Eat. Play. Sleep. blog -2-2

Eat. Play. Sleep.

Should I put my baby on a nap schedule?

What IS an appropriate nap schedule for a newborn?

What IS Eat Play Sleep?

If you ask ten different moms what’s appropriate for newborn sleep you will undoubtably get ten different answers.

If you ask ten different sleep professionals what’s appropriate for newborn sleep you’ll get another ten different answers.

If you check the top ten search results on google you will get yet another ten different answers.

See where I’m going here??

Q:So what is the correct answer?

A:I suppose the correct answer to all your baby nap schedule questions is: Any approach that gets your baby the proper amount of sleep and that works for your family, is what is appropriate for your baby.

HOWEVER, if you ask ten Nightingales what’s appropriate for newborn sleep, we’ll all give you a similar answer. Part of this is because most of our clients come to us with the goal of their baby sleeping fully through the night[12 hours] by 12-16 weeks. The other part is that we’ve seen time and again, through hundreds of different babies, that putting a newborn on a schedule is completely attainable, [and beneficial!].

So, listen close. Because I’m about to give you the two biggest tricks to a happy, well-rested, predictable baby.
  1. A “Three Hour Schedule”.
  2. Putting baby to sleep drowsy but awake.
  3. Wait! I lied. It’s actually three tricks, because the third trick is putting those tricks together into one easy to follow schedule. It’s called Eat, Play, Sleep…or EASY [eat, play, sleep, you time] or simply the three hour schedule. It’s all over the internet in different forms and different terms. This schedule can start to be worked towards from day one, and usually works well for baby until around 5 months old.

What is Eat Play Sleep?

It’s all in the name.

First they eat, then they play, then they sleep.

In that order.

Basically, when baby first wakes up in the morning, this is when you offer a feed. eat. After the feed, rouse your baby if she is nodding off and have “play time”. Play can mean just looking at you, laying on a play mat, doing tummy time…whatever. They just need to have their eyes open. After they have been awake an age appropriate amount of time, and/or they begin showing signs of tiredness- lay that baby down to sleep [drowsy but awake please]. And help them to stay sleep until they are hungry again.

See? Eat. Play. Sleep.

But what about at night?

Eat Play Sleep is best practiced during 12 “daytime” hours of the day. The other 12 hours are basically just the eat, and then the sleep. During the night baby doesn’t get stimulated/entertained like during the day. Keep it dark, with a sound machine and have your baby swaddled.  Our team of newborn care specialists at nightingale night nurses supports hundreds of parents every year to get their babies sleeping through the night,

Why is the three hour schedule so effective?

Eat Play Sleep incorporates both age appropriate awake times and age appropriate feeding stretches. You plan for a baby to wake up when they are hungry right at the three hour mark. This limits missed feeds or baby cutting a nap short because they’re hungry. Which in turn promotes strong breastmilk supply and thriving growing babies. Yay!

Feeding baby when they wake up also helps establish good sleep habits by teaching them to not rely on the comfort of a bottle/breast to fall asleep. Therefore, they are set up healthy sleep habits from day one. The number one sleep issue that we find with older babies is that they are reliant on feeding to sleep. [And wake up constantly looking for this comfort.]

How/When do I start putting my newborn on a schedule?

Within the first couple weeks of coming home, once breastfeeding is established [if you choose to breastfeed] and once their birth weight is regained, you can begin stretching your baby to eat in 3 hour increments. Their bellies are very tiny to begin with so give this some patience. Concurrently, you can practice putting your baby to sleep drowsy but awake. [This is easier said than done during the first few sleepy weeks where they nod off everywhere!]
As the food stretches become more predictable, babies will begin to wake from their naps at predictable times.

What are the benefits of putting my newborn on an Eat Play Sleep schedule?

  • Parents can plan their days more efficiently. They know when to expect their baby to take a nap and the windows of time they know their baby will likely not need a feeding.
  • Happier babies! Babies that are more well rested are less crabby, colicky and sleep better at night.
  • Better weight gain. We’ve found that babies on this schedule do better than “on demand” or a rigid 4 hour schedule when it comes to getting the correct amount of oz in a 24 hour period.
  • If you put the work in early, and set yourself up with a good sleeper, then there usually isn’t need for harsh, traditional “sleep training” later on!
Pro tip: If you start at the same time each day you can try to plan outings, appts and visits around your baby’s habits. Almost all parents choose to schedule naps and meal times at some point in their baby’s lives. In our opinion, the earlier you start, the easier it is!

Newborn Example Nap Schedules:

These examples are goals* and will rarely be a perfect reality!

You should focus on feeding times and awake times and let the rest fall as it may especially for the first couple months!

Example one month old nap schedule:
7am wake up full feeding
730am play time
745-10 naptime
10am feeding
1030 playtime
11-1 naptime
1pm feeding
130 playtime
2-4 nap time
4pm feeding
430 playtime
5-7 nap time
7 feeding
7 playtime
730-8 nap time
830 feeding
830 try bedtime
[baby may want one more nap/feeding cycle for closer to a 10pm bedtime]
Example two month old nap schedule: 
7am wake up full feeding
730am play time
8-10 naptime
10am feeding
1030 playtime
1115-1 naptime
1pm feeding
130 playtime
215-4 nap time
4pm feeding
430 playtime
515-545 nap time
7pm feeding
730 bedtime
[baby may want one more short nap/feeding cycle for closer to a 10pm bedtime]
Example three month old nap schedule:
7am wake up full feeding
730am play time
830-10 naptime
10am feeding
1030 playtime
1130-1 naptime
1pm feeding
130 playtime
230-4 nap time
4pm feeding
430 playtime
515-545 nap time
645pm feeding
730 bedtime
Example four month old nap schedule:
7am wake up full feeding
730am play time
830-10 naptime
10am feeding
1030 playtime
12-1 naptime
1pm feeding
130 playtime
3-4 nap time
4pm feeding
430 playtime
515-535 nap time
645pm feeding
730 bedtime
*When your baby starts fighting naps and this schedule is no longer working because their awake periods are lengthening you need to switch over to a 3 nap schedule.
For how to get your older baby on a schedule head on over to Napping 101

Karina McCarthy

A Rhode Island native who has babies in her blood. A mom to a beautiful daughter and a lover of yoga and long naps.