To Schedule or NOT To Schedule?

19846709 Julie from Everyday Mommy is brave enough to take on the subject of "Putting Baby on a Schedule", and she’s asking some other blog moms to weigh in.  Since I’m so honored that she asked me specifically, I’ll venture into these choppy waters myself.

I am, by nature, a scheduler.  When my first baby was born almost nine years ago, I totally bought into one parenting "program" in particular that advocated rather rigid structures for babies.  I spent the first three months of my son’s life in tears, utterly frustrated that he just wouldn’t nurse exactly the way I wanted him to, when I wanted him to, etc.  To be perfectly frank, I missed out on some sweet times because I felt so "guilted" into making sure his little day ran like a clock. 

By the second baby, I was considerably more laid back about things, but I still held The Perfect Schedule as some sort of ideal that we might reach if we moved toward it gradually.  Meal times and naptimes were at precisely the same time each day, and this was do-able–with two little ones at home, we could be the master of our own timetables.

But later, as baby number three, and even moreso baby number four joined our family ranks, schedules flew quickly out the window.  We ARE at the mercy of others now–we have school plays and Cub Scouts and swim lessons and soccer practice and a generally busy life on the go.  Sometimes, naptime happens in the car.  Sometimes meal time is an hour late and in the McDonald’s parking lot.  And guess what?  No one has died from it.  In fact, I find that my youngest two kids are a little more adaptable than the older two, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a function of our more free-wheeling way of doing things. 

Of course, it is always nice to have a general idea of what’s coming next.  When possible, we stick to a skeleton of a schedule for the littler ones around here.  Waking up and bedtime are at generally the same time each day, and I try to make sure that 4-5 days a week naptime is quiet and at home.  (For all things sleep-related, our family has sworn by the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber).  But if the regular naps can’t quite happen, I’ve learned that the world will, in fact, continue spinning.  And if the affected child is a little extra grumpy for a day or two…well, it will pass, and we’ll all learn patience in the meantime.


You may see a variety of things on my blog, but you will never hear me say that ONE parenting method is the ONLY way.  (And honestly, I’d be extremely leery of anyone who claimed otherwise).  Always, always, consideration must be given to the individual personalities of both baby and parent.  For some families, tight schedules seem to be an important part of maintaining family peace.  For others, the complete absence of structure is their natural rhythm.  For most families, like mine, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is perfectly adequate.   As long as needs are being met, children are being loved and taught, and marriages are being respected, I salute any family that is doing its best. 

18 thoughts on “To Schedule or NOT To Schedule?

  1. chilihead says:

    I, too, held to schedules for my first. I tried to, for the most part, with my second, but it was much more laid back. If I had it to do over, I think I would chuck the schedules and stick to the “skeleton” as you call it. JMO.

  2. Michelle- This One's For the Girls says:

    I never knew what a can of worms this subject was until I entered blog world a few months ago. Whew! Julie *is* a brave woman. đŸ™‚
    With all five of my children, I have always started out on a fairly consistent schedule. When the babies are newborns, the word “schedule” doesn’t mean that they eat at the exact same each day; it just means that I basically try to wake baby up every 3 hours (from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.) If they wake up before 3 hours passes- no problem- just go ahead and nurse them and adjust the rest of the day accordingly. As the baby grows and as the months go by, watch and listen to baby and attempt to stretch the 3 hour schedule to a 4 hour schedule. When the baby seems to be going through a growth spurt, space feedings closer together again.
    The one thing I did do religiously with all of my children was follow the “eat-waketime-sleep” pattern. In other words, I never nursed my children to sleep–I put them down for their naps while they were still awake. I do think this establishes stronger sleep patterns. Also, I cuddle/rock my babies A LOT– I just don’t usually cuddle or rock them to sleep.
    Now baby #5 is 16 months old and basically, she takes a 10:30ish to noonish nap and a 2ish to 4ish nap. With 5 kids–the schedule is always subject to change. But that’s the plan anyway.
    My babies have all been fat and sassy, I’ve never had lack-of-milk issues and all of my babes have slept through the night by 6-8 weeks of age. Glory halleluah! I know that hasn’t been the case with all mothers who have tried to follow this same basic plan–and I know this isn’t Wednesday–but it “works for me.” đŸ™‚
    I think the reason this subject has turned into a hot topic is because some mothers are so condemning of others who don’t use *their* method. Pride is so stinky, and there’s no one so odious as a proud mother. Unfortuately, a room full of mothers is many times a room full of insecure, proud people and that’s when feeling get hurt. God please forgive me if I’ve ever made another mother feel “less-than.”

  3. HeatherW says:

    Amen sister! I agree with you in full. I also learned through having multiple kids. There’s what we would do if we were in control … then there’s the real world where heaven knows we are not! And God has taught me a lot through the sweet chaos that entered my life with my children.

  4. Shannon in Surprise, Arizona says:

    Sooooooo true. With our first I changed his outfits like a baby doll, bathed him everyday, had his schedule written out and daily plans. Pantry had all his meals lined out. Bibs matched his outfits and binks always washed when fallen. He is now a midnight time to get up boy and party, he hates when his hands get dirty and refuses to wear clothes with any drop of anything on them. He also wants a bath everytime we turn around. Oh and did I mention he can’t STAND when something is out of order???? My daughter well I just stuck to feeding her when hungry and putting her to bed when she and I were both pulling our hair out! She sleeps 12 hours straight…she will be messy all day and never think anything about it. She will put food in her hair and laugh and her bink???? Well, it has seen more floor time then I would like to think. NOW I DO take care of my kids….I still have one of the cleanist most organized houses in our Women’s Group, but because I worried so much about my “Schedule” I also am a mom who didn’t take in early motherhood for all it is worth as much as I should have. I think finding your nitch and listening to your heart and and going over your families needs with them is the best schedule!

