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The benefits of a feed-play-sleep routine

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Liza Montanino
Paediatric sleep consultant

Although babies that are under 12 weeks are usually too young to be on a steady clock-based schedule, giving your baby a loose sense of routine can help you bring some predictability to your day and nights and regulate your baby’s systems. This routine can be as simple as feed, play and sleep.

When your baby is first born, they’ll likely fall asleep while eating. But by the time they’re six weeks old, you can begin to shape their sleeping and eating habits by introducing a feed-play-sleep schedule. When your baby wakes up from a sleep, give them a chance to practise tummy time or another activity such as looking at books during their wake window. Then, once they start to show sleep cues, you can put them down for a nap.

The feed-play-sleep schedule should help you better understand your baby’s needs. For instance, if your eight week old wakes from a nap, eats, and then begins fussing or showing sleep signs after ‘playing’ for about 45 minutes, you can feel confident that your baby is crying because they’re tired (not because they need another feeding). Similarly, if your baby takes a two hour nap, and is fussy when they wake up, you can feel confident that they need to eat.

This technique can also help avoid the feed-to-sleep dependency that can often stand in the way of teaching your baby to fall asleep or fall back asleep independently. Feed-to-sleep can also encourage fuller feeds throughout the day (rather than smaller snack sessions), which leads to a fuller belly by bedtime and also your baby’s ability to consolidate sleep into longer chunks overnight. Win-win!