Tips for Starting Babywise

 By Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood

I have had several new mommy friends come to me recently asking how to actually get started with establishing a schedule with their newborns. Babywise recommends feeding on demand until 2-3 weeks old. I totally agree with this, but I also started from birth (yes, while at the hospital!) with introducing Babywise techniques with my daughter. You can read my tips for starting from birth in this post. 

Once the baby turns that magical 2-3 weeks old…then what? 

Here is how I always recommend starting to set up the baby on a schedule:

  1. Pick a start time. It’s crucial to have a start time to each day. I like to go by the book so I chose 7 am for my children since it is what all the Babywise books use in the sample schedules. It can be any time you choose, but your entire schedule revolves around this time. If your baby wakes before the awake time then it is considered a “middle of the night” feeding. Mine would often wake at 5:30. I’d feed, put back to bed, and re-wake at 7 to start my day.
  2. Wake to eat. It is okay to let the baby sleep an extra 15 min, when needed, but if it’s time to eat then you need to wake the baby! I know how hard it is but it’s important in order to establish the routine! Same with feeding early. It’s okay to feed early if you think your baby is hungry but then adjust your schedule accordingly. I always tried to hold my babies off to eat until I was within the 15 min time window of their next scheduled feeding time. Remember that with nursing you need to have 8-10 feedings a day!
  3. Eat-Wake-Sleep cycle. When the baby wakes feed him or her then keep the baby awake for some awake time. In the early days it can often be only just a few minutes but still have some awake time before putting them back to sleep. The only time you don’t do this is in the middle of the night. After the last scheduled feeding for the day then put the baby to bed for the night and cross fingers they let you sleep! When the baby wakes for the night feeding keep it dark and quiet and try to keep them in sleepy mode as much as possible. Don’t do any awake time before putting them back to their nighttime sleep!
  4. Continue to focus on full feedings. During the first few weeks I always encourage new moms just to work hard to get the baby to take a full feeding. Do whatever you have to in order to keep him or her awake while they eat!!! It’s important to continue to do this once the schedule is in place. It will help make sure the baby will stay nice and full (and happy!) until the next feeding time! By this age most babies fall into a natural 2 1/2 – 3 hours between feedings (you calculate that time from the start of the first feeding to the start of the next one).
  5. Keep the sleep hierarchy in mind. This is a big thing for me! Reading this post from Valerie’s blog was truly a life saver. The most important goal is for the baby to SLEEP during sleep times. Ideally you want the baby to be in their crib to sleep but if you have to use the swing, help hold the baby to go back to sleep, etc. then do it at this age in order to make sure sleep happens! My goal was to always keep the baby in the crib if I could so if they woke early I’d go in and simply touch them or make a quiet sound (“shhh”). If that didn’t work then I’d pick up and comfort and put back down once they stopped crying. If that didn’t work then I’d try the swing. If that didn’t work then I’d try me holding them until they went to sleep. I tried to “interfere” as little as possible but kept the ultimate goal of sleep in mind!
  6. Know the “sleepy cues.” My daughter was a slow nurser and would, literally, only have a few brief minutes of awake time after nursing before she went back to sleep. If your baby yawns, gets fussy, rubs eyes, etc. (here is a great post on sleep cues!) then it means get them to the bed and fast! If you miss the sleepy window then you have a baby who is overtired and overstimulated and who probably won’t sleep.
  7. Have a good sleep environment. Make the place where the baby sleeps for naps as much like the night sleep conditions as you can. Get black out curtains to keep the room dark. Use a swaddle if you use one at night. Do the same routine before each nap (such as sing a short song, etc.). Have a form of white noise that you use every time the baby is sleeping. By keeping the pre-sleep ritual consistent at all sleep times the baby will learn when they get swaddled and you start singing that song then it’s time for them to sleep!
  8. Stay home. I know for many people it’s a big sacrifice not to be out and about. I tell family and friends to get their fill of our new babies during the first couple weeks because once it’s time to set up the schedule, we get strict about it! Just like with anything else in life, the more consistent you are with keeping the routine for your baby, the more successful you will be. At this stage the goal is sleeping through the night and it will happen sooner if you work hard these early days to get the schedule in place!
  9. Don’t cry it out. I think often Babywise gets a bad rap about cry it out but at this age it’s not something you need to be concerned with at all. If your baby is crying at the start of nap then 90% of the time it’s probably because the baby is overtired/overstimulated. Help the baby get to sleep (although it’s fine to let them fuss a bit and see if they will fall asleep on their own too!) and know that next nap to make sure to put them to bed earlier! I like to write down when my baby shows sleep cues and try to actually start the bedtime routine process prior to the time when they start to show signs of being tired. That way they are ready to get in the bed exactly at the right time! You also don’t need to do cry it out mid-nap yet. Again, the sleep hierarchy! If the baby wakes mid-nap then go in and soothe to get them back to sleep!
  10. Know the Wonder Weeks. If you’ve never heard of Wonder Weeks then you will be SO glad I just told you about them! It’s so, so accurate! It is times when your baby is going through developmental leaps and knowing when they occur helps to know when your baby might struggle with sleep and be fussier than normal. During Wonder Weeks I did a lot more comforting than usual and just helped my babies get through the stage, once it passed things went back to normal with no issues.
  11. Cluster feed and dream feed. I do a combo of Babywise schedule along with the scheduling recommended in the book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. I have my feeding times in the evenings closer together. This is typically a fussy time of the day any way for little ones so why not just keep them happy and fed? Plus by “stocking up” on eating close to bedtime, it helps the baby stay full longer in the night. The sample schedule in Babywise has a “late evening” feeding. This is also known as the “dream feed.” You wake the baby to eat, but you don’t have any awake time following this scheduled feeding. While I do a dream feed when first starting to schedule, I do think at a certain point it can cause issues with solid sleep. Both of my children, so far, slept through the night at 8-9 weeks old and it happened for the first time on nights I accidentally slept through the dream feed. Therefore, I typically stop doing them around that age!

