Eat Play Sleep Baby Routine: What You Really Need To Know

When I took an antenatal class, I thought I got the basics down in taking care of my baby. Turns out there is a shit ton I didn’t know, including the Eat Play Sleep baby routine.

I didn’t know how beneficial it was in the long run or the possible drawbacks you can encounter by trying to follow it.

I had no idea how to do it or when to start doing it or when to pause or stop doing it.

My cesarean plus back operation along with my PPD might have contributed to my lack of understanding and trying.

So I’m making up for all those times by doing a thorough research on this routine.

In this article, you’ll know the many advantages and the possible cons of implementing this Eat Wake/ Play Sleep routine.

The other queries I’ve mentioned above like when and how to do the routine will also be answered here. 

Let’s get the ball rolling.

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What Exactly is an “Eat Play Sleep Baby Routine”?

It’s a highly recommended schedule by baby sleeping experts, popularized by the controversial book On Becoming Babywise.

It’s also referred to as Eat, Wake, Sleep Routine OR Eat Wake/Play Sleep Schedule.

The “Eat Play Sleep Baby Routine” starts with letting your baby feed first as soon as they wake up.

Then during their waketime, give them enough tummy time or other age-appropriate developmental baby activities.

After which it ends with putting your baby to sleep.

A lot of factors can affect this schedule – your baby’s age , personality, and temperament. As well as the sleep timing, wake windows, the length and amount of feeding, and such.

Take note also that this routine is best practiced during the day. It’s best not to encourage any playing for nighttime activities.

But at its core, it always starts with your baby eating, then playing, then sleeping. Rinse and repeat.

Pros and Cons: Eat Play Sleep Schedule For Babies

There are a lot of benefits to getting your little one started with the Eat Play Sleep Schedule such as:

Avoiding/ Getting Rid of Sleep Props

This is what I think is the biggest benefit of this routine.

Essentially, the Eat Play Sleep routine helps your baby get into the habit of sleeping independently. Without the need of being fed milk or being rocked to sleep.

I wished I discovered the Eat Play Sleep schedule before with my baby and maybe then, she wouldn’t become so dependent on her milk and/or being carried and rocked to sleep.

Better Sleep Quality

This routine allows your baby to have a better sleep quality.

When your baby can sleep on their own without needing their milk, if they wake up in the middle of the night and are not hungry, they can quickly go back to sleep. On their own. 

Making them sleep longer and better.

Easier to Wean From Bottle

It becomes easier to bottle-wean, especially the bedtime bottle, as your baby won’t need one to fall asleep.

Bottle weaning FYI has a lot of pros, such as preventing cavities, avoiding ear infections and speech disorders, etc.

More “Me-Time” For Parents

The Eat Play Sleep routine can help exhausted parents have a little bit of freedom to do some self-care activities, chores, work or even start a new hobby!

More Predictable Baby Routine

If you get this routine down to a tee, making plans will be easier and less stressful.

You can always schedule activities around your baby’s naptime as you know more or less, what time they’ll be sleeping.

Having this predictable routine can also make it easier to let a babysitter take care of your baby!

Less Fussy Baby

If your baby is well rested and is eating well, they become less cranky throughout the day.

Sets Up Healthy Sleeping Habits

Following the Eat Wake Sleep schedule can also lead to a lesser need for sleep training, easier dealings with sleep regressions, and crib-toddler bed transitions.

Improves Milk Supply

If a baby can adapt well to the Eat Wake Sleep schedule, that means they’re getting a regular bout of feedings at more or less the same time.

Which can help establish and regulate your milk supply!

The Eat Play Sleep Routine does come with drawbacks though. Here are some of them:

Puts too much stress and pressure on parents

Especially for new parents. 

They’re already struggling to take care of a newborn. What more on trying to implement something they’ve never tried before on their little one.

Most first-time parents would feel more incapable and inadequate when they can’t seem to get this routine right.

It can also lead to false expectations and frustrations, which can stress the whole family.

Difficult to implement

Especially if you’re a first-time or single parent. And/or you’re dealing with PPD, you have an unsupportive spouse (or one who doesn’t help with chores), and you still need to work and take care of your other kids.

It’s hard to follow the routine as babies also have their own different temperaments and personalities.

You can do everything by the book but most will accept nothing but be given their milk while being rocked to sleep.

Focus is more on parent’s welfare

Let’s face it, most sleep training methods and related sleep routines are all meant for the parent’s benefit.

So we can all get more rest or time to do things that we can’t do when we are taking care of our baby.

And yes, routines are important to give a baby a sense of security and stability.

But listening to your little one’s cues should also be prioritized.

Not every baby adapts well to the Eat Wake Sleep routine.

So as much as you want to establish it so both you and your baby can benefit more in the long run, consider also what your baby needs right at the moment.

If you can sense that this routine is not working well, no matter how hard and long you’ve tried it, then maybe it’s time to stop doing it and just go with the flow. Don’t force it.

Listen to your gut, do what feels right, and respond to your baby’s cues naturally.

