Honestly, the first time I became a mother, the first few days, while I was at the hospital, I was in a daze. I don’t even remember who came and went, so forget about figuring out my baby’s routine. After my c-section, I was in pain and on painkillers so his schedule was the last thing on my mind. Also, I had heard the age-old adage of “letting the baby decide”. So I didn’t mind letting the baby decide when he was to sleep, wake up, get fed, get changed, because obviously, the baby will cry and let us know.
All this changed one day!
I got a scolding from one of the on-call doctors. That day, perhaps it was the second day of my son’s birth, it was like a switch flipped in my brain.
Newborns sleep a lot. More often than not, if one goes to visit a newborn, there’s a big chance that he or she will be asleep. So when my child was sleeping that day, I let him sleep for four hours before he woke up crying himself. In my defense, I was only letting the baby decide. The doctor explained to me that day, that babies can’t go long periods without milk because there’s always a chance that their sugar levels go low which can be dangerous for them.
That’s when I decided to take that power of decision making away from the baby and keep it to myself for as long as it’s possible :P.
I decided to change and feed him every two hours and take that to three hours in the night. Hence, both my boys slept through the night from before they were a week old.
Let me make some clarifications here though.
By sleeping through the night, I do not mean they didn’t get fed or changed in the middle because they did. I woke up at night according to my gazillion alarms, BEFORE THE BABY WOKE UP, and changed him quietly, and fed him after that. Since I was combination feeding and I never thought he used to get enough milk, I used to breastfeed him first, and then give him the bottle and back to bed.
I used to hear a lot of “you have such a good baby!” and “you should be so thankful that he sleeps through the night” that I got scared when I was pregnant with my second. Because what if this one isn’t “a good baby” and gives me trouble. We’ve all heard about the second baby being the wild child. This is when my mother reminded me that this one would also be the same if I do as I had done with my first. And so far, it has been a success Alhamdulillah.
Let me narrate the scheduling I did with my second born, since it’s fresh in my mind.
Newborn feeding schedule
With Azlaan, my second baby, I couldn’t breastfeed from the very start, so he’s almost entirely formula fed. Scheduling a formula fed baby may be easier, since I’ve never had the chance to exclusively breastfeed, I can’t speak for those babies. But scheduling formula is as easy as pie. Deciding how much your baby wants may be another story.
Let me make it clear here that by now I was relatively more comfortable making these decisions but they are very confusing for a first time mother. I had started with half an ounce of milk, I remember, as advised by the doctors and gave that every two hours. This happened once I was back home from the hospital, which was on the third day of his birth. I had completely forgotten how much I used to give Zaviar, my firstborn. A few trial and errors later we got back on track with two ounces every two hours and the milk quantity and the gap kept increasing as my baby grew older and his hunger and ability to take in more milk at a time increased.
Newborn sleeping schedule
Like I have mentioned, newborns sleep a lot. What we have to do as caretakers is to take advantage of that and make it habitual for them to sleep more at night right from the beginning. I had read and also experienced throughout my pregnancy that newborns stay awake at night (Remember those parties in the belly late at night?), and sleep during the day. I realize it only means babies need to feel comfortable to sleep. Whether that means sleeping in the arms of mommy, on her chest, sleeping swaddled, being rocked to sleep, sleeping with a pacifier, being bounced to sleep, being tapped, being sung to, can depend and can be different for every mother and baby. They just need to feel comfortable in order to sleep.
I did make sure its dark at night though when he slept and every time he napped in the day, I made sure there was light in the room. I started with three hours at night. Like I have mentioned, I woke up before he did, and changed, fed, and put him back to sleep. Then again repeated after three hours. This went on until it was time for us to wake up, after which we came back to a two-hour gap for the day. I gradually increased his nighttime gap when I saw he could sleep for longer and as his feed increased.
The dreaded four-month sleep regression
Having read a lot about this, it scared me a little. The fact that my little angel of a baby who doesn’t give me trouble at night will suddenly become a night owl and want to stay up and play. Thankfully, I didn’t experience it too much with my boys, or if I did, the pacifier helped.
The pacifier miracle
Honestly, this is the best thing that has happened for all parents. Get it. Use it. Use orthodontic ones. And watch the magic unfold. For naps, I just pop the pacifier in his mouth, and he doses off. For the night, he sleeps while I feed him his last bottle, and stays asleep mostly. If he does stir in the night, and gets a little cranky I give him the pacifier, but that doesn’t happen all the time. So our nights are cry-free, quiet, and happy, Alhamdulillah.
TIPS for getting your baby on a schedule
- Set a sleeping time, preferably a little late in the night for newborns, so you can also get maximum sleep and not get a wide awake baby at 4 in the morning. I set his time initially at 12 midnight and gradually bring it back as he grows up. My toddler now sleeps at 7:30 on school nights, and 9 in vacations and on weekends.
- Set a schedule, for his feeding times, naps, and sleep, and try to follow them like clockwork (almost).
- Set a routine for when he sleeps. Could be anything, like massage, bath, change, feed, and sleep, like popularly advised. I didn’t give my kids a bath before sleeping though. Make sure you follow that routine.
- Swaddle the baby when he’s sleeping in the night. Don’t swaddle him for daytime naps so that he knows the difference.
- Make sure its dark at night when he sleeps so that he knows the difference between night and day.
- Also make sure its quiet again for the same reason.
- Use a pacifier and make your life easier. Do your research, see the pros and cons and see what works for you. I weaned my toddler off the pacifier at 15 months and I hope to do the same for my second.
- You have to sacrifice your sleep in the first few months, but the reward is a lot greater, I feel. I woke up several times in the night initially to change, feed, burp and then go back to sleep after putting him down again. Sometimes this would take one and a half hour each time, so the sleep I would actually get was minimal. But I reminded myself every time that it’s worth it.
- Lastly, I would like to mention, relax. If, one day, your schedule goes haywire, the world won’t crumble. I was that person when I was a first time mommy. I still kind of am, but a lot more relaxed this time since I have realized its okay, shit happens and as long as you get back on track, its okay.
That’s it. Good luck and I hope you can find something useful out of this.
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