Schedule or nah?
Before I even dive in, I want to say this: I believe there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Well, there are some wrong ways and that involves hurting your children. But I support every parent's right to decide what they feel is best for their baby. God created us to be the parents and it's ok if we all do things differently. I think we should support each other in our differences and stop being so judgmental because someone doesn't do it your way.
With that being said, I always said I would never do a schedule. I don't like to be put in a box or feel like we have to do things a certain way every single day. When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I talked to a lot of fellow twin moms that have gone before me and everyone said the same thing: "Get them on a schedule and make sure you keep them on the same schedule." NOTED. I ordered two books to read that came very highly recommended from moms that in my opinion have it going on. Moms on Call and Babywise. I read both. I loved both. And I took things from both and created our own sort of hot mess way of doing things. We fall pretty much in line with most things Moms on Call. While I loved Babywise, it didn't give me an exact schedule for each day, so I felt like Moms on Call was more helpful in that regard.
We have followed the Moms on Call schedules (and most other tips in the book) pretty much from day one. There is no way in my sleep deprived state that I could keep up with when my babies ate or slept last any other way than having set times and trying to stick to these as close as possible each day. I have learned that my babies (who are wonderfully different in every way) have thrived with consistency. They know what to expect. They have learned our routine. They have learned how to sleep. They have learned how to self soothe because I have given them the space to do that. (More on this later.) Our schedule also makes me feel much more confident in my decision making. I get pretty stressed out when my babies cry and I can't figure out what's wrong. Since I know when and how much they ate last, how long they slept and what is ideal for these areas, it helps me figure out what's wrong by process of elimination.
We try to focus on full feeds and not let them snack. We try to do wake time after they eat. We try to lay them down awake for naps and bedtime so they learn to put themselves to sleep. We try to get them to nap the full amount of time so they are well rested and energized to eat. I say try by all of these things because no day is perfect. Ever. I don't think there has been a single day that we have followed the schedule perfectly. And I make exceptions to the rules all the time. If my baby is hungry and needs food, I feed him. If he absolutely won't sleep without me laying beside him or rocking him, I do that. We try to have our goals and routine established, but we will always choose meeting our baby's needs over the rules. There have been naps when I have held one the entire time. There are times when I feed them a snack an hour after a meal because they are hungry. But these are the exceptions and we strive to be consistent with our approach as much as we possibly can.
Doesn't a schedule take away your freedom? Yes and no. I honestly feel like I am less stressed with this approach because I can plan my days. I know what to expect (for the most part) and can plan accordingly. We do get out a good bit and I try to do that during our wake time, so they aren't cranky. For me, I have more freedom with our schedule because I can plan my days around it.
As much as we all have thrived on a schedule, we do not let it rule our lives. We are flexible, we make exceptions and we don't let it ruin our day if we get off schedule. I believe that moderation in all things is important and I refuse to be a slave to the schedule. If the boys don't get as good of a nap because family is over and wants to see them or our bedtime routine is off because we went out to dinner with friends, it's ok. They will be ok. One bad day will not ruin all your hard work.
My encouragement is to give this approach a try, but be flexible. Every book you read will make you feel like their way of doing things is the only way. Take it with a grain of salt. Read the books, talk to friends, try different things and then decide for yourself what will work for you. I have friends that do it all sorts of ways and I love that. We are all doing what we feel is best for our kids and you know what... that is pretty darn awesome. So let's celebrate that and give people the space to do their thing.
I would love to answer any Moms on Call questions, but I recommend buying the book first. It has been life changing for us and I am so thankful I found it. What schedule questions do you have? What is working for you and what isn't?
Lots of love,