FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Who Sets Baby’s Schedule?

with Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura Hunter, Sabrina Beasley McDonald | April 2, 2008
Play Pause

When should baby sleep? When should he eat? If those are some of the questions you've been asking yourself lately, then you need to join us for today's broadcast when pediatric nurses Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker talk about a baby's schedule to father of six and grandfather of 12, Dennis Rainey. Also joining them in the studio is expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • When should baby sleep? When should he eat? If those are some of the questions you've been asking yourself lately, then you need to join us for today's broadcast when pediatric nurses Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker talk about a baby's schedule to father of six and grandfather of 12, Dennis Rainey. Also joining them in the studio is expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

When should baby sleep? When should he eat?

MP3 Download Transcript

Who Sets Baby’s Schedule?

With Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura H...more
April 02, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: Are you having a hard time getting your newborn baby to sleep all the way through the night?  Here is some advice for you from registered nurse Jennifer Walker.

Jennifer: We want to say the baby is crying because they feel abandonment issues, but the baby is crying because what happens last night isn't what's happening tonight.  So here is what happens – night one, we put the baby down, the baby wakes up in three hours and starts to cry.  And what moms don't know is that this will only take three nights.  They think, "If the baby is going to cry like this forever, you know, I'm not going to do this.  My baby is not going to cry every night like this, I can't allow that to happen."  So here's the thing – great, you don't have to allow that to happen indefinitely.  What it's going to take is approximately three nights.

[boogie woogie lullabye]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 2nd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Helping your baby sleep through the night is just one of many issues parents of newborns face.  We'll talk about some of those today.

[baby crying]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I'm just looking here at the shopping list.  Did you look at the shopping list in the front of this book?

Dennis: I did, and I was reading the back of the book of the interesting calls that these two pediatric nurses received from clients who have questions about what to do with a baby.

Bob: [laughing] Things like "My child just bit the dog, what do I do?" that kind of a thing?

Laura: We're more worried when it's the other way around, anyway.

Dennis: I found that answer to be interesting.  You weren't that concerned about the child, more about the dog.  Or how about this one?  I love this one – "Is disobedience contagious?"

Bob: It sure is, I guarantee.

Laura: It is, it is.

Dennis: I guarantee it.

Bob: Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker are joining us today as we're talking about a book that you've written called "The Moms On Call Guide to Basic Baby Care" for the first six months, and both of you are pediatric nurses.  It's kind of like your superhero identity as Moms On Call – at night – they're pediatric nurses but by day, they are Moms On Call.

And you're going around doing consultations with new moms where you come in and basically say, "Here is everything you're going to need to know for the first six months about being a mom, right?

Laura: That's exactly what we do.

Jennifer: And helping the baby get to sleep through the night; help put him on a schedule that is not so scheduled that they can't enjoy life but not so flexible that they can't enjoy their baby.

Bob: I want to ask you about the schedule, and I want to ask you for Sabrina's sake, because we have Sabrina Beasley, who is joining us as well.  Sabrina is on staff here at FamilyLife, works on our online e-zine called "The Family Room," and is going to be a mom – I guess we should say you are a mom, right?

Sabrina: I am a mom, yes.

Bob: You are a mom.  Your baby is due in May, and you're getting ready for all of that.  So what kind of a schedule – let's say it's a month after Sabrina's had the baby, and she's getting ready to try to get this schedule thing working.  When does her day start?

Laura: Typically, what you're going to do is when that baby wakes up in the morning is when your day begins.  And you don't have to wake them at 6 a.m.  Like we tell you in the book – 6 a.m. you feed – you don't have to wake them at 6.  They can sleep as late as they want to, around 7, 7:30 you'll feed them, love on them, play, do some tummy time, do some back time …

Bob: Wait, wait, tummy time?  What's tummy time?

Laura: Tummy time is where we want to take those little ones and lay them on their bellies and let them kind of get those neck muscles and those arm muscles and those chest muscles exercised because that is what helps them to learn to roll over, to crawl, all those things that are going to happen a little bit later.