Here is a sample schedule from when my daughter was two-three weeks old:

  • 7:00: start of the day, eat
  • 8:00-8:30: awake time then down for nap
  • 10:00: eat
  • 11:00-11:30: awake time then down for nap
  • 1:00: eat
  • 2:00-2:30: awake time then down for nap
  • 4:00: eat
  • 5:00-5:30: awake time then down for nap
  • 6:00: eat (this is a cluster feed, I would feed her close together in the evenings to help her load up on food and stay full for the night time. The evenings are also THE fussiest time of the day at this age so it makes sense to feed her and keep her happy!)
  • 7:00-7:30: awake time then down for nap
  • 8:00: do bedtime ritual (massage or bath) then eat. Put her straight to bed after this feeding
  • 10:30: wake her up for her “dream feed” (this is one extra feeding before we go to bed to, again, help her stock up and hopefully sleep through the night).
  • Feed whenever wakes during the night (typically around 3:30ish)

When I first started Babywise with my first baby I had such a hard time because I felt like the book didn’t go into enough detail. I didn’t have a lot of people I knew personally who used Babywise principals to help me so I’m very thankful I found resources online. My main resources was Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. There is also a great Google Group set up where you can ask questions and a panel of fellow Babywise moms will help answer them! It’s a wonderful tool! Of course any of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network bloggers are fabulous resources as well and I know I personally love to help whenever I can!

Here are some other blog posts that may also help you get started:

Comments

  1. Samantha says:

    I have a question about diaper changes. When do they occur in the eat, wake, sleep cycle? Do babies typically pee/poop during their sleep, or do they do it immediately after waking, or do they do it about 10 or so minutes after eating during the wake time? I will be trying to implement elimination communication along with babywise methods so I want to know when exactly the elimination will be occurring. Any tips?

