Birth and Beyond

Lesson 5 of 8: “Schedules”

When are the babies hungry?  When do they need to eat, sleep, be changed?
There are two schools of thought on this topic, and no “right” answer.

Followers of the Attachment Parenting (or AP) would tell you to “feed on demand”, and indeed, for the first several weeks, you should.  But what is “demand”?  We know that newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours.  Followers of Parent Directed Feeding (or PDF) would therefore say that every 2-3 hours, we ought to be watching for cues, or signs of hunger, such as babies smacking their lips and stuffing their fists into their mouths.  If a baby is crying 45 minutes after being fed, PDF proponents would argue that the baby is more likely in need of a nap, a diaper change or a doctor.


Audio Note


Many AP followers argue that PDF-ers are “hyperscheduling” their babies, that children, even newborns, must be responded to immediately in order to establish healthy family dynamics. 

Alex Gymini

However, with multiples, such instantaneous meeting of needs is not always possible. (How do you respond to Twin B’s hunger cries when your hands are full with Twin A?!) Moreover, as many PDF-ers have discovered, the human brain is a pattern seeker.  Even in infancy, the brain looks for patterns and learns what to expect next.  Therefore, a “flexible schedule” can be quite handy in establishing and maintaining sanity in a household featuring two or more newborns.  As babies and parents learn to follow a rough timetable throughout the day, regular intervals of rest (no matter how brief) can be looked forward to by all.

Tracey Hogg, author of “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer”, advocates for an “E.A.S.Y.” Schedule, that is:  “Eat – Activity – Sleep – Your Time”.  What is an “activity” for a newborn, you may ask?  Looking at a mobile or toy (developed tracking and ocular muscles), being read to or sung to, or spending some “tummy time”… all of these examples constitute a nice, 10-minute activity for a young baby.

: Because newborns have such weak neck muscles and spend so much time on their backs,  one important daily activity is “tummy time”.  By placing your babies on their tummies, perhaps with a rolled up blanket or towel under the upper chest and arms, for a few minutes each day, you are helping them to develp their neck muscles.

After this short period of activity, babies can be changed, swaddled and laid back down to nap. It is important to note that the schedule is a flexible one, i.e. 2-3 hours (or, after about six weeks, 3-4 hours), rather than a “live by the clock” approach.  Examples of the E.A.S.Y. schedule are below.  Please feel free to print them off, and use them after the first week or two at home.

Schedule3 Schedule-2Schedule 4

While scheduling works well for some families with multiples, others with twins or more have successfully adopted an attachment parenting approach, as seen by the photo to the right. AP

There is no “right or wrong” way here.  But be intentional.  Remember the Covey mantra:  “Begin as you mean to go on”, since the patterns you establish now will set the stage for parenting later on.  If you instantly respond to every cry, and carry your babies around constantly, it is not fair to suddenly expect them to be independent and self-sufficient when they reach toddler-dom.  So, do some research, talk with your partner, and make a decision that is right for your family (and feel free to revisit the decision later on, once you are immersed in the reality of two or more babies!)

Feeding Summary

Newborns should be fed “on demand”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean constantly!  You want them to have a “good” feed every 2-3 hours the first few days/weeks, rather than several shorter snacks (the exception to this comes around the 6-week mark, when many babies undergo a growth spurt, and may clusterfeed around the clock for several days, before settling back into their routines)

Consider AP and PDF–what will work for your family?  (APs say babies are hungry whenever they cry, but PDF suggests being in tune to different cries, and putting a flexible schedule in place – read Baby Whisperer or Babywise (co-written by parent of triplets!) for more info on PDF, and Family Bed for info on AP

Tips for Breastfeeding SuccessFeed only breastmilk or formula 8-12 times a day for the first few weeks, then 6-8 times a day for the next few months—important to feed regularly if breastfeeding because of supply & demand issue!  BUT don’t use your breast as a soother—encourage good, long feeds (20-30 mins for newborns, check formula cases for amounts to feed at different stages)

To the left is a handout of breastfeeding tips, with lots of useful information.  If you are pumping, please remember: A hospital grade double pump is the most effective type of pump.  It does a much better job of pumping than a drug store pump, and the double pump lets you get the job done in half the time and take advantage of the natural letdown from both breasts.

Regardless of whether you breast or bottlefeed, remember to snuggle your babies — newborns need  and benefit from physical contact!

Below is a schedule you may wish to use for the first few weeks with your babies.

Schedule 1 - Daily Diaper Log

Instructions: Audio Note

Once you have digested this information and are ready to consider how best to manage your support network, please proceed to Lesson 6: “Helpful Help”