Why the EASY baby routine is anything but easy.
Most moms who have spent any amount of time on the internet trying to figure out how to make their baby “sleep like a baby” have heard of the EASY routine. It stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, and You time. Essentially, the routine is as follows: Baby wakes, baby eats, baby does an activity (play), baby sleeps, and then mama has time for herself. Then repeat several times throughout the day. Sounds EASY peasy, right?! If this routine worked perfectly for you, that's amazing! For many parents, this is not so simple. I personally despise this routine, and I'll tell you why.
On a personal level, my life revolved around this routine when my daughter was a newborn. I thought this was THE routine babies are supposed to have, and that something was wrong if I couldn't get my newborn to adhere to this schedule. I was SO frustrated when I would have to wake her up after she nursed only to try to get my sleepy baby to play, and then rock my wide-awake baby to sleep! And God forbid I whip out my boob to try to get her to nap because that was just failure. Don’t even get me started on “lay the baby down sleepy, but awake.”
So why doesn't this routine work? Well, for starters, it goes against the biology of our babies. Babies are not born with bad habits. It is not a mistake that your baby falls blissfully asleep while nursing. This is a normal, physiological response as a result of the hormones that are released through breastfeeding, and we should use it to our advantage because postpartum and motherhood is already hard enough! Why are we torturing ourselves by making this more difficult? Feeding to sleep is the biological norm.
Although our societal expectations say otherwise, most babies need to eat more than every 3 hours. Many babies need to eat as often as every 1-2 hours, and sometimes more when they are cluster feeding due to a developmental leap, illness, or teething. Following the EASY schedule could cause a breastfeeding mother's supply to drop. If you follow this schedule, your baby (depending on age) may eat, play for an hour, and sleep for 2-3 hours. By the time they've gone through one cycle of this routine, it may have been 3+ hours, when this baby may have needed to eat long before this. Any type of strict feeding schedule can cause supply issues and compromise the breastfeeding relationship. Babies need to be fed on demand.
Catnaps and contact naps are also very normal for newborns. Many babies will not sleep in the crib these first few months (and often longer), and take very short naps. This is not a problem. It is normal. Babies under the age of 1 attach through the senses and want to be close to their caregiver. It's inconvenient and difficult at times, but it is just reality, and it's the reason many babies will not sleep alone. The EASY routine is just not appropriate for these contact, catnapping babies, and it often just will not work for them.
What does a more realistic and biologically-informed routine look like for a newborn? Probably more like eat, sleep, play, eat, play, eat, sleep. Follow your baby's lead. Snuggle your baby. Don't be afraid to nurse to sleep. Nap with them (in your safe sleep space)! Forget about the schedule if it is not working for you, and do what comes naturally.