  2. Hi Samantha,

    Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about elimination strategies. I just know that I changed my boys’ diapers before I put them down. Some people do it when they wake up and some do both. I remember a family member trying to change my son’s diaper after he woke up and he had none of it. He wanted to be fed and was used to our routine. Have you checked babywisemom.com? She’s a super Babywise mom. I don’t think she did elimination communication, but you might as well check.

  3. My baby poop farts while he eats, every time! So I change him after he eats, the offer him still a bit more to not go through 25 diapers a day (which I did the first week!).

  4. Allison says:

    What is the cycle like if you bottle feed? Bottle feedings doesn’t typically take 40 min-1 hour like breastfeeding does. Thanks !

  5. Hi
    I have a question that I cannot find a direct answer to anywhere
    Out start time is 7am but 7 week old wakes at 530 wanting to eat after his 330 feed time
    So do we give a full feed and then full feed again at 7am
    We are not interested In having out day start at 5 or 530!
    Currently he eats every 3 hours during the day
    And 3.5 to 4 at night
    Also I cannot
    find an answer to wether to WAKE A SLEEPING BABY! During the day

    Sorry one more … He did great yesterday w his sleep eat wake and today I cannot keep him awake for activity

    Thanks for your help

  6. I had really good luck with the method described above! I read both the Babywise book and The Baby Whisperer and mixed the two. My daughter slept 6 -7 hours at night by 6 weeks.

    I would feed him at 5:30 until he falls asleep again. Keep him awake long enough to keep him satisfied until 7, but don’t be adamant about a full feeding.

    As far as waking a sleeping baby, yes I always did wake her up gently if she was running more than 15 or 20 minutes behind (as long as it was a good day and we were abiding by her schedule).

    Just try your best to keep him awake for activity – sometimes it will be easier than others!

  7. I did both bottle and breastfeeding, and neither took up the whole hour. I just would start at particular times and then wake time will just be a little longer!

  8. Lindsey says:

    Hi
    I have one question I am unclear on regarding the baby and his nap time. Do you put the baby down in his crib for every nap? You said to create a similar sleeping environment as night time. So even at the 1-6 week mark when they are taking 4+ naps during the day after waket ime, do you always return them to their crib right before they fall asleep?

  9. Having a hard time getting my 8 week old on track. He’s still stuck on a 1-2 weeks olds babywise schedule – waking around 1am and 4am for feedings still. Any advice?! Also having a hard time getting him to sleep when he’s supposed to throughout the day. He likes to stay awake all morning, which is NOT GOOD – throwing everything off and making it to where he eats then sleeps a few times throughout the day. HELP!!!!

  10. Hi Darcy,

    Do you feel like his last full feeding of the night is a good one and he is full?

    Then I think it is very important to try to get them to do the daytime schedule – so that is probably a big part of it. Once that was set in stone the nights went so much easier for me. I would really try to make sure he gets full feedings, plays for a bit, then get him to take a nap wherever he is most likely to sleep (swing, bassinet etc.). I found creating a calm environment with less distractions worked best – maybe with no lights on… turn on a sound machine / phone app with sounds…

  11. Hi! Hoping you can give me some advice. I tried to do Babywise with my first baby. It was really hard to get on a schedule because my little one hardly ever napped. She would wake up at night, and despite me not talking to her, keeping the lights low, feeding and putting right back down (as the book suggested), she never went back to sleep. Once she was up (day or night), she wouldn’t go back down for at least 2 hours. So I am confused by the book’s use of the phrase, “put down for a nap”. How?! Or, “feed and put back down”. Didn’t work for us, despite months and many different ways of trying to “put down”. Help!

  12. Kourtney says:

    How long should it take for your baby to adapt to the schedule? Yesterday was my first try and he is having a hard time going down for naps. Any suggestions?

  13. Melissa says:

    What do I do when my 2 week old doesn’t sleep at naptime? She isn’t fussing or crying, she just isn’t sleeping after her 5 pm eat/wake time.