Dennis: I think some parents are afraid of some of the misconceptions about SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, that putting a baby on her or her stomach is going to be dangerous to them.

Laura: That's sleeping at night.  What happened is, when they instituted the Back to Sleep campaign, which means just started really recommending the babies go to sleep on their back, the decreased the incidence of SIDS by 40 percent, but no one in the medical community knows what the cause of SIDS is.  We do not have the cause.  All they know is that helped, so they recommend that the babies sleep at night on their back, and that's also what Moms On Call recommends.  But the number-one risk factor for SIDS is actually smoking.  So the best things that families can do in SIDS prevention is to not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke, not even second-hand smoke and to put their babies to sleep on their back at night.

So the tummy time during the day is fine, we're watching them, they're awake, they're not sleeping on their stomach, we're just putting them there and letting them have three or five minutes in between every feeding of them being on their belly.  Then you'll swaddle that baby, get him put down for a good two-hour nap.  When that baby wakes up, we feed, we love on them, sing, dance, read, tummy time, and that's how the day progresses until the evening.

And I always call the "supper feeding," which is around 6 p.m.  That's when I tend to get a little more strict, so to speak, with the routine.  If the clock says 6:00, even if you just fed because the day was off a little bit, 6:00 is when you feed supper because their natural rhythm starts about 7:30, 8:00 to get ready for bed. 

So we'll feed them about 6:00, they'll take a nap until bathtime, which will start about 8:30, and then after that bath, we go in the room, we love on them, we sing, we dance, we read, we read – spend some time with The Word over our children.  And then we swaddle – feed them, swaddle them up, but them in the bed, turn that sound machine on, and you'll get six or seven hours of sleep that first night.

Sabrina: Now, I know a lot of moms out there are moms-to-be like myself are thinking, "Okay, could you say that again slower so that I could write it down," but it's all in the book.  That whole thing is in the book.

Laura: It's all in the book, and we wrote it just like that, exactly out there so that everybody can get this anything because not only do we want to know when to take a rectal temp or how to or how to swaddle or how to feed, but we want to empower parents to be parents.  We want to give some confidence to these parents to be parents again.

I often say, when I go into these consults in people's homes, the most important relationship in the house is your faith, then husband and wife, and then those children.  And when that is in order, that child knows, and the peace that is in that house makes such a difference with these little babies.

Dennis: I've got two issues I want you to touch on here quickly.  First of all, the issue of the husband and wife being one and having peace in the home.  Earlier, before we came in here to the studio, you were commenting how when you do these consultations, you can instantly feel the tension in some homes of how the husband and wife are out of sync with one another.  This relationship that the husband and wife enjoy or endure does have an impact on that baby.

Laura: From the get-go.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Laura: From the day they bring them home.

Jennifer: And we'll see that when Mom and Dad are in sync, when they're supportive of each other, and when we can get this baby on a semblance of a schedule, we want to do that and tell the parents, you know, when the baby takes that nap after dinner that's going to be your time to have dinner with your husband, if there's a couple of older children in the house, you guys are going to have dinner as a family together.  It's so important to maintain your relationship with your husband and remember why you made a baby in the first place.

So we want to get some time for you out of that schedule, and you touched on this when we were talking about the baby choosing the schedule or the parent choosing the schedule, and what happens is, we want a family schedule.  There are multiple members.  We got frustrated at other books that would assume you only had one baby.  So we want a family schedule that sets mom and dad up at the head, and that relationship to be very important, for there to be time for mom and dad to have time to themselves because that gives all the children in the household that great security.

Dennis: And, frankly, that's why I'd encourage every couple, and maybe it's during these early months of pregnancy to get to a Weekend to Remember and, as a couple, experience God's blueprints for your marriage so that when you start out this thing called a family, you're building your house on the rock.

You touched on my second question, you really led me there perfectly, Jennifer, and that is scheduling.  If Barbara was here, I promise you, she would be moving forward on the edge of her seat, because she was not brittle about schedules, but she believed in schedules for the reason you talked about, Laura.  We had six children, and you know what?  There were a lot of schedules taking place, and that little baby would rule the roost in terms of schedule if you didn't set the parameters for that child.

