How important is it to schedule an infant? I'm a first-time mom of a 5-month-old and I'm struggling with this one.
Sample schedules I've seen -- with strict nap times and lengths, etc -- seem a bit "one-size-fits-all." Admittedly, I'm a bit suspicious of any regimen that tells me what my baby needs without knowing him. "At least an hour of sleep, three times a day, is a must." But what if he is happy and functional with only 20 minutes? What if he doesn't like napping that often?
I'm not opposed to routines. We have a bedtime routine, we stick to it and it works. My baby goes to bed at roughly the same time every night, and he sleeps from about 7:30 to 6:30, with just one wake-up around 4:30 a.m. that he is showing signs of growing out of. He's a predictable sleeper, and I do credit routine and perseverance for getting us there. But we never, ever had to let him cry it out. My husband and I practiced "the pause" (Yes, I read 'Bringing up Bebe') and learned to read his sleep habits before jumping up. It worked.
I stay home with the baby and our days, admittedly, have a loose structure. He hates his crib during the day and doesn't like to nap. He gets in scattered "cat naps" in my lap after breastfeeding at roughly the same time and is a pretty happy, alert baby. I tried to put him on a schedule around three months. I couldn't get him to nap in his crib without him crying his heart out, with some serious tears, so I stopped. He was always so happy after short snoozes so I didn't dwell on the issue. I figured that I just didn't get a napper. Relatives and even his pediatrician agreed. (He's either meeting or ahead of schedule with developmental milestones).
I've also seen scheduled babies who seem so dependent on their schedules that they can't function if they miss a nap by even 10 minutes. I was afraid of that, since that doesn't seem healthy, either.
But now he's getting older and I'm second-guessing myself. I watched with horror one night recently as a mother at a CVS said no to a candy purchase, then frantically gave into her crying child when a scene broke out. It may sound like a huge leap, but I witnessed this scene and wondered, is it a slippery slope? Could this be me someday, because I don't have the backbone to let him cry in his crib? Is a basic daytime structure the beginning to a healthy mother-child relationship, with limits and healthy expectations of what happens next? But at what point am I forcing something on the child, without meeting his needs as an individual?
I'm lost. I'd love to hear your opinion on this matter and would love some recommendations for books on napping that don't assume the baby is also up all night.
And thank you.
From: Struggling with Schedule, Medford, MA