I know there’s a lot of controversy these days over attachment parenting vs scheduling your babies. So I have been reluctant to write this post.
But I feel a need to at least share what worked for me. Take it or leave it.
I’d like to express whole-heartedly that I do not think one method is any “better” than the other. Lots of parenting styles can produce great, healthy, happy kids. I’m just talking about what worked in terms of my mental sanity and physical health.
In brief, attachment parenting, or “on-demand” means letting your baby lead the schedule. Baby naps when she wants to, eats when she wants to, plays when she wants to. I might very well have done this if I’d had one child. But with twins, I didn’t hesitate for a moment looking into sleep training and getting my babies on a schedule from day one.
Gina Ford is Britain’s leading baby expert. Apparently, every expecting mom in the UK reads The Contented Little Baby Book — although lots of people despise her methods, as well. I’d heard about Gina Ford, so when I was pregnant I bought the multiples version of her classic book, A Contented House With Twins.
It was ridiculous. Ms. Ford recommends a schedule that is literally broken down into 2-minute increments. For example: “Make toast at 7.46am- draw the blinds at 7.47am- change twin one nappy 7.48am” LOL. Just reading it fully stressed me out. I mean, seriously, do you really expect me to be able to follow this crazily detailed of a plan?
Overall, however, I found the book tremendously helpful in presenting, explaining, and providing a schedule for newborn babies that would contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of the entire family.
And when my husband and I decided to hire a night nurse to take over from 10pm – 7am two to three nights a week so that we could sleep, she showed up with a very similar schedule and said she highly recommended that we follow it all the time, not just when she was there. (We are incredibly fortunate to have been able to afford such a luxury, I do appreciate that. However, I also asked friends and family to contribute to our Night Nurse Fund rather than buy us tons of baby gifts – and recommend you do the same if you need your sleep as much as I do!)
Furthermore, our babies were in the NICU for the first 12 days or so of their lives. Here, they were kept on a very strict schedule of feeding/changing then going back to sleep every 3 hours, on the dot. So we already had a head start when they came home from the hospital.
In short, sleep training or scheduling your newborn babies means that you feed them, change their diapers, play with them, then put them down to sleep every 3 hours on a fairly strict schedule. Did I keep to this 100%? Not at all. I was flexible if one child wasn’t eating as well, or one had a shorter nap earlier in the day. But on the whole, I did attempt to stick to it.
Side note: I definitely counted as “napping” times when they slept on me in a baby carrier. Baby wearing is a big principle of attachment parenting, and I tried to have the babies on me as much as I could during the day. I slept them swaddled on their backs in their cribs at night, however – not in my bed “co-sleeping” with me and Kiran. I think it was pretty crucial to our marriage.
I even kept print-outs of the schedule (see below) on my kitchen counter, and would write down every few hours how much each baby drank from a bottle (if I had pumped) or how long he had nursed (if breastfeeding), whether he had peed or pooped, what time he went down for nap and what time he woke up. It’s hard to believe, but in the haze of sleep deprivation, there were times when I could not remember 2 hours later who had had a diaper change or which baby had breastfed – I had no short term memory!
Also, over time, I could look back at the completed schedules and get a sense for sleeping rhythms. Slowly over the first 2 months, we increased the time between night-time feedings from every 3 hours to every 4 to every 5. By 3 1/2 months, both of my boys were regularly sleeping through the night, with just one “dreamfeed” (when you give them a bottle or nurse them without their even opening their eyes). And we NEVER had to do a “cry it out” method of letting them scream their heads off. We just very gradually got them into the rhythm of sleeping and eating that very naturally fell into a good solid overnight sleep.
Personally, I am so happy that I chose this method. It was certainly more sane and fun for me and my husband. I can’t speak for the babies, but I will say that they seemed to adjust very well to the schedule and never appeared to have a hard time with it.
These days, I continue to believe in having a rough schedule: We wake up at the same time, nap at the same time, have meals at the same time, and begin our bedtime routine of bath/books/songs at the same time most nights. We have to be flexible when traveling or visiting grandparents or when we have friends over sometimes, and I think that’s good for the babes, too. But all in all, it seems to me that they very much thrive on a schedule, knowing their routine, and it makes them feel safe, happy and comfortable.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on baby scheduling, as well as your experiences. What worked? What didn’t?