And you both really train young moms in how to get the upper hand.  I don't know to put it any simpler.  If you don't have a schedule, you're …

Laura: You've got to have a plan.

Dennis: … Your baby will set one for you.

Jennifer: And I'll tell you, one of the questions that we often get with parents that have twins, as we do sleep training with twins is, but if one wakes up they'll wake up the other.  And I'll say that's right, and you know what's great about this?  Is for the rest of their lives, these children are going to have to learn to live in a family and accommodate each other.  When they're outside this family, they're going to have to live in a community and accommodate each other.  What practice in the safety and loving environment of your home for them to learn that this is not all about them; that we're living in a family, in a community, and sometimes we have to work together to help one of the weaker members through something, and sometimes some things have to revolve around us here and there, but one of the biggest things that we really like to teach these new parents is that we are on a family schedule, and these children can learn to accommodate.

Laura: And they learn to coexist.  It's amazing how my boys, my twins, Blake and Patrick, sleep in the same room, in the same bed, they are identical twin boys, and that's just the way it has always been.  But if one is sick, I can take that other one out, and the other one will either wake up and come in the room and say, "What's wrong with Patrick?" Knows instantly that something was wrong.

Or the other one, if Patrick's crying, Blake will sleep right through it.  It's amazing.

Jennifer:  Absolutely, I see that more often than not.

Bob: Sabrina, I hope you're taking mental notes here.  The key thing that we're talking about is the difference between a home where the child is at the center running things, or a home where Mom and Dad are deciding what's going to go on.

And the thing is, every child who has ever been born, comes into the world saying, "I want to be the center."  I like the way Bill Gillem said it, he said, "When a baby is born, he draws a circle around himself and declares himself Lord of the Ring and says, 'Now the world will revolve around me.'"  And they don't know any better because they're just little selfish sinners, but they're trying – I used to put Amy in my lap.  I'd say, "You're such a little sinful thing," you know, as I was rocking her to sleep, but the reality – we have to remind ourselves, they look all sweet but inside they say, "I want what I want when I want it and I don't care what you want," and we have to teach them, "No, that's not how life works in this home, you got that?"

Sabrina: Yeah, I think that's a good point especially for new moms, and just being in the stage of life that I'm in, I've seen that so many times, especially for first time children, and I think it is important to realize that these ladies who have written this book aren't first-time moms.  They've been through it, and they have several children, and so when they say that, they say it with authority, and to look at the other moms that I know and seeing how one child can really take over everything, it takes over not only the schedule but the husband and the wife, and then suddenly the husband is left out, and the child becomes number one, and you can really see the difference between someone who understands the order of things – God first – you were saying this earlier, Laura – God first, and the marriage relationship seconds, and then the children come third, and really understanding that everybody has a place.

Dennis: There is a reason why moms are set up to allow this child to take over and become not just the center of the ring and the Lord of the Rings but actually the center of the universe, and that's because, well, someone has said that a child is a mother's heart walking around outside her body.

So here is this mom who has just given birth, given life to this child, and there is something that is compelling about serving and nourishing and taking care of that baby, and, yes, the father, the husband, can be over here to the side going, "Woo hoo, hello!  I'm outside the universe. Would there be some gravity to please draw me in?"  And it's the wise woman who understands these tensions and pulls of gravity that a baby can bring about in a marriage relationship, and it's why resources like this are so important.

Now, you ladies talk about, in your book, what you call the "Three-Day Rule," and you're a champion for that, Jennifer.  You're over there, you've got a …

Jennifer: Woo, woo, woo, woo!

Dennis: Two pompoms in the air.

Jennifer: Three day!  Three day!

Dennis: This really explains a lot, the three-day rule.

Jennifer: I'm about to make a pyramid with these two over here.


Dennis: There you go.  Cheer a mom on around why the three-day rule is so important as they experience disruptions to the schedule we were just talking about.

