Should You Put Your Baby on a Schedule?

We have a guest post from Heather Gaither from The Essential Infant Resource for Mothers. Check out her website, it has a lot of great tips for moms.

To schedule? Or to say the-heck-with-everything and shoot for “free spirit”. That is the question.

If you’re a label making, sock-organizing Martha Stewart Mum, the answer is obvious. If you’re a hemp-wearing, all-natural, cloth diapering Mama, the answer is obvious.

But what if you’re neither? What if you’re a Target-shopping, non-ironing, regular ‘ole mom? How do you know if putting your baby on a schedule is the right thing for you?

Ta da! Here I am, ready to list out the pros and count out the cons. By the end of this article, you’ll either be one step further from chaos, or one step closer to being guilt-free.

How do I know the pros? Because I’ve scheduled. How do I know the cons? Because I’ve scheduled. In fact, sometimes I’ve NOT scheduled – and for good reasons.

So there’ll be no teeny-tiny nuggets of truth buried under mountains of “shoulds” or “good intentions”. Only the honest facts. There are good reasons to schedule your baby, and there are equally good reasons NOT to. Your job will be determine which reasons fit your family best.

Why do people choose the schedule their babies? (Also known as…the PROS)

  1. A consistent schedule can help your infant sleep through the night at an earlier age. In my own family, those babies who were scheduled started sleeping 8 hours around the 6-8 week mark.
  2. A consistent schedule can help you understand your babies non-verbals, eliminating guess work. Is it 1:30 and he’s fussy? Isn’t that nap time?
  3. Not only can scheduling help your baby, but it will be heavenly to know that every afternoon at 1:00 YOU can get a nap in, and every morning at 10 is a safe time to get groceries.

Why do people choose NOT to schedule their babies? (Also known as…the CONS)

  1. It’s very difficult to keep a tight schedule for your baby if you are working outside the home or if you have older children involved in many activities.
  2. Highly-structured babies usually have a harder time being flexible. Forget napping in the car seat during dance lessons. Too much noise, too many distractions.
  3. Some mothers say that by not scheduling, they feel they are more in tune to deciphering their baby’s non-verbal cues, allowing them to understand needs away from the clock.

Consider this the Cliff’s Notes to baby scheduling. You can read the whole baby sleep schedule manifesto for more specifics on how to schedule or how to NOT schedule (and still have your sanity).

6 Responses to “Should You Put Your Baby on a Schedule?”

  1. Delia

    Everyone is different. My 2 babies didn’t have schedules. Yes, of course we had routines… but no schedule. My husband ‘s hours could vary by 2 hours everyday and it was more important to get family time in than to have my babies go to sleep at a certain time and then me wake them everyday when nap time was over. My babies slept from the time they were 10 days old and 11 days old. I only woke a sleeping baby if we have a commitment or had to go to work. They learned to sleep when they needed to sleep and vice-versa. Plus it gave my husband and I freedom to take our kids off with our friends when it was during a normal nap time. Our world was defined by the schedule either.
    I was scared to have a strict schedule due to three families I knew that had them… and when their children grew up they had sleep issues as adults and lack of flexibility. Not saying my way is correct… but mine each turned out to be Happy flexible young man and woman.

  2. Kristen

    I am a mom of a 10 month old baby with a routine. I try not to use the term schedule as it really brings out the worst in my non routined friends with kids and other skeptics and critics alike. I have had frustrations with her changing the routine but I learn to accept that that is what babies do as they get older so I adapt to her and we change things around. Since 5 months old she has had a proper bed time and now knows when to go to sleep even though her naps vary. She is a happy and easy going child and she has advanced greatly from having this routine. In fact, I have had other non routine mom friends that have taken a few of my cues and now have balance in their household with their kids. Everyone is a expert and a critic, my advice is to do what is best for you and best for your child because in the end, no one else has the job of mom or dad but you.

  3. Anna

    Could you pls. suggest a way that I could get my 3 month old son to sleep longer at night and let me get some sleep too. He wakes up every 3 hours for his feed on the dot. He sometime goes to sleep while he his feeding. How do I put him on a schedule ?????
    Kind regards,

  4. Julie

    First of all, I appreciate this baby sign language website. I have been perusing it for a while as I try to stay one step ahead of my 14-month-old. :) Regarding a schedule, I have been a somewhat “structured person” my entire life, so creating a routine right away came easy for me and, more importantly, our child. Both of us know what to expect each day for the most part. I’m scheduled, but also flexible because I know some days she may be more/less tired based on what we were doing. Being consistent helped our little one to sleep through the night earlier on (which is certainly not the only measure of good parenting, but sure is a nice perk when compared to some of our unstructured friends). Consistency allows me to plan our days: i.e. when can we run to the store?, when can we visit friends?, what’s the best time for that doctor appt?, I can expect AROUND __ o’clock she’ll need a nap. I agree that scheduled children don’t zonk out in the carseat when/wherever due to distractions, but I also think it might be because the child is well-rested and therefore alert and observant when they are out and about. – Julie

  5. Sarah

    None of the reasons for not scheduling are really true. I mean, if you’re doing a tight schedule, I suppose they could be, but you really don’t need to be rigid. My baby learned that sometimes he had to sleep in different places (carseat, or play pen at church), and he learned to be flexible in his schedule. I don’t think it’s right to be subjecting yourself to your baby’s demands. Babies are learning how to be normal, respectful human beings. We, as adults, don’t go around demanding everyone to serve us hand and foot and get whatever we want whenever we want it (although some people do… but we all know that’s a BIG problem!)

    I would say that MOM knows best! MOM decides when baby eats, sleeps, and plays! I am by NO MEANS an orderly person! But every baby needs to learn a ROUTINE. It’s healthier for everyone in the family.

  6. Karen Wallace

    Hello. I am an Art Therapist and I work with non-verbal youth. I have just found this resource and I am thrilled with what you have to offer. I look forward to reading this blog and staying connected. Warmly, Karen

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