Some child experts say you should put a baby on a sleeping and feeding schedule beginning at birth. I say that if you follow their dubious advice, you’ll waste a lot of time and energy and drive yourself crazy. Lucy has her own schedule. I suggest that you adopt her schedule at first, and then let her slowly adapt to yours.
In terms of sleeping, Lucy initially has no sense of day or night, since she has just emerged from nine months of night. She wakes up whenever her sleep cycle ends, and whenever she wakes up she wants to be comforted, and whenever she wants to be comforted, you feed her. Incidentally, when she wakes up at night, the dark reminds her of her previous environment, where she slept most of the time.
Within a couple of weeks, she is waking up more often during the day than at night, partly because when she wakes you up at night you’re less responsive to her, and partly because nature makes us sleep at night.
As for Lucy’s feeding schedule, it starts out all over the map. She can feed for hours on end and then sleep for several hours. Follow her lead. Interfering with her rhythm will just bother her, and in the end she’ll only nurse if she wants to anyway.
Babies are wonderfully self-regulating eating machines. The problem is that many books, doctors, nurses, and other experts will advise you to wake up a new baby on a rigid three-hour schedule to offer food. This clinical approach often contributes to breast-feeding failure. If you wake Lucy up to breast-feed and she isn’t interested, you may feel a sense of failure and lose confidence in your ability to nurse. Moreover, since she’s initially only half-awake, you may be tempted to give her a bottle, which she’ll probably take, since it’s easier. That will further deepen your sense of failure, and that’s when you, like so many mothers I see, will say, “I couldn’t breast-feed. I didn’t have enough milk.”
The best way to synchronize your schedule with Lucy’s is to do what other animals do when they have babies. They stay cuddled up together, and when one wakes up, the other one may too, and when everyone wakes up at the same time, they do lunch. If Lucy wants to sleep for four or five hours, let her. If she wakes up ravenously hungry, it just means she needed a long snooze. If she wakes up after just an hour, she may be hungry, or she may not. The best way to know is to offer her food. Over the next week, Lucy will wake up a little more rhythmically (every three hours on average), not because you’ve imposed that schedule on her but because she is settling into her natural rhythm.
In some instances, this natural method will go awry and lead to a condition I call “overnursing,” in which Lucy eats a little, sleeps a little, eats a little, sleeps a little, and so on, all day long. This is very draining for the mother, who loses any opportunity to sleep or recover. That’s when I do recommend imposing a schedule [See: Breast-Feeding Problems].