signals for feeding times.
Gaelen Billingsley, director of Northwest Attachment Parenting in Port Orchard, Wash., says that babies know best and that delaying nursing is cruel and unhealthy.
“If you wait until the baby’s starving, you’re teaching him that he has no control over his
eating,” Billingsley says, adding that most breast milk is digested after just half an hour, so babies are often
hungry again quickly.
Scheduling is not necessarily black and white; there are shades. Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W., a child development specialist at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., devoted to promoting healthy development in the first three years, says you can phase in a loose schedule — but only well after the newborn stage.
“You have to see the first three months as a time of great change and adaptation for the baby,” Lerner says. “During that time, you need to respond to their cues immediately. Then you can begin to do what feels right to you.”
“Sequencing” is also a middle-ground step that works for many new parents; it means that your baby eats, sleeps, bathes, plays and gets his diaper changed in a certain order every day but not at any particular time. “Children depend so heavily on routine,” says Lerner, “and even at a young age, this practice lets them start to anticipate what is next.” For instance, when a baby wakes up, you feed him, then change his diaper, then there is some playtime, perhaps a walk, another feeding and then probably a nap. Even this routine need not be rigidly adhered to, however. “I don’t think parents should be overly concerned about doing the same thing every day,” Lerner adds.
Regardless of the patterns or routines you develop, babies will get into a rhythm with their eating, sleeping and waking times. And most start to sleep through the night naturally at about 2 or 3 months of age. “It’s not fair to put a baby on a schedule that’s too rigid,” says Rosenfeld. “They don’t have the biological maturity to handle too many demands on them.”