Should my baby be on a schedule? Sleep


mom looking over baby in crib

Some moms believe nap or feeding routines are best, while others prefer for baby to sleep and eat on demand. Get expert advice -- and see what worked for other moms -- to decide what type of daily schedule (or lack thereof!) is best for your family.

Schedules All the Way

"Babies want to know what is coming next. Since they do not yet understand words, we use nonverbal cues to communicate when it is time to eat, play, and sleep. One of the most important nonverbal cues you can use is their internal clock. If you have your baby on a schedule, their body will start to tell them when they are hungry, active, or sleepy." -- Amelia Bailey, MD, reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, TN 

You'll Never Sleep Without a Schedule

"Recently, a friend of mine called me at 3 a.m. because she was awake and bored. When I asked why, she said because her 1-year-old daughter was still awake. This is what happens when you don't stick to a strict schedule and create boundaries."

Create a Schedule After 4 Months Old

"A baby goes through several growth spurts from birth to 4 months. To me, it's better to create a schedule after 4 months. You just have to keep in mind that there has to be some flexibility."

Let the Baby Lead

"Babies are growing, living beings that need to sleep and eat when they want to -- not when someone dictates they should. Keeping a baby on a sleep schedule can deprive them of sleep when they're really tired."

Don't Get Strict

"I think trying to keep a strict schedule of feeding every four hours or so is ridiculous. There have been studies that prove babies who feed on demand have higher IQs. I think if a baby is hungry, feed him. If he's tired, put him to bed. My only exception is that I always make a point to put them to bed at 8 p.m. and make the house dark and uninteresting around that time so they'd get into the habit of wanting to sleep at that time. It still works today."

It Depends on the Baby

"Lots of babies love the predictability of a schedule, but some don't. Look for clues, such as fussiness and restlessness, and then take note. What time does baby wake up? When does she get tired? Try to predict and plan for these times and prepare. Bottom line: Your baby will set a schedule if you listen to her cues."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.