Jennifer: Well, what we have observed even in our own personal consultations and our personal lives and what scientists much smarter than myself have agreed upon, which is very difficult as well, is that a child will adjust to a new routine and a new schedule in three days, and so these older children, children that are over three months old, if we will allow them the chance to get used to soothing themselves to sleep at night, that they will do that in approximately three nights.

So – here is what happens – night one, we put the baby down, the baby wakes up in three hours and starts to cry.  And, Bob, you were talking about this earlier when you called your mom, and you said, "Mom, the baby's been crying for 15 minutes, what do I do?" and she said, "Let the baby work it out."  Great wisdom, that's very true, and what moms don't know is that this will only take three nights.  They think, "If the baby is going to cry like this forever, I'm not going to do this.  My baby's not going to cry every night like this, I can't allow that to happen."

So here's the thing – great – you don't have to allow that to happen indefinitely.  What it's going to take is three nights.  We want to say the baby is crying because they feel abandonment issues.  This is what the mother's heart likes to convince itself.

Laura: Well, and that's what society has told us as well.

Jennifer: Right, right.  But the baby is crying because what happened last night isn't what's happening tonight, and they don't have another way to communicate.  The second night there is only one way to teach a baby, and that's by order of events and routine.  So the second night you keep everything the same – that order of events starts to sink in.  "Oh, okay, now I get it.  We're not getting this feeding at 12:00 and feeding at 1:00 and feeding at 2:00 in the morning.  I feed at 9:30 and then not again until 6.  By the third night, the baby catches on – new routine established.  Night four, everybody in the house is sleeping, from 9:30 at night until 6 in the morning.  It was rough, I will not lie to you – so much more difficult on a mother and father's heart than on the baby, by far, and we think it's the other way around.

Bob: So you're saying if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying and saying, "I want to eat," I mean, they don't say it, but, you know, they're crying.

Laura: That's what we think they're saying.

Bob: That's right, and let's say they cry for 45 minutes, for an hour.  Let it go?

Jennifer: What we typically will see is maybe 20, 25 minutes at a time is how long they'll go.

Laura: And then they'll sleep for 30 or 45 minutes, and they may do that again, kind of on and off the first night. The second night's half as bad, the third night it's done.

Bob: And you just …

Dennis: I'm already anticipating receiving mail.  Oh, yes, our mailbox …

Laura: Is all full.

Dennis: It's going to be full, saying, "Oh, you're harming this child."  You've met folks who say this is cruel.

Jennifer: Absolutely, well, and we recommend it for three nights.  And this is for healthy babies who are gaining weight.  So we don't want this to happen with sick children, we want this to happen …

Laura: Or premature babies.

Jennifer: Right, not with premature babies, but a baby over three months old who is healthy, who is gaining weight, can learn to sleep through the night if given the opportunity and with the right support.

Laura: And I get letters every day from parents who say, "It wasn't near as bad as I thought it was going to be, and I can't believe how happy my baby is now that they're sleeping 10 hours."

Bob: And, Laura, if a mom says, "I haven't decided yet between formula or breast milk, trying to make my decision what's right for us," what do you tell her?

Laura: Well, it has to be a personal decision.  Breastfeeding is great, it's the way we were made, and it's wonderful, it's a great bonding, it has everything that that baby needs but for some people that may not be the right choice.

Jennifer: What we say is that we are big proponents of what works for the family, and we've talked about this before, and we find that moms – I have to take the medical research and my own personal experience into account when I'm making choices.  So when I have other children in the household or, for me, I had an allergic reaction with my first son that made it impossible for me to breastfeed, and he was brought up on formula and, again, all the guilt that we associate with that, is more placed on us by the expectations from outside.

So we really believe in a balance and, like Laura said earlier, in a personal decision and what makes you the best mom for all of your children and what is going to work for you.  I have seen these moms trying so hard to breast feed that their babies are so anxious, and they're anxious, and every three hours – they don't look forward to it, they dread it, and it's awful, and they miss.

Laura: It's a battle.

Jennifer: Yeah, they miss the most beautiful and tender time that we only have once to enjoy with this sweet little baby just trying so hard to make that work.

