“You’ve got your hands full”
“I don’t know how you do it”
“Wow! Are there three of them? Are those twins?”
“You must be a very busy lady”
Etc., etc., etc. You can just follow me around the grocery store and listen to people’s comments to determine that yes, I have my hands full, and yes, I am very busy! People often say to me “I just don’t know how you do it.” To be honest, most days I don’t know how I do it either! The one thing that has kept me from plotting an escape to somewhere tropical for an unlimited amount of time is the fact that all three of my kids are on the same schedule.
Why we have a schedule
I had 3 kids under 3 for an entire year. They have a lot of demands: bottles, meals, naps, diaper changes, etc. Putting them on a strict schedule allows me the freedom to leave the house. With one baby, it’s a piece of cake to feed them on the go. Whip out a boob or bottle, and you’re golden. With twin babies and a toddler…. well, it’s just not possible to feed them in public, by myself. Knowing exactly when the babies would need a bottle, I could leave the house and make sure I was home in time to feed them.
What our current schedule looks like
Theo is 3 and Josie and Margo are 1. This is our schedule on non-preschool days. We have a slightly different schedule on days that Theo has pre-school, but for simplicities sake, I will just show you one.
- 8:00: Josie and Margo get up and have their bottles
- 8:30: Theo gets up and everybody has breakfast
- 9:00-10:00: Everybody plays. Mommy heats up cold coffee
- 10:00-12:00: Josie and Margo nap
- 12:00: Josie and Margo have a bottle and everyone has lunch
- 1:00: Clean up play room and read some books
- 2:00-4:00: ALL THREE KIDS NAP* (this is a minimum, they sometimes nap until 5:00)
- 4:00: Josie and Margo have a bottle
- 6:00: Dinner time
- 7:00: Josie and Margo have a bottle and go to bed
- 8:00: Theo goes to bed (as in lights are turned off, not as in we begin the bedtime process)
*These 2-3 hours that I get to myself in the middle of the day is what keeps me sane. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children, and love spending time with them. It is just exhausting, and I need time to make dinner, do laundry, clean the bathrooms, schedule appointments, and write blog posts. Oh, and eat, drink coffee, shower, and exercise. I usually forget to do those things!
How I got them on a schedule
This book was a game changer for me. I started it with Theo when he was 3-months old, and it helped me so much.
As babies grow, their needs change, and so I was constantly changing their schedule. Newborns should be on a 3-hour schedule that consists of eating, having awake time for 45 minutes to an hour, and taking a 2-2.5 hour nap. This pattern is known as eat, play, sleep, and should last for 12 hours, followed by 12 hours of sleep. In the beginning, the babies will wake to eat during these 12 nighttime hours but put them right back to sleep after they eat. No diaper change unless they are poopy or leaking, and certainly no play time.
During the first several months after the girls came home from the hospital, two things were very important to me: 1, having some one on one time with Theo when he first woke up in the morning, and 2, putting all three kids down for a nap at the same time. Since Theo was waking up at 8:30, when the babies were newborns, I decided to start our day at 7:00 am. This meant that the girls would be awake, and back down for a nap so that I could get Theo up and give him some individual attention.
Here was our schedule when the girls were newborns:
- 7:00: eat, play
- 8:00: nap
- 10:00: eat, play
- 11:00: nap
- 1:00: eat, play
- 2:00 nap (all three nap at this point! I nap myself, write a blog post, or clean my house.)
- 4:00: eat
- 5:00-6:00 cat nap
- 7:00 eat, and bed
Decide on what time you want your babies to eat and nap. When it is time to eat, gently wake them up. Feed them (breast or bottle), give them awake time for 45-60 minutes, and lay them back down for a nap.
Did it work perfectly every single time? Absolutely not. We had a few months of nighttime colic (aka the witching hour), and they would just cry and fuss from 5:00-7:00 until they went to bed. Oh, and then they would cry at bedtime, too. We also had a few months of the girls having reflux and we didn’t know about it, so they would arch their backs and scream when it was time to feed them. It took a lot of patience, and a ton of consistency, but we got there.
What if the babies aren’t hungry at the same time?
Feed both of them. No. Matter. What. Otherwise, you will be feeding babies all day long. I fed my girls at the same time 100% of the time, and I still felt like I was feeding babies all day long!
Can I be flexible with my schedule?
I think that my schedule worked so well because I was extremely consistent from day 1. There were absolutely no variants in our routine. Did we miss out on things because of it? Yes and no. If we had an activity to go to, I would just time it so that we left at naptime, and the girls would fall asleep in the car. Theo took an art class when the girls were infants, and they would sleep covered up in their car seats the entire time. People probably thought I had imaginary babies under there! If there was an activity that didn’t align with our nap schedule, then yes we would miss it. I had 3 under 3 for goodness sake, and I just decided it was a season of life where we would spend a lot of time at home! Seasons don’t last forever.
Once the babies were solid in their routine, then yes, I would be flexible with their schedule. If we have something we want to go to, I can wake the girls early, or put them down late. They will just then take a longer afternoon nap, or go to bed early. When I get them off schedule, though, I run the risk of having two very tired, grumpy babies!
If you are reading this, my hope is you find it helpful if you are a mama trying to figure out how to get your babies on a schedule; encouraging, if you are a mama in the trenches waiting for that magical day when the schedule clicks. And if you are a mama who thinks a schedule is not for you, then all the power to you! There are a million and one ways to parent, and my way is definitely not the only way. No judgment here!
P.S. In my opinion, having your babies on a routine is the first step to getting them to sleep through the night. Stay tuned for my post on how I got my babies to sleep through the night…