We don’t agree with schedules for babies. Routines yes. Schedules no.
Recently we came across an article about someone who is very well-known in the parenting community when it comes to sleep. This person was stated as saying “That is one of the reasons why people love it. So many people come to me and go: ‘I love the fact that you’re exact.’ That’s why it’s so successful.’
We found this to be a bit disturbing and we wanted to address this here because we also often see posts where parents, especially with newborns, are asking for schedules to follow. We also get many of our own beloved Clients asking for one and we COMPLETELY get it. ZERO judgement! We are coming from a place of love.
So firstly, why do we as parents want a schedule? Well let’s be real here, there is absolutely a degree of comfort for many of us being given an exact schedule to follow, an exact number of blankets to use, an exact time between feeds and so forth. The definition of the word exact is ‘Not approximated in any way; precise’. Exact is clear and it’s black and white. There is absolutely an element of comfort in being given an exact way to do things. Following a recipe. Adhering to a manual. Cutting a pattern for sewing. Following steps to complete brain surgery! Being exact in these scenarios means you should get the correct and desired outcome. There is no in-betweens and no guessing. And yes, there is definitely a feeling of being secure in the parameters of exactness.
As the definition would suggest , being exact is absolutely required when precision is required. But what about when it comes to parenting and sleep? Where does ‘exact’ fit into this, in particular when you look at sleep in the newborn and first 12 months stages of your child? What happens for parents and babies when there is no room for anything except exact?
You see with exact, it’s either you have followed and acted correctly and if not you have made a mistake and you have done it wrong. Or your baby is doing it wrong. If you or your baby deviate from what is the exact schedule or parameters you are now ‘off track’. You are wrong and time and time again we talk to parents who feel broken by this sense of trying to follow some sort of exact plan. One thing goes off plan in the morning and the parents are then agonizing over how to recover their day or what to do. We have a heart-felt passion to see this stop.
While we don’t believe in everything being exact and scheduled we absolutely believe in having structure, routine, predictability and there is definitely a need for some things to be firm.
To help really cement this concept for you, think of this:
As a parent if we are rigid in our approach then the only way we will bend or move is if we snap. If we have no form and are too floppy then we will be pulled and pushed to and fro without any structure. However if we have that balance where we are strong enough to not get swayed every direction but flexible enough to respond and adapt then we are in a great place.
Being exact creates so much potential for ‘breaking’ because it’s rigid. Exactness has no tolerance for variation and how to effectively respond to deviations and day-to-day normal life.
While having a schedule for newborns and babies might feel like a more comfortable option because it takes out the guess work the problem is there are so many variables that a schedule ignores. What if a baby had a poor night’s sleep? What if they are just extra hungry that day? What if they have a short nap? What if they get the hiccups and poop just as they are about to fall asleep? What if they missed a nap? What if they weren’t hungry when it was feeding time?
Simply put, trying to follow a schedule is trying to take an exact approach to an inexact subject. We don’t believe this empowers parents to be able to respond effectively to what happens. It does not effectively educate parents.
What we absolutely encourage is a routine and we also work so closely with our families to provide so much education so there is confidence to know how to respect the abilities of our children and to enable their sleep development. There are definitely some time-based references we use but it’s not mapped out like a schedule. Some of the most important elements of routine we promote are:
1. Age-based awake times 2. Day nap routines 3. Bedtime routines 4. Day and Night and how to manage wakings and feeds differently 5. Creating a predictable, calm and comfortable sleep environment
If you would like to enable yourself to become an amazing sleep coach for your children we are here to help you learn how to feel calm and confident in the inexact world of parenting.