Still curious and want to try the Eat Wake Sleep routine? Then keep reading.

When To Start The Eat Wake Sleep Baby Routine?

According to most baby sleep experts, the best time to do it is from the get-go!

So once you bring your little one home from the hospital, you can already implement the Eat Play Sleep Routine.

Others recommend waiting until your baby is at least a few weeks older. Or at least when breastfeeding is well established.

Whichever way, it’s better to do it as early as possible, at your most convenient time. 

So that means if you want to do it just a few days after giving birth BUT you are still adjusting to the new demands of motherhood, then maybe it’s better to do it when you’re more mentally ready to handle this routine.

Always remember to listen to your gut and to take note of your baby’s cues, before starting this schedule.

How To Start The Eat Wake/Play Sleep Baby Schedule

Below is a general overview of the steps to implement the Eat Wake Sleep routine. This is based on various research and the usual advice from baby sleep experts. 

But keep in mind that you don’t need to strictly follow it, especially if your baby takes short naps and feeds frequently. 

This is just a guide and you can modify it any way you want, while still following the basics of the routine.

Take note as well of wake windows, so you can figure out roughly how many naps your baby actually needs.

Step 1: Feed

Try to give your baby a full feeding within 10 minutes of waking up from their nap or nighttime sleep.

If they’re getting sleepy during the feeding, try unswaddling them, go to a well-lit area, use some toys and music to wake them up, change their diapers, then keep feeding them.

If your baby dozed off in the middle or after feeding, that’s perfectly fine and normal, especially for newborns.

Just try to lengthen their nap if possible.

If they took a 30-minute nap or shorter, you don’t need to feed them immediately, especially if they just fed and are not hungry.

Just check their wake windows and make sure that they get their milk at least 30 minutes or more, before their nap. 

We want them to not depend on milk or nursing to be able to go to sleep so feed them and then play with them again.

Step 2: Wake/ Play

You can do tummy time or other age-appropriate activities that can help with their development.

You can also place them on a bouncer or swing or swing, if you need to do chores in the house.

Or you can just place them on a playmat, prop up a book or let them look around.

Remember to take note of average wake windows for babies.

Step 3: Sleep

Check your baby’s usual tired and sleepy cues and put them to sleep before they get overtired.

Always prepare their sleeping environment during their wake windows.

That means readying their crib or bassinet, arranging the white noise, etc. So you can do all the naptime routines (change into a swaddle, read a book, etc.) smoothly and quickly.

So all you need to do is lay down your baby to sleep, a few minutes before their wake window ends.

For the nighttime routine, just skip the Wake/Play part or you can do a light one by just cuddling and quietly snuggling with them.

Then put them in their crib or bassinet drowsy, say your goodnight, and lights out.

Examples of an Eat Wake Sleep Schedule

Check out some real-life examples of baby schedules that follow the Eat Play Sleep routine by clicking on the links below:

Learning Momma

BabyWise Mom

Journey of Parenthood

Messy Bun and Sun

When To Pause the Eat Play Sleep Baby Routine

Newborn Phase

Some baby sleep experts (and even veteran parents!) advise against doing this routine on newborns, especially if your baby is only a few days or weeks old.

What they might need best are more cuddles, snuggles, and untimed feeding sessions. 

Sickness or Growth Spurt

It’s more important to soothe and comfort a sick baby or one who’s going through a growth spurt, than trying to continue with the Eat Wake Sleep routine.

Travel or Big Change

When you’re traveling, on a vacation or there’s a big change happening like you’re about to move houses, it’s better to focus on surviving and keeping everyone sane and less cranky.

So cut yourself and your kid some slack and just do whatever works at the moment. 

You can just go back to the Eat Play Sleep routine again when everything has settled down and you’re physically and mentally prepared to implement it again.

What To Do If The Eat Play Sleep Schedule Is Not Working

Consistency and determination, along with a cooperative baby are the keys to making this routine work.

But if you and your baby are still struggling after a few weeks, then there’s no need to force it.

Every baby is different and not everyone will be on board with the Eat Wake Sleep routine.

So don’t stress yourself and your baby out any further by forcing this routine.

Always remember to do what feels right for your family.

FAQ on Eat Play Sleep Schedule

When to start Eat Play Sleep with babies?

Ideally, the best time to start the Eat Play Sleep routine with babies is when they’re a newborn.
This could be when they’re only a few days or weeks old.
But if you’re not physically and mentally ready to take on the task of implementing this routine, then don’t force it.

How do you start an Eat Play Sleep routine?

You start the Eat Play Sleep routine with your baby by nursing them or giving them the bottle first thing when they wake up or at least within 10 minutes of waking up.

Bottomline on An Eat Play Sleep Baby Routine

There are a lot of benefits to following this routine but remember to always manage your expectations and to listen to your baby’s cues.

The last thing you want to happen is to obsess about making this Eat Play Sleep baby routine work at the expense of your mental and physical health and your baby’s welfare.

Just listen to your gut and if this routine isn’t working then do what’s best for you and your baby.

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