Dennis: I just remember when Barbara was pregnant with our first one, and just the expectation she placed on herself – she wanted to be a great mom.  I'm thinking, Sabrina, of you – you're conscientious, you've worked here at FamilyLife, you're reading books left and right, you've joined us here on the broadcast, but it all goes back to this book, the Bible. 

And the Bible doesn't prescribe certain choices that we make in life.  It gives us the freedom, under the power of the Holy Spirit to make choices like we've talked about here – do we breastfeed, do we bottle feed?  And it gives you the grace in making that choice, perhaps to make a different choice than your friends, and what you have to do is not put yourself, as a young mom, under the pile.  Because I'm going to tell you something, you're already going to have a pile that is very deep – a pile of diapers, a pile of clothing, all the issues you're going to have to face, you just don't need to be struggling emotionally with that, and that's where, really, Bob, godly advice like what they've put together in this guide really does, I think, aid a young mom in getting her confidence and reducing her expectations to a reasonable level.

Laura:  Reality.

Jennifer: Yes.

Laura: Reality, we don't believe in perfect parenting, because there's only one that's perfect, but we do believe in reality parenting.

Bob: Sabrina, raise your right hand.  Okay, say, I, Sabrina ..

Sabrina: I, Sabrina …

Bob: … pledge that I will not have mom guilt…

Sabrina: … pledge that I will not have mom guilt.

Dennis: Now, wait, Bob …


There's something about being a mother, Bob, I'm afraid you're asking her to make a vow …


Jennifer: Can we promise to try not to have mom guilt?


Bob: How about this, Sabrina?  Raise your right hand, and we'll try this again.  I, Sabrina …

Sabrina: I, Sabrina ..

Bob: Agree that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sabrina: Amen.

Bob: Amen on that one?


And you know the reality is there probably will be moments when you're feeling guilty or stressed, but there is also help in the midst of those moments, and that's what you ladies have provided in this book, "The Moms On Call Guide to Basic Baby Care," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  We want to make it available to our listeners, you can go to our website,  You can order online, if you'd like.

The book comes with a DVD in the back so that you can actually see how to swaddle your baby or how to suction your baby, things like that that moms can read about but it's better to see somebody actually do a little demonstration for you, and that's what the DVD is for.

There's also information on our website about the swaddling blankets that you ladies are making available, cut to the right size, to be able to effectively swaddle your new baby.  Again, all the details are at  Click the box on the right side of the screen that says "Today's Broadcast," it will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about the book and about the blankets.  There is information about a devotional book for young moms written by Kim Weir [sp]. 

You can also get information about these resources by calling us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you contact us, someone on our team will let you know how you can get the resources you need sent out to you.

It's always encouraging for us when we hear from listeners, we get e-mails every week where people are commenting about things they've heard on FamilyLife Today about how God has used our radio program or our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences or our website or our e-magazine "The Family Room," or any of the other ministries of FamilyLife – how God has used those in people's lives.  And we also appreciate hearing from those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

We are listener-supported, and when we receive contributions from listeners like you, it's what makes it possible for us to be on this station and on other stations all across the country.  This week we are saying thank you to those of you who are able to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today by sending you a copy of the brand new FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  This is a complete Bible in the new King James version that also includes, along with the text of Scripture, devotions for couples, articles, romantic tips, parenting help – this Bible has been designed to provide, along with the text of Scripture, helpful information that will keep your marriage and your family pointed in the right direction, will keep you on track with what the Scriptures teach.

The new FamilyLife Marriage Bible is our gift to you this week when you help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  If you're donating online at, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form just type in the word "Bible," or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make your donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like to receive the FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  We're happy to send it out to you as our way of saying thanks for your support of this ministry.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

Now, tomorrow we are going to run through a whole list of very practical issues facing parents of newborns, and if you are one, we hope you'll tune in.  If you know somebody who is, invite them to tune in tomorrow. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today and hope for tomorrow.  


We are so happy to provide these transcripts for you. However, there is a cost to transcribe, create, and produce them for our website. If you've benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?

Copyright © FamilyLife. All rights reserved