I’m a writer, so my whole career has been surrounded by deadlines, due dates, and schedules. This need to plan flowed into my personal life, where filling out my planner became an actual hobby of mine. So it was no surprise to me that when I became a mom, I’d want to have some control over my kid’s sleep schedule too.
Expressing this desire for control caused a lot of judgment. I often heard: “You can’t control a baby” and “Good luck with that,” along with a few scoffs and laughs. But I was determined to find a way to give my new life as a mother somewhat of a routine. While pregnant, I researched and came across a ton of good resources for baby sleep schedules. I preferred methods that seemed gentle and focused on creating a foundation for your baby to sleep well.
Sleep Schedules Saved My Sanity
When my daughter was born, I did not immediately begin to follow a schedule. I let those first few weeks become one very long day and didn’t focus on any routine. But, around the 6-week mark, I began to instill some of the things I learned from the research I did while pregnant. Soon, those long, sleepless days became more manageable as I learned how to teach my daughter her days from nights and was able to have a rough timeframe of when she slept and when she ate. Not only did this make me a happy mom (a plan, yes!), but I also noticed my baby become happier. She was easily calmed, hardly fussy, and began to sleep through the night very early on.
Of course, I know every baby is different. But once a schedule proved to work with my daughter, I never looked back. Today, my daughter is 18 months old and still on a sleep schedule. This means I am, in turn, on her schedule as well. No, I will not plan a playdate with you during her naptime. No, we will not attend an event with her if it is past her bedtime. And no, we will not “just be flexible this once” to suit your needs. If you crave routines as I do, here are a few ways to do it with your kid’s sleep schedule.
Tips for Keeping a Routine Based on Kids’ Sleep Schedules
It’s never too late to start a routine, but it’s always best to start as early as possible. No, newborns can’t necessarily be “sleep trained” too young, but they can get on a routine from the start. Even if your baby doesn’t cooperate right away, creating a routine from day one will help your family find that balance and stick to it long after the newborn phase has ended.
Be Okay with Saying “No”
This was the hardest part for me. As a new mom, I craved those mom friendships, and a lot of times, I had to learn how to say no to new mom friends when their schedules conflicted with mine. After a while, I learned that for me, not missing my daughters’ naps was more important than a playdate. Eventually, those friends and I learned to work around naptime and bedtime and see each other even with a schedule.
Be Okay with Missing Out
Sticking to a sleep schedule sometimes means missing out on activities, classes, and playdates. Sometimes, it may even mean missing out on family events, dinners out, and holidays. If you understand this going into it, missing out on those things will become easier.
Express Your Wants
As soon as our daughter was born, we explained to our family and friends when she napped and when she went to sleep at night—no exceptions. Doing this early on allowed our family to adjust, and eventually, they began to accommodate our schedule rather than the other way around.
Know It’s Best for Your Family
A lot of people do not believe in sleep schedules for kids—and that’s okay! We all parent differently, and if you choose to have your life revolve around your kids’ sleep, know that it’s best for your family. You may get criticism for being rigid or not letting your kids have any fun, but as a mom who has heard all of this, I know that my kid is happier with her schedule in place, which is all that matters to me.
In our house, sleep is important. Not just for my husband and me, but for my daughter too. She sleeps through the night, she loves her naps, and when she wakes up, we are all happy and rested. Because of this, our worlds will always revolve around her sleep schedule. We’ll see you when she’s up!