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Building in Flexibility with Babywise

Baby sleeping with arm up next to stuffed bunny. This baby is extra tired and taking a long nap, so flexibility with babywise schedule is needed today.

This post was originally published at the Team Cartwright blog.

When first time moms begin using Babywise, it can be a bit stressful and feel like a rigid lifestyle.

This can cause a huge amount of stress, especially if you are a Type A person and really trying to do well with being successful at Babywise.

It is so important, however, to go into Babywise with the intention of being flexible, and knowing that things don’t work perfect.

Whether it’s a sick baby, a growth spurt, a wonder week, or teething, curve balls are going to be sent your way at all times during the first year of your baby’s life.

Knowing that this is normal and accepting flexibility into your schedule is key to surviving this first year.

The Basics of the Babywise Method and How to Incorporate Flexibility:

1. Schedules

One of the key concepts of Babywise, is incorporating a schedule throughout the day.

This schedule allows you to make sure your baby is getting the right number of feedings, the right amount of wake time, and the correct amount of sleep through the day.

If your baby is getting all of the above, they will sleep better at night.

A baby that is well fed, will sleep good at night.

A baby that is not overtired or undertired, will sleep good at night.

There is only so much sleep to be had in a 24 hour period. Each month, this ideal amount of sleep changes slightly for your baby.

If you use it all up during the day, sleep simply won’t happen at night.

An example schedule looks like this (this example is for 3 months of age):

7 am: Wake and feed baby

Have wake time for 1.5 hours (this includes feeding time)

8:30 am: Nap time #1

10 am: Wake and feed baby

Have wake time for 1.5 hours (this includes feeding time)

11:30 am: Nap time #2

1:30 pm: Wake and feed baby

Have wake time for 1.5 hours (this includes feeding time)

3 pm: Nap time #3

4:30 pm: Wake and feed baby

6 pm: Nap time #4 (catnap)

Baby will likely only sleep for 30-45 minutes, and then have a bit of wake time prior to the bedtime routine starting at 7 pm

7 pm: Last feeding of the day, leading into bedtime routine (be sure to separate the feeding from sleeping- read a book in between, change into pajamas, etc.)

Incorporating Flexibility into a Babywise Schedule

  • I always allowed for 30 minutes of “flex time”.
    • If our daughter was still sleeping soundly by the time we got to what should have been the ending time of a nap, I let her have an extra 30 minutes before waking her.
    • If our daughter woke early and was happy, I’d leave her in her crib as long as I could for some extra restful time.
    • If our daughter woke early and was upset, I’d attempt to get her back to sleep, but if that failed, I’d get her up.
      • Depending on the amount of time left before her next feeding, we’d either choose to move the schedule up a bit and go straight to the feeding, or we’d incorporate a bit of quiet wake time after her nap to stay on schedule if it was too early.

Baby yawing and ready for a nap. In a growth spurt and needing to be flexible with babywise and take an early nap.

  • The schedule is last priority if sick
    • If our daughter was sick, the schedule did not matter to me at all. I let her sleep as long as her little body needed. Oddly enough, she’d usually get herself back on schedule pretty easily and often stick to the schedule regardless, but I was mentally prepared to throw the schedule out the window on those days!
  • Growth spurts
    • If you can tell that your baby is extra hungry lately, and identify that he or she may be in a growth spurt, it is important to adjust your schedule accordingly and feed your baby. Growth spurts only last a few days.
    • During those few days, I often incorporated an extra feeding to help her get through the day.
    • During some growth spurts, that also meant she was extra tired. So, at times, we incorporated a full extra cycle (feeding and nap). That typically just meant we were reverting back to the previous months schedule for a few days.
  • Wonder weeks, teething, learning new skills, etc.
    • There are so many reasons that your baby can be a bit extra fussy, or decide to not nap well. Allowing for some flexibility in the schedule is key during those times, or you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to hit the exact times.
    • Remember that your child is a person, not a robot. The schedule is an overriding goal to keep in mind. Don’t stress if you don’t make it perfectly every day.

2. Routines

Routines are key to Babywise as well. There are bedtime and nap time routines, along with the main routine of the “eat wake sleep cycle“.

The routines are something I actually advise NOT to be flexible with. Routines keep the flow and expectation throughout the day.

They help your baby know what to expect and help them to mentally prepare for something like a nap.

The great part about routines, however, is that they can happen anywhere, anytime!

If your baby is completely off schedule for some reason, they can find comfort in the fact that their routines are still the same.

The flow of eating, having awake time, and then sleeping, can and should still happen throughout the day, no matter what.

It is for this reason, that I also recommend keeping nap and bedtime routines short and sweet.

Change your baby, read a book, sing a song, turn the lights out, turn the sound machine on, and leave.

Quick and easy means you can always accomplish the routine. Create routines that work for you and your family, and then stick to them.

This will in turn, help your baby when flexibility is needed on the scheduling side of things.

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