I have people all the time ask about our schedule and “how we do it.” First of all, everyone and every baby is different. So what works for us, may not work for you. My babies were born at 32+5, each weighing very close to 4pounds. They were in the NICU for 5 weeks. I pumped breastmilk while they were in the NICU but stopped and switched to only formula (similac sensitive) when they came home. This is what worked for US but again, please don’t read this as me saying that our way is better. I know that our situation is unique. Dealing with preemies and triplets is obviously different then a singleton, BUT we have had 3 babies sleeping through the night since they were 3 months old and would love to share our schedule in case it is helpful for others. If you are trying to get your baby to sleep through the night and it isn’t going well, I always encourage people to stick to a schedule! We do follow Baby Wise/Mom’s on Call – eat, play, sleep method, but adjusted it to what worked for us. As a statistics teacher with 3 babies, I am loving all of the experiments and problem solving that I have gotten to do. I am big on isolating variables and only changing one thing at a time so that I don’t have as many confounding variables. haha You laugh, but it’s true.
Since our babies were in the NICU, the hospital already had the babies on a 3 hour schedule but they were all slightly different so we adjusted to the middle schedule and got all 3 aligned pretty quickly when they came home. Originally all 3 slept in rock n plays in our room and had to be woken every 3 hours to feed even in the night.
Here is our schedule for months 1-5:
8am – wake, diaper, bottle, “play”, sleep
11am – wake, diaper, bottle, “play”, sleep
2pm, 5pm, 8pm,11pm, 2am, 5am,…repeat
Throughout these first 5 months, we were slowly able to drop the nighttime feeds. After 2-3 months, we were able to let them have one 4 hour stretch at night, then a 5 hour, etc. (we followed the pediatrician to know when this was allowed). Around 3 – 4 months we had dropped all but 1 nighttime feed (around 4am) and the babies were sleeping from 8pm-4am. We would diaper and feed at 4am and straight back to bed till 8am.
We would wake up the babies if it was feeding time and they were still asleep. This seems crazy to some people, but it really helped them and eventually they would wake up right on the hour and still do to this day. Before we fed, we changed all 3 diapers, then fed each a bottle, then “played” as long as possible and back to sleep. Repeat.
If and when they wake up before the next feed, we would rock, hold, use a pacifier to get them to wait. This is sometimes hard but once they get used to the schedule it is so great. At night, after we fed them, they would immediately go back to sleep in the rock n play. Sometimes we would go 2.5 hours at night if they were losing their minds and we were tired. Haha
Play time during these months included tummy time, laying on their back on a baby play mat, or just holding them and talking to them.
Nap time took place in the living room in these little fisher price infant to toddler rocking chairs that I love. I would wrap them in a swaddle blanket with their arms swaddled up. We used different swaddles for nap and nighttime. At night we used the velcro, straight jacket ones! The light in the living room from the windows and the different swaddle helped them start to differentiate between naps and nighttime sleep. We did not use a sound machine or stay silent during nap time either. They got used to napping with noise and each other’s cries and still do really well with that. Because of this, they can now nap around noises and they are not woken up by each other. Even while I write this, Oliver is in the nursery “talking” very loudly while the other 2 are sound asleep.
Feeding was either done by multiple people all at one time or I would prop them around 3 months. Then I eventually fed the boys at the same time and then Lucy right afterward once Lucy stopped being a fan of propping.
Again if they wake up before the next feeding time, we just let them rest, put in a pacifier, rock them, but it is clearly NOT play time and we do not feed them early.
At 5 months we moved the rock n plays downstairs, moved their bedtimes to 7pm, and dropped the 4am feed. We did these changes one at a time and waited a few days to make sure each change didn’t mess them up before changing something else. Again, I have to isolate the variables 🙂 At 5.5 months we moved them to cribs. We also started having them nap in cribs at this point.