  14. I am just starting baby wise with my almost 8 week old daughter. Any tips? I am having an awful time getting her down for naps in the late morning/ early afternoon. I let her cry for 20-30 min and go in a calm her down but she never ends up falling asleep and napping. I don’t want to comfort nurse her or rock her to sleep. She is able to sleep fairly well on her own at night crying for only about 10-15 min. I am not sure what to do differently for the napping? Thanks in advance for the help!

  15. I did babywise with my first son and LOVED it. However, I was too strict with the time frames and this created issues with my milk supply. Eventually, I dried up and didn’t catch it in time. My son lost some weight around 3 months due to my lack of supply.

    I’m pregnant with my second and plan to do babywise, but am worried about nursing. Do you have any tips for successfully nursing and doing babywise? Obviously I won’t be so strict with the time frames this time around, but I want to nurse longer than just 4 months. Any tips would be appreciated! (Ps I appreciate the note about evening cluster feeding. I did not do that first time around and would like to try it this time!)

  16. Heather remember if baby is hungry feed him. It will keep your milk supply up. My baby started waking up after only a 45 min nap at about 3 months old. It was the 45 min intruter. I would all him to be awake and then feed him at the 3 hour mark. But I found that things didn’t chAnge after a bit over a week. So then I started to feed him right when he woke up. After two days of this he started sleeping 2 hours. I think he was going threw a growth spurt and need my milk to increase. Feeding him those two days when he awoke, even though it had been less than 3 hours increased my milk and then he went back to normal. If you start babywise from the beginning trust your baby once they have been on a schdule. They know what they need and usually they will go back quickly to the norm after the grow spurt.

  17. We are on a 3 to 4 hour schedule My 8 week old wants to eat at 5pm then falls asleep at 6. How do I do the bedtime bottle? Wake him up and change him and bathe him then give him is bottle to go to sleep? What time should I wake him to get him down by 730-8?

  18. Melissa Turner says:

    I love your blog! Could I email you my 7 week old’s schedule and get your input?

  19. Melissa, this post was written by Emily at Journey of Parenthood (http://www.journeyofparenthood.com/). Your best bet is to contact her there. Valerie at http://www.BabywiseMom.com is also a great resource.

  20. Hi, we are just starting Babywise won’t me 3 week old. What suggestions do you have for keeping him awake after feedings. I am nursing and he is only nursing for 10-15 minutes, thus, keeping him awake for a full hour after feeds seems an impossible task. Can you put him down earlier than the time frame on the schedule and let him nap longer? Is it possible for them to sleep too much during the day? Thanks!

  21. Hello. I’m a first-timer and I’m having trouble knowing whether or not my expectations for my baby are too high. His first week was spent in the hospital with Jaundice, so we had a pretty late and rough start. Now he is three and a half weeks old and I just don’t know if my expectations are too high. So far, our biggest struggle is actually getting him to sleep in a structured manner. He often just falls asleep on his own but in no particular place. If I try to put him in the bassinet or crib, he doesn’t stop crying. I’ve thought about trying CIO, but I have mixed feelings about it. Is it too early for that? Should I be soothing him now and wait to CIO once he’s 3 months? Once he’s out, should I put him in his crib? Is it too early to want him to sleep in his crib?

  22. I have a 3 week old and I am starting to implement a schedule for him. My question is some nights he wants to cluster feed and other nights he doesn’t (he will sleep the whole nap time). At this age do you wake to cluster feed to keep consistent every day or do you follow their lead and if they wake cluster feed and if not let them sleep until three hour regular feed time then follow up with dreamfeed in the 10pm hour?

  23. Hi Jessica,

    You’re best off taking your question to http://www.babywisemom.com. Valerie has more experience with newborns. You might also find the “Babywise Community” at Proboards. Lots of great ladies there who all follow Babywise.

