Years ago, as a brand new mom, I remember reading all of the books and articles about sleep schedules, parent-led feeding, baby-led feeding, attachment parenting, discipline styles, cloth diapering, homemade baby food, breastfeeding and more. I quickly became overwhelmed with all of the information available, and how strongly people felt about their way of doing things. The sleep scheduling and parent-led feeding book I read framed it as if you were a bad parent if you didn’t schedule your kids. Then the competing attachment parenting information implied you didn’t love your kids if you made them “cry it out.” Having exactly ZERO experience with babies and finding conflicting points of view at every turn I became confused and scared I would mess my child up and do everything wrong.
Now, 10 years later, after having raised 3 of my babies beyond their toddler years I have come to realize that none of it was as black and white as the books say. Much to my dismay, the methods that worked so flawlessly on baby #1 failed me on baby #2. The formula from the book that said do this+this and get a well-adjusted baby that sleeps through the night by 8 weeks didn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution.
I’ve learned that there are so many other factors. I’ve learned that the key to parenting is flexibility and holding our ideals loosely and being willing to throw them out if at any point they stop working for us and our children.
I’ve come to realize that different things work for different people and that is OK. My main criteria now for whether to steer a mom towards sleep and feeding scheduling or not is simple: Mom, how do YOU feel about schedules?
If a schedule is something that gives you life, then do it. If you enjoy and thrive in knowing what to expect and when, then scheduling is probably for you. I personally am a planner and scheduler. I like to know what to expect and when to expect it. It was very comforting for me to expect my baby to eat every 3 hours. To know I could feed him, leave and go to the gym, come home and shower, and then he would eat shortly after I was dressed helped me to feel like I still had space to prioritize things that were important to me in my life even when so much of my minute-by-minute life revolved around caring for our little one.
I have friends who hate schedules. They get stressed out and feel hostage to some pre-defined idea of everything happening at a certain time. The idea of having to keep track of when the baby ate and is supposed to eat next overwhelms them. They would rather just live in the moment and wait for their baby to give them cues on when to eat or sleep, and that works for them.
Moral of the story: do what works for you, Momma, whether that be to schedule or not. I am convinced that when you are thriving your baby will thrive also.
If you like schedules, living a scheduled life will bring your best self into your parenting. If you are stressed out from scheduling (or not), you will pass that negative energy on to those around you. So figure out what works for you, for this child (because it might be different with different children and different life circumstances) and then give yourself and others grace when things don’t look the way you thought they should.