Here is our 3 hour schedule for months 5-7:
7am – diaper change, bottle, play
8am – oatmeal cereal+veggie/fruit, play
8:30/9 – when they start getting fussy, I put them in a zippadee zip and lay them down in their crib for a nap. If they wake up early, I lay them with a pacifier in their rocker in the living room without talking to them or interacting. They just lay and relax or fuss a little until the next feed.
10am – diaper, bottle, play
11:30/12 – nap
1pm – diaper, bottle, play
2:30/3 – nap
4pm -diaper, bottle, play
5pm – feed oatmeal cereal+fruit/veggie, play
7pm – diaper, zippadee zip, bottle, straight down to sleep in cribs
This is a picture of their zippadee zips.
If they cried in the night, we would try to let them self soothe, but would often need to soothe by picking them up, bouncing a couple times, and put them back down with a pacifier. Derek and I worked out a system since he had trouble going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. I would usually go down if a baby cried between 9pm- 3am and Derek would go if it was from 7pm-9pm or 3am-7am. No nighttime feeds anymore though! Also, sweet Derek has always brought the monitor downstairs for at least an hour in the mornings so that I can completely zone out. haha
They started oatmeal cereal around month 4. Then, we did veggie/fruit puree around month 5. In these months, the puree and oatmeal feeds were not for nutrition but just teaching them how to eat. We didn’t worry about how much they got but just had fun trying different flavors (one at a time of course…keep those confounding variables to a minimum. haha) We first put purees before the bottle but then they wanted less of their bottle. Our pediatrician reminded us that until 12 months, the bottle is their main source of nutrition, so we switched and put the bottle an hour before purees and that was a great order for us. By month 7 they were baby food eating pros and able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Around month 7 we decided to drop a nap and switch to a 4 hour schedule.
Here is our 4 hour schedule for months 7-12:
7am – wake up, diaper, bottle, play
8am – breakfast (from 7m- 10m we still did purees but slowly weaned them into finger foods until they wanted less and less purees). After bottle and after feeding we play.
9:30am – nap – Each baby gets wrapped in a zippadee zip. Each baby sleeps in a separate room for naps. It is mostly easier on me so that when one wakes up, I can go get that one without waking up the others.
11am – diaper, bottle, play
12pm – lunch (puree or finger food or both)
1:30pm – nap
3pm – diaper, bottle, play
4:30pm – dinner (puree or finger food or both)
6/6:30 – bath
7pm – bed – For a while we had to put them to sleep at 6:30pm because they just couldn’t make it to 7pm. They were still in their zippadee zips until about 10m when the boys really wanted to be able to pick up their pacifiers better. Starting around month 7, we only go into their room at night if they are sick, teething, or hysterical. We RARELY pick them up though. We pat them or make sure they have a pacifier, but picking up is a last ditch effort and very rarely done. This was our own version of Cry It Out. We let them cry for 5-10 minutes on their own without going in to pat them. Usually in those 5-10minutes they figure it out. If the pat did not help then we give them about 15 minutes before going in again to pat.
We are now debating dropping our morning nap and that will of course change the schedule again. I think the teacher in me loves the “lesson planning.” It does sometimes feel like as soon as we get completely used to a schedule, it’s time to switch it up and do something new, but at least that keeps us from getting bored. Also, I really do try to rest when they rest. I’m not a big napper, but am a big fan of rest (see my last post). Sometimes that means that the clothes stay unfolded or the kitchen stays dirty, but a healthy mom is always better than a clean kitchen. My prayer for those of you knee deep in middle of the night feeds, no sleep, endless diaper changes, spit up everywhere, and not knowing which way is up: May the God of peace make your eyes to see the sweet baby smiles and not just the mess around you. May He fill you with strength when you can barely open your eyes so that you are able to be fully present in this moment. May He remind you that those little fingers that grab a hold of your finger will soon grow and that spit up does wash out. May He fill you with wisdom to know when to take a break and let friends and family help. May He surround you with a community that loves you as you love your little one(s). And may you find rest, sweet rest in the midst of the beautiful chaos.