    Maureen

  24. Hi! Thanks for this information. Quick question on the 7pm nap time mentioned above. My
    Son seems to be on a similar schedule (for now!) but your schedule above got me thinking. After the 6pm cluster feed, do you out baby down for another nap, or just keep awake and do bedtime routine and then feed again before putting down for the night? If you do put down for a nap, how do you ensure its a short nap instead of a full nap period? Thanks!

  25. Hi, My baby is 6 weeks old and still demands her milk (on formula) every 3-4 hours at nights and every 2.5 hours during daytime – though I do try to make her wait and prolong most of the time. She is currently at 12 lbs and a tall baby. Another issue is that she always has a bowl movement sometime around 3-5 am, so by the time I clean her up, she is completely up, wired and demanding more milk even if too early for her milk. Any advice? Thank you.

  26. Help: I am just starting to get my 6 week old into a routine as she is all over the place at the moment but we do have a strict 7pm bed time. But she will not go to sleep untill about 8.30. Letting her cry then settling every 5 minute’s or so. But then she wakes for her feed at 2.00am and stays awake untill 4.30 crying on and of even though I feed in dark and keep it quite she still doesn’t go to sleep easy at all. Any body have any advice?

  27. Me and my wife have been trying to stay strickt to babywise and our schedule. 7-10-1-4-7-10.. and usually when she wakes up in the night Twice. But we have been home going on 3 weeks now and she crys through her whole nap time throughout the day (Most of the time) right up to the next feeding.. so she is not crying for 30-45mins.. its an hour and a half -two hrs of crying. Then we feed her. We r staying to every 3 hrs. Everything like the book says. She seems to be eating really well. But as soon as she goes into her crib she crys. She is 18 days old now. What r we doing wrong? What can we try?

  28. Adrienne says:
  29. Adrienne says:
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  33. Danielle says:

    Hi, I have a question about transitioning to a different schedule if your routine changes. For the first 4 weeks any schedule, similar to yours above, would work for me because i’m not working. Once September comes I will need to be awake by 5:00AM to feed him, get him ready, and get myself ready to leave for work. If I wanted my first feeding to be later (around 7AM) for the first 4 weeks and earlier (around 5AM) from there on out how would I transition? I know they stress the importance of keeping the first and last feedings the same as much as possible but what do moms do when their schedule changes?

  34. Hi!!

    I have 10 day old little boy and I’m obviously in love! I really want to use baby wise with him, and I know I don’t necessarily need to start now, he’s still in a very needy stage where he dictates what goes. But my main question is when we do start baby wise, and sleep training… How do I start it? Right now by baby only sleeps on me or my husband. The past few nights we got him to sleep well in the night, full three hour stretches, but it was in a co sleeper in our bed. I try to put him in his bassinet, his crib (in his own room) or in the co sleeper inside his crib or bassinet, but he won’t sleep. I’m trying to focus on full feedings bc he’s always dozing off, and to look for sleep cues so I can get the sweet sleep spot, but otherwise I have no idea how to get him to
    Sleep somewhere that isn’t right next to us. The theme of “just put them down in their crib” seems so easy, but it’s not working! If I put him down he cries and I pick him up and find the only way to soothe him is to nurse again or have him fall asleep on me. I know I have time, I just feel lost with the idea of “just put him down”. I’ve also found if I stop his feeding bc he’s being a lazy eater, he does not sleep at all.

  35. I am at my wits end. My LO is 11 weeks today and has yet to sleep more than 6 hours at a time and that was a two time fluke. The max he will sleep is 4 hours. We are good on folllowing the schedule. Making sure he gets a full feeding awake time and sleep and he still wakes up everyday at 330-400 and then again at 6. I cannot take the nighttime wake up routine anymore! I am desperate for some sleep as I am the only one doing anything for the baby at night which means I haven’t slept in 11 weeks. HELP!!!!! Also I should mention I am going back to work full time in 2 weeks. This kid NEEDs to sleep through the night by then.

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