  5. Stephanie says:

    I tried the Ezzo Babywise way with my first, and it seemed the “in” thing at the time. I found that the method did work, but my heart did not enjoy it! I did not do it with my 2nd and 3rd children, and have found that they both slept through the night the same time as the “scheduled” child, because we developed a natural schedule. I think I have come a long way since baby #1- and definitely never let baby Cry It Out! But, as many have commented, mothering and parenting does change with each child! It should never be something that is “debated” in my opinion, as parenting varies from parent to parent. I always say- do what works for you!

  6. Janice says:

    I tried to be somewhat scheduled with my son. But I am not a rigid person – I live a very unscheduled life – so getting even a bit of a schedule was an accomplishment for me!
    it is a very tricky subject though – people can have such strong opinions on the subject.

  7. Karen says:

    I never followed a certain program but I did start to mold my kids into a “routine” around eight weeks old according to what they naturally seemed to be doing already.
    I really like having a schedule because it allows me time that I can count on to get things done and have time to myself during the hectic day of living to meet their needs around the clock. I also believe that children need some form of predictability in their day.
    Some would call that selfish but when everyone has their needs met everyone is happy. It works well for us.

  8. Julie says:

    I was pretty much like Michelle. I did the eating on schedule and tried to adhere to the eat-wake-sleep routine. Both of my kids were sleeping through the night by 8-10 weeks. Of course I know plenty of moms that this didn’t work for. I think for me, having a schedule w/ my first helped me plan my day. I was more relaxed w/ the second (but also home full time).
    One thing I will say is that I always tried to be understanding of other people and never pushed my schedule on others who were taking care of my baby. (I’ve been on the receiving end of that one and it’s not fun – esp. if you have several kids you’re taking care of.)
    That being said I think it’s important for every parent to “adapt” whatever advice they read/hear to what works for them and their child.

  9. Heth says:

    Amen Shannon. Loved your last paragraph, I think we are too hard on each other as moms in general. There’s too much comparing going on. I’m very similar, we are pretty flexible and have a little bit of structure when we can.

  10. Faith says:

    Great post. I hope mine will be up Monday morning. I’m sooo behind! Your thoughts are great as always though. I just love you. Your site is always a highlight of my day! ;D

  11. peach says:

    You did a great job, Shannon, in tackling a touchy subject. I applaud you for the way you handled it with finesse. We grow more and more similar as I find out about your, your family and your heart.
    Mine will be up before the night is gone!

  12. Lei says:

    I totally agree… I have been 3 different parents to 3 different children! It’s taught me a lot about adapting and flexibility!

  13. Stacey says:

    I do think some scheduling is good but I’m a little more laid back. I never had to leave an activity to get the baby home for nap or sneak off to a quiet place to feed baby. I like the idea of going with the flow… when baby is hungry – feed him, when baby is wet – change him and so on. Life is just to busy these days.
    I’m with Julie on the comment about not pushing the routine on others. I do daycare in my home and can’t always follow other’s strict schedules. I do try to make the Moms happy though : )
    I agree that it’s up to each individual family!!

  14. Brenda says:

    I’m in total agreement with you.
    For me and mine, flexible is the way to go. Both my girls were sleeping through the night from birth, which made it easy for me. As far as naps and feedings, I took my cues from them. It helped a lot that I could stay home with them, so I was often able to nap right along them.
    On the other hand, my sister was a “routine queen” with her two girls because she likes order and couldn’t have it any other way. She also worked outside the home, which made adhering to a schedule a necessity.
    All the girls are now happy, well-adjusted teenagers. Their moms? Maybe not quite as well-adjusted, but hey – we’ve got teenagers.
    Love your blog, BTW!

  15. Laura says:

    our philosophy is basically the same….what works for one family may not work for another and that is okay. I try very hard to impress that upon the families of my patients.
    Having said that, I tried not to be rigid and let things happen as they do meeting the needs of my kids as they grew but funny thing was they actaully made a schedule of their own, all five of them, and they all seemed to depend on it. Life was hellish if mommy deviated too much so we didn’t most of the time. But what worked for me I doubt would work for the mommy down the street or the mommy commenting below me….and that is OKAY.
    Great post!

  16. Kate says:

    I always felt bad for firstborns. They are the experimental ones. The first at everything. I threw all books out the window when #2 came along and went with my gut. I have never looked back. I just always wish I could turn back time and have done that the first 4 months of my oldest’s life! Oh well – he seems to be very well adjusted now! HA! Great post – especially the last paragraph – AMEN to that sista!

  17. Gibee says:

    Sorry I’m so late posting my comment … My sister has 4 kids, and she SWORE by the Ezzo Babywise and Growing Kids God’s Way books. She gave them to me to read and to listen to the tapes.
    I felt it was so rigid, and for the first three weeks, I tried… but felt like a failure! So, I took what I learned from the Ezzos, and incorporated it with “what works for us.”
    My son sleept through the night at 3 months (10-11 hours), and eats on a regular schedule. He’s an excellent napper, and I have found that HE is schedule driven (more so than ME). But not a RIGID schedule… a flexible schedule.
    He’s our first, but even I don’t panick and wash of his pacifier each time it falls, or change him like a baby doll. I guess because I’m an older first-time mom and have learned lessons from all my friends. I really think I have to pick what I freak out about, and I think choking on a biter biscuit is more important than a pacifier on the floor! LOL!
    I wonder what I’ll do with my next child?

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