Thursday, February 1, 2007

On Schedules

I have been asked about my position on infant feeding schedules. Here is my (hopefully) short take on it:

I think there needs to be some balance, but I definitely lean toward feeding on demand. Babies grow and change so incredibly fast, that once you get used to a schedule or routine, the baby starts teething, goes through a growth spurt, etc. Still, having a routine or schedule helps you plan your day out so that you aren't simply reacting to everything that's going on. Then, as your child grows older, he or she falls into a more consistent routine.

I keep thinking that my baby will nurse three times at night forever. As much as I wish she'd settle herself back to sleep on her own, my current circumstances don't offer me that luxury. But a year from now, her sleeping patterns will be so different. Ten years from now, she could still be waking up at night, but by then she will be able to deal with it on her own.

Pay attention to your child. It doesn't make sense to hold off a feeding just because you think he shouldn't be hungry. On the other hand, it doesn't make sense to forcefeed a child by nursing him at the drop of a hat (Although nursing is more than feeding. It offers comfort to the baby too. Babies soon learn how to nurse for comfort without stuffing themselves). The same thing goes for the sleep schedule. Although it may be ideal to have him fall asleep without any intervention (such as nursing or rocking), it just isn't always practical. Although it isn't ideal to let a baby cry himself to sleep, sometimes you just can't hold or nurse him anymore.

The common denominator I see in people who are wrestling with these issues is that they do want the best for their child, although they may be afraid of being selfish or manipulated. Be assured, though, that it is often neither.

I have more I could write about this, but it takes a while for me to organize my thoughts and put it into writing. Feel free to leave any comments and we can take it from there.


  1. I think what you said about the common denominator (parents who want the best for their children) is so important. If a mom is stressing about these things, it means that she really cares about her child and what's best for that child - and with that, you are doing your job as a mom. God teaches us so much through being a mom - how to love, care, nurture, and most important, how to put others' needs before our own.

    My question is, with your three kids, has each one been different from the one before? Can we really all try to follow one book or one method with each of our very individual kids?

  2. Yes, each has been different. Their individuality plays a role, but also the dynamic of having siblings plays into it too.

    I leave you a (long) quote from Elisabeth Elliot (from her book, Keep a Quiet Heart):

    " 'But oh, Elisabeth!" she said in her huskily soft voice, "when I had only one, I thought I knew all the answers. There is nothing so humbling as having two or three or four children.'

    I needed that reminder. Jim and I had hoped for at least four children. God gave us one, and that one gave me hardly any reason for serious worry, let alone despair. She was malleable. What "worked" for her may not work for another child, but I offer my suggestions anyway--gleaned not only from experience as the child of my parents and the parent of my child, but from observation of others. My second husband Add Leitch, whose first wife had died, had three daughters. "If I'd only had two, I could've written a book on child training," he once told me. One of them proved to him that he couldn't."

  3. Nice post.
    I agree with you.
    I think I worked so hard to schedule Caleb that it actually worked to our disadvantage in some ways. Caleb was very scheduled.. so much so that if we ever were out and he got off schedule he was a completely wreck. He needed that structure or else he wouldnt know how to act.
    Now though years later he is much better but still very much schedule. Wakes up every day at the same time, naps at the same time... and goes to bed at the same time. Its nice in ways... but still sometimes I do wish he was more relaxed :-)

    Still I do firmly believe that some struction is good... it gives a child comfort when there is routine.

    With Taite I am much more relaxed and I dont stress schedules so much. If he sleeps an extra hour during the day I dont worry about it.. or if he wakes up early and is acting hungry I just feed him.. I dont feel the need to structure him so much :-)

    Still I do not believe a child who is over the age of 3 should be waking up still at night. I believe a child should learn to stay in their beds by age 2. Unless they are having a nightmare or are scared they can stay by themselves. I know people whos children come down every night at 3am to get in bed wtih mom and dad... and to me this isnt good. These kids are ages 5, 4 and 2. The two oldest should know better.. mommys and daddys need sound sleep ya know! :-) or am I just lazy ! haha

  4. the one advantage to caleb being schedule though was sleep. the boy slept well all the time. With the acception of a few stages in his life he has slept 10-12 hours every night since he was a month old... SO WONDERFUL! Im still waiting on Taite to sleep more than 4 hrs at night hahaha... no such luck.. I was spoiled with Caleb :-)

  5. Drea,

    I totally agree that structure is good for the child. The familiarity that comes with it is gives them a sense of security. Whether your child is scheduled or not, either will work against you at some point because life just happens, if you know what I mean. I think Caleb's schedule has worked very much to your advantage.

    My point is that we should not be bound to either method, but by paying attention to your child's cues, life will be much easier to both of you.

    This also applies to the issue of children older than 2 coming to the parent's bed in the middle of the night. First, like you said, you need to rule out if there have been any nightmares or fears, as well as illness, the child is too hot or cold, etc. When that is ruled out, then you can teach the child to stay in his own bed.
    However, some parents will get sound sleep if they just let their kids stay in the bed with them.