baby and it really helped to have her happy to see her bed.

W/ Nathan, I used some of it in regards to feeding him, and napping schedule, but couldn't use cio w/ him much until he was well over a year old because he had reflux and 1) would've puked EVERYWHERE in his bed, every time and 2) his heart burn was BAD. So, even w/ meds, he was a screaming mess until he could burp and get his feedings in welllllll before his bedtime. It was especially rough in the middle of the night.

I think Babywise has some really great concepts and ideas and I think it works for a lot of people.

Lorie said...

I think it is SO important to do what works for you when you have babies. Because having a sane and healthy mom is what works for EVERy baby!!

suzannah said...

i hear ya! so many babies thrive like this, and my little one fell into a schedule naturally.

all kids are so different, tho, and i think the "answers" varies with each family and typically falls somewhere in the middle of the SCHEDULE! or AP/NO SCHEDULE! camp.

Melinda said...

I am 19 years past the last baby, but I felt like I should pop in here on this topic. I've watched young new mom after young new mom struggle, as they tried to just let their babies run the show. No body got any consistent sleep, feeding time was whenever and there was no structure at all to any given day.

I may now be considered "old school", but I'm completely with you, Donna, when it comes to scheduling and routines. I found with my own kids that, not only as babies, but as young children they flourished and felt safe with structure and the guidance found in routine. Everybody is happier and better adjusted, not to mention how routine helps with the enforcement of rules and discipline.

Great topic!

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing. It seems there is only negativity about Babywise, but I, too, have made a believer out of many of my skeptics. The way I see it is - if I don't get sleep everyone will die, so whatever it takes. It's really a non-negotiable.

I agree wholeheartedly with Melinda. I shake my head at people who think it's okay for a child to run any show. It's no wonder teachers have the issues they do (I taught before I had my daughter...) All 30 of them can't run the show like many of them did/do at home. It's quite a problem!

Thanks for posting!

Rachel said...

I also want to direct anyone currently using or interested in using Babywise to this blog:

It is a fantastic resource. I have friends for support, and still I wish I would have known about this blog in the early days.

Berji's domain said...

I generally followed Baby wise too. As a new mom I found it so helpful to have an idea of what to expect. My daughter settled into our routine pretty easily and we got on with living our life as a family pretty quickly because we had a routine/schedule. I wasn't super strict about it, but it did help me especially in the early stages of feeding and napping, and knowing when she was dropping a feed or nap.
(found you from WFMW, by the way!)

Ellen said...

Amen! I had the exact same problem with my little guy- jaundice and milk coming in late. The hospital told me to put him on a 3 hour schedule, and he took to it like a duck to water. It was a lifesaver and made me a more confident first time mommy.

I had friends who poo-pooed Babywise. But I thought it was a wonderful tool, not really that different from a lot of books about some form of scheduling. I don't know why it gets villianized so much.

Corrie said...

Thanks for the insight. I am pregnant with my third, but it has been six years since I had a newborn in my house! I will be reading "that book." With an open mind. I have used a schedule with my older two (9 and 6) for their entire lives and it has made life managable. We all need routine.

n*stitches said...

We used babywise too - I have always been cautious about telling people though! I didn't subscribe to all teh ideas mentioned in the book, but the backward schedule worked great for us!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Such a timely post. :)

I think the most important thing I am hearing you say is how much you valued routine with your babies. I totally agree! Babies take in so much information, and many times it is so hard for them to process it all. I think following routines - particularly for nap and bedtimes - is such an imporant part of guiding your baby through the day.

There are some other parts of your post I want to speak to, but instead of hijacking your comments, I think I'll just do my own post.

I also definitely agree with commenter Lorie that it's pivotal to find what works for you (so this is such a great Works for Me entry!).

Kristi said...

I appreciate your post on this topic. I have number 2 due in april and read the book with number 1 (but not early enough on to get in the swing of it). I'm eager for another chance!!!

Great insight!!

Melissa D said...

I think most of the "cons" re: Babywise come from the implication that if you aren't doing it, you're not "growing kids God's way" to paraphrase another Ezzo book.

I loved the two main principles of Babywise: first, that you urge your children toward a routine that improves eating and sleeping to the point that babies will learn to self-soothe when they wake up; and second, the "funnel" parenting method, where you provide boundaries for your child that expand as your child grows (and that they need tighter boundaries the younger they are to feel secure). Certainly these feel like self-evident principles to me!

My first baby (now 3) was "babywised" and started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks (5 hrs that night, with an hour added each week after that). Still eats and sleeps like a champ. Baby #2, now almost a year, just wouldn't cooperate. We ended up co-sleeping. It was okay, and she now sleeps in her own bed, but is definitely not a sleeper like #1... I'm not sure if it's different methods or just a different personality (probably both). With #3, I'm going to go back to babywise if I can, since an unroutined baby is so much more work and stress than one that isn't! I have to say, though, that sometimes kids just will not respond to a pure BW routine no matter how much you try to enforce it.

I think that there are at least a couple of versions of the Babywise book, one that is more open, one that is more restrictive. I've only read the more recent one though (which is less controversial).